ChatGPT and the future of facilities management

by Ruby Kraner-Tucci
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The person-centred nature of facilities management safeguards the sector against being entirely replaced by artificial intelligence like ChatGPT, but the advancing technology is still making a profound impact.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly critical to the FM sector. From smart building technology that can remotely control a building’s energy use and automatically detect an unresponsive elevator, to IoT (Internet of Things)-powered air quality sensors and surveillance systems, AI has already helped facility managers reduce costs and increase efficiency.

But the latest development in AI – ChatGPT – carries the potential to profoundly impact the practice of FM as we know it today, stirring both excitement and apprehension from industry professionals.

Developed by US-based company OpenAI, ChatGPT is a powerful online chatbot that produces sophisticated original content in response to just about any prompt it receives, whether it be drafting an important letter to tenants or creating a schedule to better manage contractors.

The FM industry is not the only one benefiting from this advancing technology. ChatGPT has over 100 million active users each month, making it the fastest growing consumer application in history, according to Reuters. While popular, the online chatbot is not without limitations – it has no concept of truth, cannot account for information post-2021, and has the capacity to produce biased and harmful content.

It has also caused many to question the future of several professions including journalism, accounting and recruitment, and made educational institutions vulnerable to change and students cheating. Fortunately, the person-centred nature of FM means much of the work is not automatable, safeguarding the sector against being entirely replaced by AI.

So what does ChatGPT mean for the future of FM?

Freeing up more time

The advanced functionalities of ChatGPT can be used to automate a raft of routine tasks that are often viewed as mundane or tedious, creating more time for facility managers to spend developing innovative projects and solutions.

By using the chatbot to generate requests for proposals, draw up new work agreements and even write emails, facility managers can better apply themselves to jobs that require deeper thinking. AI-powered software can also help with scheduling and task management, ensuring all work is completed on time and resources are allocated efficiently – further boosting productivity.

Improving customer service

Enhancing the client experience is a critical function of AI-powered chatbots, assisting organisations with FM
needs by providing quick answers to commonly asked questions, as well as responding to customer reviews and complaints in real time.

Cleverly, ChatGPT can identify patterns and trends in the sentiment of customer interactions, which can be used to create personalised responses relevant to their emotional needs. Not only can this enhance client satisfaction and business reputation, tracking sentiment over time can also critically assist organisations to identify areas of improvement and, as a result, develop informed business strategies.

Advancing business capabilities

Automating business processes, including the use of predictive asset management, has been increasing across the FM sector.

ChatGPT can be valuable for data management and analysis by generating reports on a wide range of information, from building usage and occupancy rates to maintenance costs and equipment inventory. By removing the potential for human error, facility managers can make more informed decisions and better identify trends to reduce costs, improve systems performance and streamline operations.

The chatbot can also send reminders for tasks such as vendor contract renewals and regular building or equipment inspections, creating more robust work processes.

Looking to the future

ChatGPT is clearly a game changer for FM. But as the technology inevitably continues to advance, being aware of its limitations and potential consequences is critical.

This is why ChatGPT is best viewed as a tool that, if leveraged correctly, can contribute to a more efficient and innovative sector.

This article originally appeared in the ‘People Issue’ of the Facility Management digital magazine. Grab your free copy here. Existing subscribers can read the magazine here.

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a Melbourne-based journalist and communications professional specialising in culture, community and social affairs. Her writing has appeared in diverse publications including Pro Bono Australia, Law Society Journal, Time Out, Broadsheet, Dumbo Feather and The Australian Jewish News.

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