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Claire Middleton

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What is the metaverse and how is it going to affect the world of real estate? We put on our RealService virtual reality headsets and took a look into the future.

1 – What is the metaverse?

According to Deloitte the metaverse is the internet in 3D. “It’s a form of digital interaction where connected, virtual experiences can either simulate the real world or imagine worlds beyond it,” they say.

Simply put, the metaverse is a digital incarnation of a physical space and is the gaming industry taking the next leap from Fortnite or Minecraft towards new audiences in real-world adaptations.

So, instead of building empires or fighting aliens, we will be using these platforms for shopping, attending concerts, or even going to work.

The metaverse is the internet of 1993

2 – How developed is it now?

At the moment, the metaverse is in its infancy. If you had a Commodore 64 computer in the early Eighties or signed up for a free Hotmail account in the Nineties, you’ll know what it was like to be in at the start of something.

Picture showing a 1984 Apple MAc computer
Computers have come along way since this 1984 Mac

“The metaverse is literally the internet of 1993,” said Dan Reitzik, CEO of TerraZero, a metaverse land developer. (We’ll come back to what a metaverse land developer actually is later).

Dan was speaking at a BizNow digital summit on the metaverse and commercial real estate and what he meant is that in terms of tech and of usage, the metaverse is just starting out.

He also meant that in terms of potential, the metaverse is mostly untapped but is going to be limitless. We have all seen what’s happened with the internet.

3 – How is it affecting the retail industry?

Even though it is early days, it is having an impact.

Just as they got to grips with the importance of the customer experience and found innovative ways to attract consumers to their stores, shopping centre managers, developers, owners and investors are finding their experiential approach is being trumped again by the internet.

A shopping centre in the metaverse will give virtual visitors a feeling of being in a store. Retail brands love it because the average time spent in a metaverse store exceeds 20 minutes, compared to the two minutes or so for simple on-line shopping.

The metaverse is also a natural environment for hosting events. A concert in a venue like Wembley Stadium might hold 100,000 people, but a concert on the metaverse could be seen by millions.

4 – What about the office?

Its application for the world of work does not seem as advanced except in areas which improve communication and drive culture. Bill Gates has said he reckons Zoom will be dead in two-three years, and there won’t be too many folk mourning that, but that doesn’t suggest that we will all be back in the office.

On the contrary, the BizNow panel unanimously felt that hybrid working was here to stay but that having an office in the metaverse where avatars can meet and chat as if in person would be an advance on the two-dimensional Zoom or Teams experience.

One contributor said landlords were already being asked to provide a “digital twin” to their occupiers’ rented office space.

It’s an amenity for real-world properties

“It’s an amenity for real-world properties,” said Erin McDannald, CEO of Lighting Environments. “It provides a digital swing for tenants who are not ready to leave the physical world and ties physical spaces to virtual spaces.

“It is the nearest thing we have to meeting face-to-face and it allows a company to have a global culture.”

5 – How does it actually work?

There are several metaverse developers, notably Sandbox and Decentraland, who have created virtual worlds in which ‘players’ can buy parcels of land, build on them or rent them out.

The number of land parcels is limited, to create scarcity and competition so it becomes more valuable. Sandbox has 166,000 plots of land, each of which are 96m2.

After purchasing the land – in crypto currency only – it will be registered on blockchain as an NFT (non-fungible token). The buyer can then decide what to do with it, but whatever the decision, it will require considerable technical expertise from the platform designer to build the experience required.

In many ways the process mirrors real-world practice. An investor/developer/landlord will look for a prime location, design a building and rent space within it.

There is a mammoth project in Toronto to make an entire digital city

6 – How will this be a good thing?

It has already proved attractive to brands who have created virtual stores, allowing people to browse and buy in the way they would in an actual physical shop. One example from the BizNow panel was an American sandwich shop where shoppers could build their own virtual sandwich – and then have the real thing delivered to their door.

