Watson Consoles Blog

Nov 29, 2017 High Performance Environment, Before You Buy

Shop wisely for 911 dispatch furniture: Up the ROI with better design.

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There are benefits sometimes missed during the evaluation of communications center furniture. Seasoned 911 dispatch staffers will understand why specific feature sets are important for the long-term benefit of a Center and team.  Read on to learn how you can up the ROI on your dispatch consoles and commercial furniture purchase.

In part 1 of Shop Wisely, we explored the various work zones found in most public safety answering points. You identified furniture needs in those work zones. And you were given a few tips for expanding the search so you can find the right 911 dispatch positions, desks and tables for your teams.

Part 2 focused on specific features that dispatcher and IT teams often request.

In this installment, we’ll wrap up by sharing some secondary, and long-ranging, benefits you should consider. For example, have you considered consolidating your purchase? Are you familiar with two common design tips that will up the visual impact of your Center?

What makes technology furniture unique?

As previously shared, PSAP teams generally have two categorical furniture needs - technology furniture and commercial furniture. There are a few functional similarities. However, two features essential to technology furniture, that are often lacking in conventional commercial furniture, are  24/7 rated durability and the ability to house and route technology. 

First, a quick review of the role and requirements of technology furniture and conventional commercial furniture:

Technology Furniture

Commercial Desks, Tables, Storage

911 Dispatchers and Call-Takers
Reception, Administration Operations, Community Spaces

technology furniture - 911 dispatch consoles

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  • Sit-to-stand height adjustability
  • Built to withstand 24/7 use for a decade or more
  • Monitor mount with adjustment; optional focal depth adjustment
  • Full-unit power connection to building + built-in, plug-and-play tech interface
  • PC, rack mount, ancillary equipment stowage + dedicated cable channels for power and data
  • Sit-to-stand height adjustability (when beneficial)
  • Built to withstand use for a decade or more
  • Collapsible for storing (tables - when beneficial)
  • Mobile (when beneficial)

PSAP teams need both types of furniture. Dispatchers and call-takers sit at technology furniture like dispatch consoles. Support staff typically have conventional commercial desks. Both teams share conference, break, and locker rooms. Having the knowledge to discern furniture function, design and durability are vital for making a smart purchase. 

Deliver big value to your ops control and 911 dispatch teams

Let's presume, for the sake of this discussion, that all reputable manufacturers provide equal features that solve for the needs we discussed above and in the "What do Dispatcher and Technicians Need" section of part 2.

Now, let’s look at opportunities for extending value when purchasing technology and commercial furniture from a single-point manufacturer/supplier - the consolidated purchase:

  • Design continuity
  • Ease of purchase
  • Service continuity

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DESIGN continuity

Whether you are installing furnishings in a new building or renovating an older facility, design details can elevate the workplace – for teams, visitors, and the public that funds your initiatives. It is important to know you can have great looking technology and commercial furniture that doesn’t break the bank. Moreover, well-designed PSAP furniture delivers long-term secondary benefits.

Continuity throughout a space is valuable. Unfortunately, design continuity can be an afterthought. Good design reinforces team cohesion, promotes focus and efficiency, honors individual equality and positively influences the public’s perception of your organization. Organizations that thoughtfully consider the value of design will find lasting benefit and an increased return on investment.

What is “interior design” and is it important for PSAPs?

The team at FreshHome have shared this about designing for home and office: 

Not to be confused with interior decoration, interior design draws on aspects of environmental psychology, architecture, and product design in addition to traditional decoration. When doing interior design it is necessary to think as a totality; a series of spaces linked together. It is therefore appropriate that a common style and theme runs throughout. This is not to say that all interior design elements should be the same but they should work together and complement each other to strengthen the whole composition.

Here are two interior design categories that are worth considering when updating your PSAP. Teams who are new to furnishing commercial spaces will be amazed at how attention to these two categories, alone, can elevate the look and feel of the center.

mail slots and credenza combo makes great use of a small nook

TIP: Manufacturers who emphasize durability and design innovation are  well-equipped to develop unique, design-wise solutions. The unit at right was requested by a team that desired individual mail slots for their large team. When combined with the credenza, this unit becomes a mini-mail room, making good use of a small and otherwise unused nook. The team was thrilled to finally have a solution that fits perfectly in their small space.

Repetition 

This is the use of the same element more than once throughout a space. Most commonly, you’ll find pattern, color, or texture recurring throughout a well-designed space. The subtle continuation of design details throughout a team space reinforces connection. These elements also tie together unique details in specific work zones.

In a center with a single team, cohesion among dispatcher desks, technology benches, lockers and break room tables is made even easier when products are selected from a full-solutions provider. These manufacturers can extended design styles across functional components and maintain a palette of materials and finishes that complement each other. 

When choosing furniture for multiple areas, consider opportunities to repeat screen styles, surface or cabinet finishes, pulls and hardware, and the style of desk/table legs and feet.

