19 Oct 2017

Office Service Standards and Customer Experience: A best practice guide

It’s just 2 years since BCO published its ground-breaking report Building Performance – Rethinking the Relationship between Owners, Managers and Occupiers. The report set out a 10-point action plan to improve stakeholder relations and remove much of the friction that frustrates corporate occupiers. “Office Service Standards and Customer Experience: a best practice guide” highlights the revolution currently occurring in the property industry’s approach to delivering service, based on customers’ requirements ‘from space as a commodity’ to ‘space as service’. It also forms the basis for a consultation with the BCO members on the format of a new BCO Customer Experience Award which will recognise those owners and their managers that are running buildings in a truly innovative and customer focused way. 

The research identified the need for change and articulates benefits for both owners and occupiers in adapting a new and inclusive approach that is more engaging and in line with a customer service and satisfaction ethos across other industries. Office owners, managers and occupiers were engaged with to define and communicate what the industry should be delivering by way of effective and efficient building services that match a significant improvement in building and workplace design and quality in recent years.

We participated in the debate and discussion at the breakfast seminar held on the 17th October at UBS, Broadgate, London sponsored by British Land, LGIM Real Assets, CBRE and Broadgate Estates. The panel was joined by Polly Plunket (Property Management Director, Broadgate Estates) Debbie Hobbs (Head of Sustainability, LGIM Real Assets) Danny Harte (Senior Director, CBRE) and Gary Wingrove (Projects and Construction Director, BT Facilities Services). 

As recent PhD research by Dr Danielle Sanderson shows, there is a clear commercial case for investing in building strong relationships with occupiers. I am excited that there is evidence that our attention is now shifting from a viewpoint of ‘What’s wrong with the way we do things?’ to ‘How we can make things better for our occupier customers?’ That’s why this latest report is designed to provide those forward-thinking property owners and managers who want to change their approach with practical guidance in the form of checklists, scorecards and case studies. These will measure how well an office building is performing, viewed from the perspective of the owner, property manager and occupier.

The checklists, designed to help property owners, managers and occupiers understand what best practice looks like, follow the broad structure of the RealService ‘Best Practice Framework’ and cover the following areas: customer experience culture, customer insight and service design, collaboration with service partners, leadership & training, operational excellence, and, performance measurement.

There has never been a more apt time for our industry to get close to our customers – the price to pay for missing this opportunity is potentially great. Who could have predicted the seismic shifts in the political, economic, social and technical worlds that we have seen over the past 18 months? If ever there was a time to stick close to your customers it’s now!

Other industries have learned the hard way that failure to innovate and to follow the customer is a sure-fire way to attract the attention of the business disruptors – like Uber, eBay, Amazon, Airbnb, etc. The office industry is seeing new entrant disruptors like WeWork and The Office Group transform the experience of the workplace.

-Chris Richmond, PwC Chair, BCO Occupier Group

For more information on Office Service Standards and Customer Experience or to download the report, access the BCO research page.

13 Oct 2017

Plotting The Future

“In the age before computers, architects were regularly in trouble for getting their hand-drawn perspectives completely wrong.” The BCO’s Urban Group held an interesting debate at U+I’s offices on the future effect that technology may have on the way we plan the development of our cities. We discussed the benefits and constraints of ‘Computerised London’ following presentations on new technology and 3D Models.

As the sophistication of technology improves, our interaction with the world around us becomes more natural and comfortable. With computerised tools, the emphasis is very much on the visual, with every step in the process clearly illustrated. The basic tutorials cover the essentials of tools and then move on to a discussion of components which are vital if you are to use them efficiently.

Vu.City, creators of highly accurate, fully interactive 3D digital city models, gave the audience a preview of their London mapping software, demonstrating the immediate benefits to the property profession of an instant and current 3D model of our capital. The ability to place yourself anywhere in or over London and assess the past, current and future built environment from your laptop is powerful in itself. There is then endless potential to add programmes and information to analyse and test site potential accurately and quickly.

In the property industry this could help Planners and Politicians assess and inform policy, while reducing the burden on every developer to reproduce information time and time again for planning applications and site assessments. Add real time data from the network of cameras and receptors around our city and there is a real time model of London that could be useful to other professions and businesses. Peter Barbalov, Architect and Design Partner at Farrells, outlined the evolution of urban design and articulated the importance of man working with machine, using technology to optimise decision making and test creativity.

Peter Wynne Rees CBE, Professor of Places & City Planning, UCL Faculty of the Built Environment was charged with challenging the advance of technology and he warned of the dangers of losing human touch and personal authenticity. Questions over the control of the technology and the accountability for accuracy were raised. However, Peter conceded that if such a tool could help the ‘developer’ work with the Planners at an earlier stage in the design development process, and there was greater clarity over planning guidance and decision making, then this would be a welcomed initiative.

Questions were raised about ownership of such a powerful model, and the responsibility and accountability for authentication of outputs.  This is a topic that will run its course but anything that increases efficiency in the planning process and helps with the interpretation of policy will reduce development cost and help make UK PLC more competitive.

The 3D model gives us a whole new perspective on buildings. We can check the interior layout, model sunlight at various times of the day, and get an estimate of the outdoor area. Instructing architects and the builders is likely to become easier than ever before. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what difference can an interactive 3D model make?

-Duncan Trench, BCO Chairman of the Urban Group.

For more information on the Urban Group or to view upcoming BCO seminars access the BCO Research page.