It’s going to be great for estate agents, or anyone wanting to show a property to someone who can’t get to the physical location. There is, for example, a mammoth project in Toronto to make an entire digital city so potential real estate purchasers in, say South Korea, can be shown around without having to get on a plane.

It’s also a potential boon for tourists who can play their way around Toronto before they get there.

Virtual reality is also already used in construction to bring two-dimensional plans to life.

7 – Is it a great leveller – and what does it cost?

You can have a swanky property in the metaverse so there’s no need to have a swanky property in a great physical location – is the theory.

In practice, there will still be parcels of land which will be more valuable than others because of their virtual proximity to key sites. For example, retailers want to be close to other prime retailers so competition for spots in virtual malls could be fierce.

According to Forbes, less than a year ago, the average price for the smallest plot of land available to buy on Decentraland or the Sandbox – two of the biggest metaverse platforms – was under $1,000. Today it’s sitting at around $13,000.

Picture showing a woman holding a virtual reality headset
Those headsets!

8 – So what are its problems?

Firstly, there are many metaverses out there competing for your cyber currency and if you remember the battle between Betamax and VHS, arguably the better product lost out to its better resourced competitor.

Then, your prestigious building or storefront cannot currently be transferred from one metaverse another – they are not ‘decentralised’ – so you would need a new design for each metaverse.

And another variable which is stalling the progress is that all transactions are carried out in cryptocurrency. This can be a step to far for major corporations who, according to Reznik, “don’t like to see these currencies on their balance sheet” and the recent volatility in that market is also not helping.

Finally, while the tech is improving all the time … those headsets!

9 – How can RealService help?

For retail owners/investors, working proactively with your brands is the best way to develop a partnership approach which can improve the experience of real-life shoppers and mitigate the draw to the virtual world.

Our Real-Insight interviews target brand decision-makers to give you a deep dive into how your offering is perceived, benchmark it with your peers and provide intelligence as to how you can develop the relationship for your mutual benefit.

The best way to attract occupiers back to the office is to engage with them about the experience they want when they get there. Real-Insight interviews can target both occupiers on the ground and the decision-makers who make the judgements on location and space. Our ability to provide clients with independent evidence is key.

10 – Where can I get more information?

Please contact Louise Freethy (Louise.Freethy@real-service.co.uk) or Justine Johnson (Justine.Johnson@real-service.co.uk) if you would like to know more about Real-Insight, RealService’s Voice of Customer research.

For more general information, please check out the websites below.

  • Metaverse basics from Deloitte here
  • Experts discuss the future of the office here
  • Learn about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) here
  • All about buying land on the metaverse here

RealService founder Howard Morgan swapped his office chair for a saddle when he set off on a 1,600km (1,000-mile) cycling challenge.

Sadly, the trek which would have taken him the length of France, from St Malo to Nice, only lasted five days because he caught the dreaded Covid,

The good news is that even though he had to pull out 500km into the trip, he still raised £3,500 for the charity brainstrust.

A keen cyclist, Howard had been putting in extra training to get ready for the 13-day marathon.

He said: “While it was very disappointing to be forced to withdraw after just five days, and after doing so much training, I’m proud to have helped this amazing charity. I’d like to thank everyone who kindly donated to generously.

Man with a bike standing next to a signpost
Howard is a keen cyclist

“I’m delighted to have been fundraising for brainstrust, an amazing charity whose vision is for everyone with a brain tumour to feel less afraid, less alone and more in control.

“The organisation has provided wonderful support to our elder daughter Natasha, who was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in March 2017.

“Natasha’s treatment has thankfully been successful, and she is enjoying life to the full. If she has a low moment, the brainstrust team is always there to take her call.”

You can still support brainstrust, by donating to the charity here.

The story of Howard’s trip is available on his blog https//howardfrance.wordpress.com.

logo for the charity brainstrust

‘Real estate is about revenue, retention and reputation – and our clients understand that’

The message of the 2022 RealService Conference was that our people are key to making the most of a future in which the property industry will embrace customer experience as never before.

