By: Emily Hossellman, VP Marketing, Genea
As a property team, your top priority is your tenants. You’re constantly looking to streamline your processes to provide the best customer service possible. Technology provides a simple way to automate time-intensive aspects of your responsibilities. One of the processes many office buildings today are automating is managing after-hours HVAC and lighting requests.
When it comes to evaluating automation, it’s critical to identify what’s driving real value so you can determine whether it’s the right move for your building. When quantifying the potential value of automating your overtime HVAC program, consider these four areas to determine whether the investment could pay off for you and your tenants.
There are two ways tenants go about making after-hours HVAC and lighting requests in most buildings: work order systems and paper forms. But these often involve time-consuming, manual processes to fulfill the requests, and your team could probably better spend that time on other high-priority tasks.
Work orders and forms are not generally designed for the nuances of after-hours HVAC services. After each request is submitted using work orders or forms, it’s manually programmed into the building management system (BMS) and added to a billing spreadsheet. If a tenant needs to extend their request, they need to locate someone in the building to help them — which makes this process even more cumbersome. These manual processes quickly become difficult to consistently account for extensions, cancellations, or duplicate requests, and leaves room for accounting errors and disgruntled tenants when the bill comes.
Automating requests can increase your team’s efficiency and could lower the labor cost involved with fulfilling and billing for requests.
Here’s how you can calculate the potential value of automation:
Estimate how much time your team spends on fulfilling an after-hours HVAC request and multiply that number by the number of requests you get each month. Factor in your team’s hourly rate and you should get an idea of the labor cost involved in supporting your existing process.
This will help you quantify and potentially justify the cost of investing in new technology.
Tenants are typically required to provide 24-hour advanced notice when they intend to work late in order to give the property team time to manually process the request. When tenants have to work unexpectedly or extend their request in real time, they often circumvent the work order system and call the property management office or security staff to get quick service. Engineers frequently log requests into the BMS remotely or need to visit the property to take care of it. However, if the action isn’t logged into the work order system, no billing is recorded. This is called billing leakage.
When after-hours HVAC and lighting is unaccounted for, the building ends up paying for it and loses revenue. Without a paper trail for the request, your tenant can easily dispute the charge. Perhaps to keep the peace, you err on the side of the tenant while your bottom line suffers.
In another scenario, some tenants don’t bother requesting the overtime air they need to avoid the hassle of your process and/or the last-minute nature of their request. By making your overtime HVAC program more flexible and user-friendly, more tenants will properly submit requests and increase the revenue for the building.
To calculate the potential lost revenue in the current process for handling of overtime requests, ask your team how many last-minute requests they receive on a weekly or monthly basis. Compare this figure to your last 12 months of total overtime HVAC revenue. These data points will give you an idea of your baseline and make it easy to spot growth and revenue reclamation if and when you implement a change.
One thing no one likes to talk about is how many buildings are left on when no one is there. During holidays and weekends, building occupancy is low and energy is often wasted as building teams run their buildings “just to be safe”. As a result, your utility bills may be wreaking havoc on your operating costs.
The solution is to go on-demand, which could save thousands of dollars on energy and equipment costs each year.
By providing an easy and reliable way for tenants to request HVAC on weekends and minor holidays (think MLK Day or the Friday after Thanksgiving), you have the ability to turn off equipment when it isn’t needed.
To evaluate how to drive energy efficiency with automation, check your access card logs to assess your tenant occupancy levels during weekends and holidays. You could be running your building as though it is at 30%, 70%, or even 100% occupancy when your true tenant occupancy at only 3%. This could be resulting in thousands of dollars in wasted utility and equipment costs each year. This will give you accurate data on how often your building is on when it doesn’t need to be, and help you justify measures to improve your process.
Let’s face it, none of your tenants want to be working on the weekend. When a request fails because of an oversight or difficult process, tenants are quickly frustrated as they try to track someone down to fix it. Property teams then get to deal with inboxes full of angry messages from tenants who didn’t get service they may or may not have requested.
By empowering your tenants with technology and simple processes, you’re giving them the tools they need (and expect) to do their jobs. And happy tenants are the ultimate goal for every property team.
Tenant satisfaction is a powerful force in commercial real estate. One way to quantify the impact new technology is having on your tenant base is to send tenant satisfaction surveys before and after implementing new software to gauge the impact on satisfaction rates, and ultimately, retention. This, more than anything, can show how crucial implementing effective, tenant-facing technology can be for property management teams today.
These four value drivers combine to create a compelling financial case to move away from manual processes to an automated workflow for overtime HVAC management. When assessing new technology, it can be easy to focus on the promise and excitement of the solution. By stepping back and quantifying the potential impact, you can build a strong case for implementing the new solution, while feeling confident that you’re putting in place technology that will make a real impact on your building operations.
Emily Hossellman is the VP of Marketing at Genea, which develops software that makes overtime HVAC and submeter management easier for property management teams across the county. Emily’s passionate about the role technology plays in shaping our world and making people’s lives better every day. If you’re interested in reading more of Emily’s work, visit the Genea blog or connect with her on LinkedIn.