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Putting the "Service" in Plant Services

by Larry Peña

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PUC’s Plant Services department has had a busy summer: renovations in the library and Irwin Hall, new fire alarms in the dorms, and a host of smaller projects going on all across campus. With everything they’re doing, one might worry that little maintenance projects will slip through the cracks. That’s why Dale Withers, the new head of Plant Services, wants you to know that his team is filling in those cracks.

“What’s changing is that we really had no process before,” Dale says. “Now we are tracking all the work orders that come into the department, and we’ll be responding to our customers with email updates as to who’s been assigned to their project and what any updates are.”

These changes reflect a fundamental change in the way the department is approaching its work—from an “I know a guy” system, to a streamlined, customer service model. While people who request maintenance services don’t get charged as customers, Dale feels they should be able to expect efficiency and service as if they were paying.

“Basically everybody’s been picking their tradesman that they get along with, and they’ve been calling them directly when they need a project completed,” Dale says. “There’s no tracking of those projects. And so we’ll get a call from someone saying, ‘I asked for this project to be done a year ago.’ The bottom line is that we have an unhappy customer and the work hasn’t gotten done.”

With Plant Services’ new system of project management and customer communication, all work orders go through a simple work order form on the PUC website, and all incoming work orders are evaluated and assigned to the appropriate workman. Each ongoing project is then tracked and re-evaluated every two weeks to ensure that nothing is left undone.

What the customer will see is a steady stream of communication, beginning moments after he or she clicks “Submit.” An email alerts the customer that the order has been received and when to expect follow-up, and within the day Plant Services will give the customer a full breakdown of if and when a project can be completed. If a project is estimated to be outside of the department’s scope, either because of time or money, the customer will be advised right away without having to play any guessing games.

“If you submit an order and say, ‘I want my office walls painted hot pink,’ well…we’ll get back to you,” says Dale.

The Plant Services team has already noted an improvement in customer interactions since the new system was implemented over the summer. “What we’re finding is that people are not necessarily as concerned with when a project is going to be completed as knowing that it’s in the works,” says Dale. “People are responding really positively to that, because at least they know it’s just not been dropped.”

In the past, they were just sitting, waiting, not hearing anything, not knowing anything, and it was really frustrating,” says assistant director Harold Mills. Under new management and with a leak-proof system in place, the team at Plant Services is looking forward to much happier customers in the future.

Submit a maintenance request and put the new system to the test. The form can also be found at puc.edu under Campus Services > Plant Services.

"If you submit an order and say, 'I want my office walls painted hot pink,' well...we'll get back to you."

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