“The post-pandemic world is a different world and our services have never been more in demand,” said director and chief operating officer Louise Freethy, who welcomed staff and consultants to their first face-to-face gathering for three years.

“The insight we provide and the customer experience strategies we promote have engagement at board level.

“Real estate is about reputation, retention and revenue and our clients understand that. They know that RealService adds value and it’s our privilege to help them.

“Our interviewers, our project managers, our people who work tirelessly and professionally to provide our high-quality services are our best assets. Thank you for all your efforts.”

RealService founder Howard Morgan’s mantra has been that property is not about bricks and mortar, but about hospitality and the people who occupy the buildings.

It’s our time. Please be part of creating our future Howard Morgan

“It’s our time,” he told the attendees. “The pandemic has shown that landlords must understand their customers. RealService has a wonderful future, and I would say to you, ‘please be part of creating that future’.”

Also important to the RealService business are our values, and prizes aligning to them were awarded by Louise.

Howard received the ‘pioneer’ award in recognition of his lightbulb moment from which RealService was born, his constant innovation around product development and the honorary professorship he was awarded by UCL following his creation of Future Leaders educational programme.

Our data whizz Lasha Gegidze received the ‘expert’ award for his development of the innovative RealService dashboard, while senior consultant April Davies was the ‘young-minded’ recipient because of her ability to embrace any new challenge with positivity.

Jane King, a proofer and scheduler, won the ‘caring’ award for being ready to help anybody with anything, anytime.

Picture showing a line up of people outside
RealService Conference 2022 … This is us

‘It’s people who drive your business, who are the face of your business’

Guest speaker Tricia Heberle was Chef de Mission for Team Ireland at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

She spoke of the importance of putting people first – in her case, the athletes – and having values which become the pillars around which the organisation can grow, and change can take place.

“It has been great to be out of my comfort zone learning about the changing needs and opportunities in the real estate industry for property developers and landlords delivering on customer experience,” she said.

“There are many synergies between your business and the world of sport, especially when it comes to realising that it’s people who drive your business, who are the face of your business – and who are your customers.”

RealService Founder, Howard Morgan, recently spoke at the Navigator Forum organised by  CGA 

A report of his presentation is available here and reprinted below with thanks to Chris Garthwaite and Carla Hall at CGA for the invitation.

____________________________________________________

Introduction

Cities around the world have seen a fundamental change in the way we use property and real estate. As with many of the seismic shifts since March 2020, this was a trend that was already in motion pre-pandemic, but Covid-19 has escalated the evolutionary process.

While change presents challenges for commercial property owners and those in businesses that hinge on real estate (not least UK pensions, which are underpinned by property), it also presents opportunities as well. So, how can businesses adapt their thinking to create a customer experience worth paying for in 2022 and beyond?

What’s changed in real estate?

The overarching change is that we simply are not using commercial property in the way we were five years ago. Remote working is perhaps the most obvious change that has occurred, with digitisation opening opportunities for people to live and work beyond the overpopulated and highly priced realms of major cities.

Remote working was a creeping trend that has leapt forwards, with many wishing to continue working from home all or part of the time going forward. It opens all kinds of opportunities, ranging from ‘levelling up’ income and local spending across the UK to providing more job opportunities for anyone who can’t travel into the likes of London and Manchester on a regular basis.

While there may be some friction between businesses and employees as to how the remote working model plays out in the long-term, as of September 2021 50% of British employees are still working from home at least some of the time. That’s up from 37% before the pandemic. The change has prompted technology to advance in order to improve the remote working experience. Last month alone we saw Facebook showcase their haptic glove prototype, allowing you to feel objects in virtual reality.

It’s not just offices, however, that are seeing changes. The high street has been under ‘threat’ since the dawn of the internet, and the challenges of the last two years have meant that anyone who hadn’t changed their shopping habits to the digital realm has now been largely forced to. As a result, shopping centres and brick-and-mortar stores are suffering.