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Color 

Colors have a definite impact on the way people feel about your space. There is increasing attention to the impact of color, along with form and materials, on the physical health and wellness of teams. The University of Texas conducted a study about the impact of color on mood. This is especially important in commercial spaces where many of us spend most of our time. PSAPs are challenged with high churn among dispatcher teams. PSAP leaders are directing their attention to environment influences that help operators recover after high-stress calls.

Recovery and stability are key to career longevity. Environments that are both comforting and promote focus have been found to increase engagement and reduce dissatisfaction. We see public safety dispatch workstations often specified with blue, greenish-blue and gray screens which add stability and calm. In addition, we are seeing an uptick in mission critical teams selecting brighter tones that boost energy and focus.Color psychology-the basics

For a furniture purchase that will be in place for multiple decades, consider neutrals for primary surfaces and cabinets. Add color on screens that can be replaced sooner and at low-cost. You can carry color into break rooms by specifying brightly powder-coated steel table legs.

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EASE OF PURCHASE

Your team can make the most informed recommendation when you receive clear and timely responses to questions, and access to live demos. You can learn a lot about a manufacturer, their discipline and values by visiting their factory. In addition, furniture providers should give you support from knowledgeable field representatives, dedicated account and project managers, and expert space planners and engineers. These subject matter experts are your partners and advocates throughout the specification process and well-beyond - installation and lifetime service.

Manufacturers committed to making your purchase easy will offer value by providing:

  • Field representatives that visit and get to know your team will help balance needs and wish-list items to your budget

  • Specifications for going-to-bid if that is your purchase preference

  • Details for purchasing on contract including eligibility, multi-state purchasing vehicles, and guaranteed discounting

  • A dedicated manufacturer point of contact and project manager, Account Manager

  • Multiple space planning recommendations

  • Easy-to-read quotes and drawings

  • References

  • Deeper discounting for full-facility furniture purchases

Prioritize your wish list!TIP: Prioritize these requirements based on your experience and your Center's budget. Then ask the dispatch console furniture manufacturers if they can meet these requirements. For example, if references are important to you and a manufacturer can not provide them in a timely manner,  you may want to choose another vendor. 

Once your selection is made and the PO has been cut, you’re on your way to a refreshed and improved work place.

SERVICE CONTINUITY

PSAP teams have shared that the research and selection stage is a forecast of the support relationship to come. After all, dispatchers and call-takers will be sitting at complex technology furniture for a decade or longer. Over the course of that time, you will likely have a question about your furniture’s features. You might also need a technician to assess the furniture.

We have heard from our customers that administering contacts and relationships with multiple providers and manufacturers can be tedious. This is especially true as equipment begins to age and service advice is needed. And, oftentimes, the PSAP contact or manufacturer point of contact has changed. PSAP teams begin to feel as though their needs are not important. And, when you have critical community help to provide, time lost chasing down technical help is not time well spent.

a case of bad serviceWe recently received an on-line inquiry from a Center that needed service help with consoles that were not manufactured by us. The manufacturer was not responding to this customer's service inquiry so they reached out to us. We were happy to help but no one should have to reach out to an alternative manufacturer for help. 

When you select a single-point manufacturer with a reputation for great service you benefit from:

  • Asking plenty of questions will help you find the best furniture fit for your team.

    Materials and processes developed with market-tested feedback

  • A centralized team of product experts

  • Project managers that understand the unique needs of technology and conventional furniture installations

  • Potential savings on single-point shipping and installation

  • Clarity around warranty coverage for multiple products within a center/agency

  • Streamlined communication and consolidated service calls 

Shopping wisely for your dispatch center furniture

In this series, we tuned in to three best practices for easing the PSAP furniture buying process:

  1. Exploring full-facility furniture needs - technology furniture and conventional commercial furniture
  2. Identifying beneficial feature sets for specific teams - dispatchers, IT, administration and operations
  3. Understanding the extended value of a consolidated furniture purchase - purchase price leverage, design and service continuity

As with buying a car, it pays to do your research. After all, you are making a big purchase - you want it to do the job, keep you comfortable and safe, look good, and last for a decade or more. Become familiar with the product and service reputation of manufacturers that specialize in providing solutions to public safety teams. Ask lots of questions.

When you have 1) determined your need, 2) identified features that benefit your teams, and 3) discovered opportunities to increase ROI via design and purchasing, you can be confident that you have moved your team toward a lasting solution.

Next step

Next week we'll share a checklist that your team can use. It will help you break down the furniture buying process into the stages covered in this series: identifying the best furniture solution for specific work zones, understanding user needs and seeking budget-friendly solutions, leveraging consolidated purchases to increase ROI.

 


 

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Okay, let's take a break from furniture. Here are some tools and tips for making the most of your experience as a 911 dispatcher.