By Paul Klink, Executive Managing Director, Investor Services
Goods and services have grown increasingly commoditized, creating a dynamic shift toward buying an idea or experience over a product or service. The world’s most respected customer service brands understand customer loyalty is no longer something you can purchase, but that it must be earned through consistent, positive experiences that keep customers coming back for more. These companies are capturing customer loyalty through dynamic, hospitality-centric customer experiences and good old-fashioned customer service.
The commercial real estate industry is no different. While high-quality products and services are still key components to success, gone are the days where a building’s creative design or service offerings can differentiate an asset from its competitive set in the market. Today, successful building owners and operators understand distinguishing perceived value of an asset and fostering tenant loyalty requires leveraging a building’s products and services to create a memorable customer experience, reflective of the client’s goals and objectives.
Know Your Clients’ Strategic Goals & Objectives
Real estate is a business of vision, timing and aspiration, and a knowledge of how to integrate storytelling into a property achieves a lasting positive experience for our customers. To deliver a strong customer service experience, property managers must understand their clients’ goals and objectives for their assets.
With a subtle injection of entertainment built around the design, layout and identity of the property, property managers can create an emotional connection with tenants, transforming their workplace into a destination. As our clients invest in capital improvements to boost the tenant experience, asset marketability and ROI, property managers should engage tenants as active participants in these property investments to positively affect tenant perceptions and loyalty.
You must have passion for your work, your people, your tenants and your clients’ investments to create a desirable customer experience and welcoming environment. People remember how you make them feel, and your passion and storytelling can make a huge impact on people’s impressions.
Understand Your Customer
We expect our teams to know their tenants and what is important to them. This communicates we are invested in our tenants’ comfort and experience, and provides insight for us to truly make a difference.
Providing quality customer experiences extends far beyond daily operations and requires cultivating meaningful relationships with tenants. Every tenant mix demands a unique experience based on their needs and preferences, such as responsiveness to requests, the level of security, conveniences of amenities, available property technology or a sense of community and social interaction.
Technology, such as data from a tenant portal or mobile app, can also help teams gather insights and develop intelligent tenant satisfaction strategies. Active solicitation of feedback through structured surveys allows owners and managers to objectively measure tenant experiences; identify areas for improvement; and tie their improvement plan to operational KPIs and goals that increase portfolio occupancy, enhance competitive positioning, compare personnel performance, prioritize capital expenditures and improve tenant retention.
Digital tools can improve the tenant experience with multiple communication touchpoints, speed of service delivery and customized customer experiences. Property enhancements such as a website, tenant portal or mobile app are solutions for communicating with tenants. Knowing your tenants and how they communicate and want to be communicated to helps property managers deliver the right solutions for a seamless tenant experience.
Build a Culture from Within
According to McKinsey & Company, many companies overlook the need to transform their internal constituents, especially their support functions, into excellent customer service operations. Companies must understand and measure employee needs and drivers of satisfaction as part of their external customer-centric transformation. Every leading customer-experience company has motivated employees who embody the customer and brand promise in their interactions with consumers and are empowered to do the right thing.
When hiring, we’re always looking for people who understand customer service and creating an experience. If a person has no financial or property management experience, yet has demonstrated a knowledge of customer service, they have a strong foundation for this business and can learn the operational tasks.
Taking the time to invest in talent and mentor teams on best practices ensures the culture of customer service is truly instilled in every team member. We constantly discuss tenant engagement strategies and provide feedback to improve our activities and tenant relationships. If we do not invest in our teams, we see the impact on our performance and the quality of experience we provide for tenants.
As the experience economy continues to evolve in burgeoning markets, real estate owners and operators must think differently about competitive advantages. Storytelling and emotive experiences, along with convenience and themed ambiance, will become key differentiators of properties and real estate brands that otherwise offer the same products and services as their competitors. It is imperative that property managers align themselves to their clients’ goals and objectives, understand their tenants’ needs and build a customer-centric culture within their teams to create a cohesive tenant experience and enhance the value of their clients’ investments.
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Paul Klink is an Executive Managing Director for Cushman & Wakefield’s Investor Services platform, bringing 31 years of commercial real estate experience to serve as a strategic advisor to key clients for the firm.