Even rented housing and apartment buildings are facing enormous change in cities (linked back to remote working). As people realise that they are not bound to urban areas, landlords find themselves competing for tenants in a way they have never had to before.

We are at a moment of profound change and for lots of businesses that’s a daunting prospect, but it’s not a situation that has never occurred before. For example, one might see both an industry and society parallel in the colliery closures and ensuing miners strikes in the 1980s. They, too, were a way of life, impacted entire communities, were linked to the very essence of how the country was run, and had the capacity to make entire businesses irrelevant in a very short space of time.

Reimagining the proposition for commercial property

Against this backdrop we need to change the way we think about commercial property. What is it for? How is it used?

Since 2002 Barclays has been selling off its office buildings and leasing them back. Large city apartment buildings have been plagued by scandal and a loss of trust post Grenfell, and shopping centres are floundering. For example, Bluewater’s 30% stakeholder, Landsec, is currently in talks to buy Lendlease’s 25% stake for £200m. That would represent an overall value drop of around £800m over the past three years.

That said, we are seeing a repurposing of those buildings and the way they’re used for work, life and leisure. What businesses need to think about is how to provide services that enhance experience in these environments.

Space as a service

In offices, stats show that typically just 2 out of 10 corporates are satisfied with the services they get from landlords. So, the old is being outshone by the new, as ‘space as a service’ providers like WeWork capture the mood and gain 9 or 10 out of 10 in customer satisfaction surveys.

The shift in our approach to commercial property comes down to two things: service and experience. Office and apartment buildings are shifting from a focus on ownership to the monetisation of services. That includes physical space as something people consume according to need. That might be in the likes of WeWork or student accommodation providers like Unite Students. These are no longer places to simply crash for the night, they provide tea, coffee and services that enhance the experience.

The tenant as the customer

In apartment buildings, landlords are being called out for abusing power (only recently, Luke Johnson wrote his piece ‘Time to end the abuse of tenants’ for The Times). There’s also a rise in pressure groups like Guardians of the Arches, calling for tenants to be treated as valued customers.

One example that Howard highlighted, was from Quintain Living. Their lifestyle focussed rental company has been developing an area outside Wembley, producing something colourful, imaginative and experience focused. It includes a rooftop community space on the 14-storey residential tower, as well as two floors of office space which tenants can use free of charge. What they’re delivering as a result is not just a roof over your head, but a community that’s nice to live in. There are camper vans on the roof, which can be offices for the day, colourful post boxes and hot tubs – the emphasis is on the experience.

In many ways this is forward thinking. However, one contributor pointed out that in other ways, this emphasis on community is a throwback to the way continental Europe structured its communities in the past, with commercial premises on one floor and housing on another. There is inspiration to be drawn from the past as well as imagining the future.

Training and behaviour

The missing link between reimagining the way we use commercial property and executing those plans successfully is a combination of skills and strategic capabilities.

A mindset change

In the first instance, it’s about a mindset change. For a long time, those who have owned or managed property, have had the luxury of not really thinking about the customer and their experience. Property has been in demand, so landlords have been able to command high fees without providing any service. Now, commercial property owners find themselves in a position where it needs to give people a reason to come to them – they need to think about the customer experience.

It’s a way of thinking that the hospitality industry has understood for generations. CGA’s Graham Ryan recalled living in an apartment building in the USA, where the concierge added enormous value to each tenant by knowing everyone’s name, always saying ‘hello’, and being engaging. The community loved him, and 26 years later, he remains a positive memory of that experience. That individual and his customer service created value for that asset.

It is a mindset that forward thinking businesses are seeing tangible benefits from across the board. For example, researcher Dr Danielle Sanderson investigated the determinants of satisfaction amongst tenants of UK offices. She found that if you can increase satisfaction by one unit on a 1 to 5 scale, you can increase total returns by +1.9%.

