Project Management as a Product: Service and Maintenance with Christina VanMiddlesworth
For our clients and customers, the value of lumenomics doesn't just center around our physical offerings but our service offerings. Forecasting challenges, quickly navigating unforeseen circumstances, and providing stakeholders peace of mind from pre-construction to occupancy is the true value we bring as daylight designers. To share more about how we successfully manage projects, we're talking to some of our best and brightest who operate at the construction process's critical junctions to deliver values on each project for key stakeholders.
Today, we're featuring Christina VanMiddlesworth, a Project Manager here at lumenomics. While most project management work occurs during the construction phase, Christina’s work begins long after. As the lead on service and repairs for our installations, Christina is in charge of fielding maintenance requests for our national accounts. When an issue is brought to her attention, Christina is the one diving into the issues to uncover the root cause and identify the perfect solution for our clients. From detailed phone calls to scouring locations on Google Maps, here’s how she gets it done.
LU: Hey! Thanks for joining me. Let’s get started! Who are you and what do you do at lumenomics?
CHRISTINA: My name is Christina VanMiddlesworth and my role at lumenomics is Project and Service Manager.
LU: What types of projects do you typically work on?
CHRISTINA: I typically work on our larger national accounts doing their new builds, but I also work with the service and maintenance side of things. It runs the range from simple repairs to more complicated replacement projects.
LU: What’s your goal with beginning a service project?
CHRISTINA: Repairs are the wild wild west. You never know what you’re walking into! I really want to make sure I identify the problem correctly so that we do the right thing the first time. Often, that right thing can be something completely different than what is requested. For instance, a customer may say they need a whole new roller shade, so I’ll begin my discovery process and find out that they actually just need to replace one single part. I’ll send back the submittal for the total replacement like they requested, but also give them a submittal for just the repair that’s needed, which they’re really happy to see. I’m happy that the repair gets done faster, they’re happy that it costs less than the total replacement they anticipated- everybody wins! Not that is always the case, but the initial request made to us and the work we do usually end up quite different in a good way.
LU: Who is the typical client contacting you for these service projects?
CHRISTINA: The requests usually come through the service portals or platforms that facility management companies use. Through those platforms, the information that comes through can be from any number of different people. Sometimes it’s a technician, sometimes it's a building manager. It's always someone different, so the level of detail and the accuracy I receive can really run the range from outlining exactly what I need to know to perform the work to extremely vague and confusing.
LU: So you’ll get an email that’s like “Hey, I think something is broken.”
CHRISTINA: Yep! Well, the details and actual needs of the situation are completely different from email to email based on who’s submitting the ticket. Even then, there’s always more information to confirm to get to the bottom of the situation- things like the history of the project, the location, or the products we installed. It’s my job to make sure that the issue is clearly identified so that our installers can make the right repairs the first time. That’s the goal. To take this vague information that was given to me, be able to show up one time to the site, and get the customer exactly what they need. I’m here to figure out the underlying issue.
LU: How do you begin the process of identifying an unspecified problem and discovering the solution?
CHRISTINA: Right off the bat, I want to start the conversation with educated and informed questions that help move the process forward and determine what’s really going on. I’ve got our marked floor plan, and I can talk to our customers as if I’m walking them through the site and we can pinpoint the issue that way. I can use Google Maps to identify what sort of space we’ll be working with as well, which helps me decide what sort of equipment or ladders we might need for our installers to fix the issues. I can also use our Intelligent Service System to go through and determine if there’s been a history of issues with that particular product. Has it been replaced before? When was the last time that product was serviced? Was there an issue before? All of these questions come together to help me fill in the gaps.
LU: So in getting to the bottom of these issues, you’re kind of a mechanic, but also a historian.
LU: ...And a detective.
CHRISTINA: Yes! *Laughs* That’s absolutely it. I’ve got to dig into the issue and figure out what’s really going on. When we do our job well, regardless of who puts the ticket in, we can discern what the real issue is at the end of the day to be able to solve it. That’s one of the benefits we bring to the table, is that we’re able to piece together not just the logistics, but the history of the situation and identify what’s going on. For most of my accounts, that means knowing their unique design standards, what products were installed where, the date they were installed, and how they were installed. That way when we’re servicing those products, we’re able to match the aesthetics of the current installations while bringing them up to operational standard.
LU: Some of these accounts have been operating for a long time and have undergone a lot of changes. How do you go about tracking the modifications to their standards?
Christina: I’ve got to give credit to our Account Manager (Bonnie Campbell). Thanks to her, we’ve got all the up-to-date documentation and history of the accounts immediately accessible. In addition to our documentation, my workload as a project manager has me working on new builds within our accounts, which gives me a current understanding of the latest standards and practices in use. I know for certain what our current design standards are for our open repairs and what options are available.
LU: What’s at stake with these repairs? How important are they to your clients?
CHRISTINA: Even though some of these repairs wouldn’t seem like a high-priority problem for most people, our window shades are a part of the security system for some of our national accounts, so if they’re not working, it’s a big deal. They’ve got to be operational for the safety and security of their employees.
LU: How much do aesthetics matter in repairs?
CHRISTINA: That’s something I think is very important. Matching products and fabrics when we update or replace things ensures that nothing stands out. I often point out aesthetic or cosmetic issues to our customers, even if it’s not our fault.
LU: Why is it important to you that your customers’ spaces look good and function well?
CHRISTINA: It’s an integral part of my and lumenomics’ credibility. If a customer has a situation going on with a repair that doesn’t look right, I want them to know and I want to make recommendations to fix it, even if they don’t get accepted at the end of the day. I want to share my expertise and give them my recommendations for how to make their spaces look the best they possibly can. I want our customers to get the options they need to make an informed and educated decision.
LU: In construction, service and repairs may not be at the forefront of people’s minds. Why should it be?
CHRISTINA: I would say that at the end of the day, construction contractors should not be considered for their just part in the installation and delivery of the building, but how they add value for the life of the project. When you create a building, you’re investing in something. You want that investment to be taken care of so that it fulfills the purpose and expectations of the stakeholders and the occupants. It’s more than just the installation, it’s about the life of the building. When people work with us, they know they’re getting the support, the maintenance, and the service they need over the lifetime of that product. Some of my projects involve products we installed in 2008. The people involved in these projects are long gone, but our products are not, so we are going to take care of them.
LU: What do you like about this work? CHRISTINA: I love accomplishing and closing out a project- so some of the really complicated projects I’ve done have been so exciting to see wrap up. It’s this sense of accomplishment you get when you make it through the discovery phase, and then the repairs and servicing, and you close out the ticket. I love that whole journey. There’s always something to take away that I can use to improve for the next time.