11 Oct 2017

BCO Awards 2017 - Celebrating excellence in office space

Congratulations again to all of our National BCO Award winners, who were announced on 3 October in front of almost 1400 of the country's top designers, developers, architects and occupiers:

  • ‘Best of the Best’ & Corporate Workplace: Sky Central, Isleworth, Middlesex
  • Commercial Workplace: 8 Finsbury Circus, London
  • Refurbished/Recycled Workplace: 20 Eastbourne Terrace, London
  • Innovation: Sea Containers, London
  • Fit Out of Workplace: The Estée Lauder Companies, London
  • Projects up to 1,500 sq.m: Concordia Works, Leeds
  • Test of Time: Birmingham City Council, Birmingham

‘Best of the Best’ winners Sky Central was praised by judges for bringing 3,500 of Sky’s workforce under one roof. Judges also commended the vast array of services and amenities on offer, including six restaurants and cafes, a 200-seat state of the art cinema, 200-person event space and a technology ‘lounge’.

Nigel Clark, Chair of the BCO National Judging Panel, commented: “This year’s winners are a study in how Britain has maintained its position at the forefront of the global office sector. Each building is both adaptable and robust, providing occupiers with the flexibility they need to ensure the wellbeing and productivity of their workforce. Sky Central, the Best of the Best award winner, is a prime example.  The building provides ample amenities to Sky’s large workforce, whilst ensuring a productive environment by breaking the larger space down into distinct workplace neighbourhoods.”

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, commented: “This year’s awards nominees have impressed across the board with their commitment to sustainable and innovative design. London has played host to a record number of award winners this year, affirming why businesses from across the world come to the capital. Congratulations to all nominees, our highly commended entrants and, of course, the award winners themselves.”

Read some of the tweets here or head to our photo gallery for a visual recap of this wonderful evening.

Entries for 2018’s BCO Regional and National Awards programme opened on Wednesday 4 October 2017; the closing deadline is: Friday 24 November 2017.

10 Oct 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

The BCO recognises the importance of the growing Health & Wellbeing agenda, which we would term a paradigm shift, and the implications it has for office design and how the attitudes towards the office are changing. Furthermore, we recognise that the rapid escalation of literature, views and certification has led to confusion over “what really matters”.

Since last year’s World Mental Health Day, the national conversation on mental health has gained significant momentum. In the past year Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) England has trained a further 65,000 people in Mental Health First Aid. As a result, to date over 206,000 people in England have Mental Health First Aid skills. Just some of the employers who have taken ownership of mental health in their workplace and trained Mental Health First Aiders include Unilever, Siemens and WHSmith.  Designers, developers, researchers, and management teams all have a critical role to play in ensuring that healthy work environments become a standard in office culture.

In April The British Council for Offices (BCO) announced the commissioning of a major research study “Wellness Matters: Health and Wellbeing in offices and what to do about it”. The year-long project will provide definitive guidance on how to enable office Health and Wellbeing across a building’s lifecycle.

The study will critique existing Health and Wellbeing measurement and certification, identify the most recent and relevant medical evidence justifying a proactive approach to Health and Wellbeing in the built environment, and give guidance on the business case for investment in this space beyond simply improving productivity. Most significantly, this research will deliver a practical guide to creating a healthy environment across the different stages of a building’s life cycle, from design, construction and leasing to the most important aspect by time and value: occupation and asset management.

The project, which will culminate in the publication of a report in March 2018, will be led by a consortium comprising architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, sustainability consultancy Sentinel RPI and Elementa Consulting, backed by medical and academic input from Royal Brompton, Imperial College and Queen Mary University. The findings will also inform the next BCO Guide to Specification, which is the industry-recognised standard for best practice in office development across the UK, also due to be published in 2018.

Access the BCO research page and download reports to find out more about wellness in the workplace. Become a member, join the debate and help to shape the future of the industry

9 Oct 2017

Mitigating Office Obsolescence:

This report is the third in a series of guides designed to tackle the issue of office obsolescence. First, it sets out the international scrutiny afforded to office obsolescence in academic literature and practice-based research. It then responds with some practical guidelines on and solutions to office obsolescence alongside an appraisal of the wider socio-economic environment, which must be considered in any office-building change.

There are offices in the UK which are obsolete due to various reasons such as location reasons- the building is in, for example, an inaccessible, out of town location where there is no occupier demand. Some offices can be functionally obsolete as the building is not fit for purpose due to changing technology, new regulation or changing occupier demand, i.e. small, irregular shaped floorplates or cellular design. An office building deemed as physically obsolete means the building’s fabric has deteriorated to the point where the cost of occupation outweighs the benefits accrued by the occupier.

In any response to obsolescence, particularly conversion for new use, it is tempting to focus on the physical aspects of buildings, for example building size, height, depth, structure and servicing arrangements. These factors are certainly important, however our research indicates that the physical building exists within a much wider socio-economic context which influences both the management of the office property and the potential mitigation of its obsolescence. To account for this wider context, a PESTLE analysis was used to scan the contingent environment of office obsolescence. A PESTLE analysis focuses on six key themes namely political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental.

The report also looks at how office landlords and investors can capitalise on the new working environment. Even though office buildings are traditionally designed to last for centuries in the physical sense, they will have multiple tenants and types of use. In the future, office buildings may not be judged only on specification; they should be marketed as a service, rather than as an asset. Under this perspective, investment and management strategies will need to be proactive, with an emphasis on tenant experience. This suggests a change in approach from traditional management strategies based on price signal. Assets may not even be called ‘offices’, but business centres, hubs, communities or hives. What is certain, is that the ability to adapt and change will be a key determinant of success and profit in the future.

For more on Mitigating Office Obsolescence, access the BCO research page and download reports. Become a member, join the debate and help to shape the future of the industry.