New skills and training

For many businesses this will require a change of perspective, but ultimately that’s driven by introducing different skillsets at a top level, and training to make sure that those values are then reflected through the different customer touch points in the business.

A contributor noted that it’s essential for teams as well as leadership to be inspired to this new way of thinking. She said that staff need to be taken on the same journey as leaders through appropriate training and mentoring. It was felt that if teams are not involved in that transformative process towards customer experience, then they will naturally pivot back to what they know.

It was highlighted that traditionally, the recruitment process into the property industry has focused on chartered surveyors, but those qualifications and courses don’t cover customer service or customer experience. They are transactional. Unless those individuals are naturally inclined to service, they won’t have the necessary skills to address customer experience. They must be generated, taught and trained.

With that in mind, we are now seeing more and more jobs available for a Head of Customer Experience, and training providers are catching on. For example, UCL has launched a short course titled CX in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme.

One contributor, whose company is in property investment, said that they have moved from a one size fits all approach to a one size fits one experience approach. They have pivoted the business so that everything is consumer centric. Where a landlord might have traditionally only had contact with a tenant when a three-year tenancy agreement came up for renewal, there’s now a property management layer that’s about knowing the customer and ensuring they want to stay. The question they ask themselves is ‘how can we be Ritz Carlton for living, office space and logistics?’ The Ritz Carlton has its own centre of excellence, so they are creating a similar capacity in-house to ensure staff training.

The gap in strategic capabilities

In addition to training, there’s the question of what a more experience focused approach to the property industry looks like and what businesses need to factor into their budgets and capabilities to make that happen.

Pastries and ice creams

One contributor works with a landlord who had worried: ‘We can’t supply enough milk to our office building!’ It’s a new issue for landlords, but as they are now providing tea and coffee making facilities, the logistics around milk and how much they needed becomes something to think about. The same landlord had questions about their Danish pastries – were they too big? Should they be providing them at all?

Whether it’s pastries or luxury toiletries, in many ways such an issue seems trivial, but when it’s done to scale it is both a budgetary and logistics consideration, the likes of which hoteliers and brand consultants have been thinking about for decades. There’s a need to decide what’s required, when, how much, how it’s being delivered, how waste and cleaning are to be managed. It’s also about measuring the impact of these small details on the customer experience so you know what to change, increase or decrease.

Historically, no budget would have been put aside for these experiential factors, even if the thought had been there to implement them. Now, the property industry needs to incorporate them into its thinking. The service charge system in the UK has meant that’s where the budget is set. Most properties have a budget line for letting but they don’t have a line item for customer retention.

One contributor remembered suggesting to the owner of an office building that they give ice creams to all the occupants if the air conditioning system went down. The response was ‘we don’t have the budget’. Today, new operators are coming into the market, and they are more attuned to a service-based way of thinking. In short, the pastries and ice creams are accounted for.

Marketing and measuring satisfaction

Even how we ‘purchase’ space is changing. Increasingly, online portals are playing a role in how we search the market for property. Outside property you can purchase in one or two clicks, but can’t with property – is that part of the future? At the moment, pricing isn’t dynamic either, but is that going to change? If we’re renting offices by the day, will we see surge pricing? Will there also be more TripAdvisor style review platforms for property?

What do each of these things mean for skillsets required within the property industry? What partnerships would create a competitive advantage?

The conversation raised several interesting avenues for exploration as well as exciting prospects for the future of the property industry. Key trends were identified including:

  • The rise of property management
  • The tenant as the customer
  • Space as a service

All of these warrant further exploration within themselves.

The speed of change in customer expectation is dramatic and the way in which customers are feeling and behaving when it comes to commercial property is entirely different to a few years ago. Is there enough industry awareness of that change, or is it just the enlightened few who are making a difference?

