While property managers are often focused on addressing tenant needs, understanding what exactly tenants want when they submit service requests can mean success versus failure. Phil Mobley, Head of Research for property management software firm Building Engines, spoke at a recent Propmodo Live event about gathering actionable intelligence from the tech-enabled tenant conversation. “When tenants use technology that is related to buildings and the workplace experience, they are providing…exactly one half of the conversation,” he explained.
Mobley led with two fundamental questions: Are property managers really listening to what commercial tenants are saying? If they are listening, are they hearing only the tenant’s words, or what the tenant really feels?
Mobley explained one of the most common specific tenant requests in the New York City market are building access questions, such as new key cards, followed by temperature concerns. “…A third of the time for freight moving and lighting requests and a quarter of the time for building access, property management is missing those [service response] deadlines”, he said. “Hot/cold calls are only six percent…missing those deadlines”.
For Mobley, this response time discrepancy points to the prioritization of services in the property manager mindset. While access, lighting and moving are all important requests to fulfill, Mobley explained that property managers often treat a tenant complaining about a hot office much more urgently.
The challenge for real estate companies is that often times property managers and tenants prioritize things differently. One way to reconcile the difference is through sentiment analysis. By carefully analyzing tenant use of words like “please” and “thank you” during service request submittals, property managers can tease out when tenants are a little annoyed versus seriously concerned about an issue. “When you start doing this kind of analysis and…listening to that conversation, we’re understanding not only what tenants are thinking but how they are feeling”, Mobley said.
Other times, surveys reporting high tenant satisfaction may not capture the whole story. Mobley explained as an example that while New York City tenants in the outer boroughs frequently exhibit higher customer service satisfaction levels than tenants downtown, companies in the heart of the city often receive hard-to-measure but critical benefits such as talent acquisition, collaboration and innovation.“…If you understand satisfaction without listening to stuff like this, then I don’t think we’re really listening to what tenants are trying to tell us about the space. We need to understand not just their day-to-day satisfaction, but what are they really at a deeper level trying to accomplish with their occupancy in a particular location,” Mobley said.
Finally, Mobley addressed the logistics of tech-enabled tenant relations today. While smartphone users spend on average two hours a day on mobile apps, most haven’t downloaded a new app in the last month. This could spell trouble for managers attempting to use new software platforms with tenants used to Slack, WhatsApp, Skype or other services. “…The future of tenant experience…we think it is going to happen in these channels. It is apps that people are already using.”, Mobley said.
Mobley added that while custom apps aren’t going away, the full spectrum of management stretches beyond dedicated property software platforms to other apps and websites that tenants use more naturally and frequently. “The future of the tenant conversation is conversational, we think. That’s where we are going with this.”
Regardless of whether a management company uses a custom software program, a major service like Yardi or AppFolio, or simple email and texting, one thing is clear: Understanding not only how to satisfy an occupant’s basic needs but also address their feelings is the hallmark of a successful tenant conversation.