Christy Means-Vasiliou, Managing Director of Asset Services in Dallas, shares her perspective on tenant satisfaction and working with demanding tenants. Christy’s comments were featured in the November/December issue of BOMA Magazine in the “Keeping Tenants Happy” feature article.
How do you proactively address more demanding tenants?
You start at the beginning, by managing expectations. We try to engage with the client and leasing team during the lease negotiation process to anticipate any potential issues. However, many times, the deals are negotiated without our input, so the initial visit is after the lease has been executed. In this case, we seize the first opportunity to introduce ourselves to the tenant, explain our role and responsibilities and answer any questions that may arise during the move-in process.
Sometimes, we have tenants with historically more demands, and have to treat them more tactfully. Understanding their expectations and setting expectations with regards to landlord and tenant responsibilities is key.
How can some of the challenges you experience be resolved at the negotiation table?
If Asset Services is part of the negotiation process, it makes for a smoother kickoff to the tenant experience. Knowing their expectations up front in negotiation and setting our expectations for the landlord and tenant responsibilities prevents future issues or misunderstandings.
However, I have had situations where Asset Services was not involved in the preliminary conversations about the tenant’s lease. In a particular instance, the tenant didn’t understand the concept of a TI allowance. Things that they requested on their change order were over and above their allowance, but they expected everything to be turnkey. The broker had not properly educated the tenant about the process, and although the change order process was explained, the tenant was frustrated about the overage.
To resolve the issue and to kick off the relationship on a positive note, I played the role of liaison between tenant and landlord. I suggested to the landlord that we amortize the tenant’s overage into their lease rate, since the tenant didn’t want out-of-pocket expenses. The landlord agreed, and the lease was amended to amortize the TI overages into the tenant’s lease rate. The result was a win-win.
How do tenant satisfaction surveys help gauge tenant satisfaction and improve the tenant experience?
Tenant surveys are a good barometer of performance and feedback. They sometimes reveal things that are not placed on a work order or request. They initiate face-to-face contact to address any items noted on the survey. There should not be any “surprise” comments if we are interacting with our tenants regularly. They survey everything from property appearance to responsiveness (and leasing). We conduct them annually for our team, and some clients may conduct them more frequently.
Besides annual surveys, are there other proactive means for maintaining tenant satisfaction?
Every tenant mix demands a unique experience based on their needs and preferences, whether it’s responsiveness to requests, security, amenities, technology or community/social interaction. You must curtail your management style to effectively manage different tenants.
Regular, one-on-one meetings with client contacts and decision-makers are important for gauging satisfaction and receiving input on expanding tenant amenities and services. By valuing tenant feedback, they feel part of the decision-making process and see their workplace as a community, rather than just a building.
In addition, I always look 12 months out to make sure I visit the tenants that might be up for renewal. We get a good idea of their renewal interests ahead of time and if they have issues we could address. This practice positively contributes to the percentage of tenants who renew their leases at our managed properties.
As a Managing Director of Asset Services, Christy Means-Vasiliou oversees property management operations for Cushman & Wakefield in Dallas. She is responsible for the management of more than 15 million square feet of office, industrial, and retail space throughout the North Texas region. Her responsibilities include financial oversight of the department, direct leadership of the property management team, and business development for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Christy works in frequent collaboration with the leaders of the firm’s agency leasing, capital markets, and valuation and advisory service lines to enhance client deliverables.