Everyone has an inflated vision of themselves. This is especially true for businesses. If a business is making a profit it is easy to assume that nothing needs to be changed. But, economic downturns and innovative disruptors often prove this theory wrong, usually long after it is too late.
A report came out yesterday from Building Engines that shows just how far the property industry has to go to meet the needs of its end user. They polled over six hundred and fifty commercial real estate professionals and tenant employees who work in multi-tenant buildings across the United States. Then they compared the answers of the owners and the tenants.
The differences were shocking at times. Seventy-five percent of commercial real estate professionals are confident that building occupants receive important building information, but only twenty-five percent of occupants agree. Asked one of the authors of the study, Phil Mobley, why he thought there was such a disparity in response. “Some of it is mindset. Commercial real estate people have historically thought of their ‘customer’ as the single day-to-day contact person at each tenant, or maybe the lease signer. But the reality is that every person in the building is a customer, and building owners and managers are tasked with delivering a positive experience to all of them because tenants demand it for their employees. We need to do a better job helping them reach this audience.”
Another big difference, and probably one of the reasons for the previous incongruences, is the preferred communication channels. Sixty-six percent of building management teams communicate with tenants via phone today, while only four percent of tenant employees plan to use this method in the future, according to the survey.
As Phil pointed out, the telephone is much less customizable than other, more modern communication channels. “Like all types of customer communication, there’s a balance and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s one reason we believe in conversational channels (text, Slack, Facebook Messenger, etc.) because they allow recipients to self-manage how they consume information,” he said.
Lastly, the survey showed how little the communication aspect of customer service is considered important by building managers and owners. Eighty percent of commercial real estate professionals dedicate at least half of their time to improving the tenant experience, but only 28 percent allocate at least half of their operating budget toward the same goal.
My follow up to this was whether there was any evidence that improved communication actually increased a building’s profitability, since this is the thing that management is first and foremost focused on. Phil said, “Some, and this is obviously something we’ll be keeping a close eye on. A company called Brightline Strategies presented some research at this year’s BOMA International conference that demonstrated a link between what they called occupant “Awareness” (what most people in commercial real estate call “engagement”) and tenant loyalty. Plus the investments in tenant experience apps like HqO and Tishman Speyer’s Zo are some circumstantial evidence that people believe this hypothesis.”
There has always been an understanding that many of a building’s users’ concerns are not addressed by management. But this new study shows exactly how far off the two perceptions really are. Technology can play a role in helping bring these two stakeholders closer together through improved communication but ultimately it will take a better understanding by the property industry in exactly how far they need to go.