16 Jul 2020

The new elephant in the room: social distancing in a world driven by customer engagement

18 May 2020 | by Adam Bray, John Redfern

As the unexpected turn of events of 2020 has us all re-assessing daily life as we know it, attention now turns to the future of workspaces and how they will operate.

The role of a proactive and forward-thinking managing agent and landlord is to anticipate trends and the demands from its customers. However, nobody could have predicted the huge impact that COVID-19 has had. Nonetheless work patterns have shifted significantly in recent times, as customers have come to expect more from the spaces they occupy, opting for greater flexibility and enhanced services.

Clearly there are new challenges on the horizon as the industry grapples with social distancing, and technology will play a part in providing solutions. Many landlords of landmark buildings are pushing the boundaries of customer service, and it’s vital that property management strategies focus on helping to achieve this vision, whilst also challenge boundaries of our own and provoking debate to stimulate innovation. This will be especially important as we begin to return to the office after lockdown, and as we look to implement new ways of working and interacting.

The BCO has previously reported that efficiency, flexibility, adaptability, sustainability and wellbeing continue to be of top concern to occupiers. Office building owners and managers are increasingly being asked, and now expected, to offer a service that supports these business objectives and this isn’t going to change any time soon. In the current environment, adaptability, health and wellbeing will be at the top of everyone’s agenda and the role of the property manager will be to deliver the services to support this.

To do this effectively, engaging clearly and consistently with occupiers is paramount in understanding their specific needs. At a basic level, property managers are already hosting regular occupier meetings and video conferencing calls, but the adoption of technology has enabled a greater and more granular access to information about buildings through mobile apps and smart building measures. It has also facilitated the creation of platforms that enable real-time building feedback, digital twin modelling and platforms to integrate smart building functionalities including speed-gate integrations and air-quality sensors. Technologies like these post-COVID will be of utmost importance to ensure seamless and contactless building access, reducing touchpoints and assisting with frictionless movement around the building, as well as providing a one-stop-shop centralised communication tool.

There is already a revolution underway, moving from customers’ requirements for ‘space as a commodity’ to ‘space as a service’. This has been spoken about at length in the past and the BCO has been producing research and recommendations on occupier satisfaction since 2002. Their 10-point action plan and set of checklists that measure the performance of a building forms the basis of our RISE strategy, which we have in more than 60 sites, home to over 60,000 occupiers.

In order to successfully assess and address the performance of a building it is incredibly important to receive this feedback to enhance services. It is also important to offer transparency in management services, and to quantify how well service is delivered. In our buildings, through RISE, we have introduced a certification scheme which is designed to do exactly that. This independent audit, which assesses the standard of compliance with the requirements and expectations of occupiers and landlords, allows service levels and performance across prime offices to be raised through benchmarking and the creation of a bespoke framework to deliver services that address gaps in services.

The significance and effectiveness of this bespoke framework and benchmarking can be shown through our work at Cannon Place where the initial independent assessment score of 41% was improved to 92% in just one year. The speed of this improvement was the result of following a series of processes by working closely with the occupiers and landlord to align expectations with their goals and requirements. This cumulated in the production of a bespoke action plan, the creation of a customer experience strategy for the building, along with implementing the RISE action plan with a 5-step programme focusing on: operational excellence, customer experience, sustainability and wellbeing, innovation and CSR.

As we now move into a phase of lifting the lockdown with a potential phased return to work, we expect more focus on the role the building plays in wellness, scrutiny of cleanliness and how facilities are managed, as well as opportunities to improve interactions through technology. Tools such as Customer Journey Mapping will be paramount as we have a period of the ‘new normal’ and those journeys change.

Ultimately it is collaboration, transparency and a structure to implement multiple plans and processes, that helps to ensure that building occupiers and building users’ needs and expectations are met. To be able to quantify that to the owner and their customer is a powerful tool to drive constant evolution and improvement of service. As we are all acutely aware, the challenge now lies in adapting this customer-centric model to one which operates in an environment that sees restrictions imposed on gatherings of people, and individual mobility stymied by Government regulations as a result of the pandemic. Coronavirus may have driven people indoors, but there has never been a stronger need for community and interaction.

Originally posted on React News.

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