Monday, February 27, 2012

Customer, Serve Yourself!

I recall many years ago when I was a new employee at a major financial institution and my boss and I were wrapping up an east coast trip.  More or less on the spur of the moment he decided to reroute our trip home through Chicago to check on a rumored real estate deal.  When we got there we learned much to our dismay that the deal was done.  A long term lease for the entire top floor of a new high rise in the loop area … to house a regional data center.  To say this is one of the more nonsensical decisions I’ve ever seen would be true, but it certainly isn’t the only one. 

As a result of this particular event a new corporate policy was implemented requiring that the Corporate Real Estate and Facilities group lead all real estate and development projects.  Shocking, I know.  Previously our group had been a service available to senior management in different regions.  Some used us, some did not.  After this incident choice was removed and the organization got serious about managing its real estate processes.

What is the point of this story?  It is this: Customers have a responsibility to make responsible decisions.  Consultants have a responsibility to assist them and hopefully, to help them avoid these kinds of egregious errors.  While both customer and consultant share responsibility I believe it is the customer who carries the larger burden.

Customers know more about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses than outsiders do.  Consultants can investigate, analyze and suggest cures; but it is the customer who makes the choices.  They decide which consultant to engage, how diligent to be in the process, how objective they will be, and how they will respond to advice and input.  Customers do a disservice to themselves when they shortchange any of these because they didn’t get the answer they expected or wanted, or don’t think the effort involved is worth it.  If the initiative is not worth your effort to do correctly then it certainly is not worth engaging consultants in the first place. 

Intelligent customers understand the environment they work in, what is needed, and what is not needed.  They make fact-based decisions and are candid with themselves first and foremost.  Intelligent customers buy smart, hire smart, design smart, and execute in smart fashion.  In other words, intelligent customers make better decisions and execute better because they know more, have well-honed protocols and standards, and require adherence.

While this story is about a real estate and development project it could just as well have been about deciding whether or not to build a new factory, launch a new product, or any other business decision.  Knowing your requirements, their drivers, what risks and mitigations are involved and a hundred other things are important.  As FM’s we are often in the customer seat as we acquire services to meet our organizational needs.  Are you a smart customer?  Do you know what the requirements really are?  Do you know where the levers are and under what circumstances they should be exercised?  Do you know what your internal customers are looking for, what their business plans are, what frustrates them about your operation?  Do you know the strategic direction and tactics of your enterprise and are your goals and processes aligned with them?

You are an FM.  You serve internal customers.  You are also a customer yourself and every service, product or project you acquire has a pass through effect to your internal customers.  Your smart customer behavior has a direct effect on the health of the enterprise. 

Serve yourself well so you can better serve others.  Be a smart customer.

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