With more than 110 Home Depot stores across Canada to look after, Prakash Sankar, maintenance manager for Home Depot, Canada, has seen more than his share of emergencies, many involving HVAC breakdowns.“It’s important to provide customers a comfortable shopping experience,” Sankar says. “If it’s uncomfortable inside the store, customers could walk away.”Even Home Depot needs help with a quick fix every now and then. After all, it’s a home-improvement store, not a support center. But remedying these kinds of emergencies often means calling service vendors – and then playing the waiting game. Sankar knows the game can be annoyingly long and has ended up fielding many calls from concerned stores.However, facilities managers who oversee multiple locations (like Sankar) have greatly decreased the volume of these calls by turning to the Internet. More service vendors are taking advantage of cyberspace and enhancing their service offerings with Web-based tools, information, and support. These support services are providing facilities managers better visibility into the performance of their vendors and building systems.What are Web-Based Services?Web-based support and tools can help managers perform a variety of tasks online, like requesting service, checking the status of service calls, and looking up service histories for a particular facility. Those functions help improve communication between facilities managers and vendors during emergencies, and allow managers to be more informed and involved.“It’s easy to see when the tech-nicians showed up, what happened, what the result was,” notes Sankar. “It keeps us updated and we keep the store happy.”But Web-based support serv-ices are more than just a way for facilities managers to request and track service for HVAC equipment, control hardware, and other building systems. They also can check their serv-ice providers’ websites for the latest software enhancements and software patches; order replacement parts; or find the latest technical data, manuals, and training.This gives the facilities manager much more flexibility in meeting the day-to-day needs of running a building system.In addition, online services can help facilities managers solve some of the issues related to high turnover rates and shrinking budgets. By utilizing classes and training sessions on the Web, facilities professionals save valuable time and money because they can train staffers quickly and without expensive off-site training.Getting the Job Done from Your ComputerFor a busy facilities manager, tracking problems and their resolutions can be extremely time-consuming – especially in the middle of the night when a system goes down and needs immediate repair while most people are sleeping.With Web-based services, tracking those problems can be an automated function, providing a quick and effective resolution. At any hour a service request can be submitted, status of service can be checked, parts can be ordered, and patches can be downloaded – providing peace of mind and an increase in operational efficiency.That’s something of great value for a do-it-yourselfer like Sankar.“Everything has to be fixed right away,” he explains. “Everything needs to be done right now, whether it’s the weekend, after hours – anything.”Now it can be.Jill Miller Kohls is a building services marketing manager at Honeywell Building Solutions – a business unit of Morristown, NJ-based Honeywell Intl. (www.honeywell.com).