Howard concluded that as a mentor within the property industry, he often asks those who have newly completed their professional training, ‘have you thought about your tenants as customers?’ To date, no one has responded in the affirmative. It’s a skills gap and a huge opportunity – it’s just a question of harnessing it.

 

‘It’s fantastic to be working together on a new vision’

RealService would like to congratulate the customer experience team at Transport for London for winning the Institute of Customer Service’s UK Customer Satisfaction Strategy Award for 2021.

It has been a great privilege to work with Siobhan Jared and Tom Atkinson over the last four years and we are very proud of the contribution we have made towards that success.

Our founder and managing director Howard Morgan has provided strategic guidance and coaching on TfL’s customer experience strategy since 2018.

RealService have also carried out in-house training for property managers and surveyors and conducted Voice of Customer research so TfL can better understand their customers and stakeholders. Our research has enabled TfL to measure their CX progress, benchmark it against their peers and pin-point areas which might need improvement.

How we helped TfL

Howard Morgan, RealService Founder and MD, was appointed in Q1 2018 by TfL Commercial Development to provide strategic guidance on its customer experience strategy. Since then, Howard has provided a range of consulting and mentoring services to the Senior Leadership Team. Projects successfully delivered include:
      • Development of new vision, mission and customer strategy
      • Design of a new customer experience best practice framework for Build to Rent residential
      • Design of stakeholder consultation events
      • Motivational workshops to launch customer programme
      • Best practice safari including visits
      • Informal mentoring of members of the SLT and management team
      • Advice on key performance indicators and measurement
      • What TfL said: 'RealService are completely in tune with the property industry in terms of the research it does, the networking and their understanding of the social piece, which is such a growth area. As a niche company they think a bit differently and have challenged us to do the same. (Siobhan Jared, Senior Business and Customer Performance Manager)
RealService were engaged by Transport for London to run a customer service training course for property managers and surveyors.

TfL wanted their staff to be prepared to manage the impact of the pandemic on their customers and be able to engage with empathy and understanding.

The bespoke course covered the acquisition of broad customer experience skills and also focused on personal skills around communication techniques, building on empathy, understanding and assertiveness.

RealService have also run a Financial Skills for Property Managers course, while TfL have also been enthusiastic supporters of the Customer Experience in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme. This course, co-directed by Howard Morgan and Professor Yolande Barnes at UCL’s renowned Bartlett Real Estate Institute, runs twice a year.

The impact on TfL: Feedback from TfL suggests the training had a significant impact on the relationship between surveyors / property managers and TfL customers who spoke of better communication and said TFL had become ‘absolute leaders in customer service’.
Since 2018, in-house RealService consultants have carried out three Voice of Customer studies, conducting telephone interviews with TfL’s internal and external customers.

Having a purposeful customer experience strategy, backed up by effective in-house training and buy-in from property managers and surveyors meant there was a demonstrable improvement over all key metrics across the three surveys.

Impact on TFL: The results from the most recent study, delivered in 2021 showed:
      • A huge positive NPS shift
      • Significant rise in overall satisfaction
Picture of Howard Morgan
Howard Morgan … CX strategist

Howard said: “Transport for London have embraced every aspect of customer experience and injected it into their DNA. It has become part of their culture and the improvements in Net Promoter Score and feedback from their customers demonstrate their efforts have borne fruit.

“It’s fantastic to be working together on a new vision, mission and customer strategy, but they have started on the really hard work of actually delivering it.

“This award is a marvellous recognition of their progress, and is much deserved.”

“I would recommend Howard’s strategic expertise to any business wanting to put customers at the heart of their operations.”

Siobhan Jared, Transport for London

Siobhan Jared, TfL’s Senior Business and Customer Performance Manager, said: “We are delighted to receive the award because it recognises the progress we have made.

“Howard and his RealService colleagues have helped us from the very start of the journey and continue to provide advice, mentoring, education & training and Voice of Customer research so we can continue on this very rewarding path.

“We have worked with Howard since 2018 and I would recommend his strategic expertise to any business wanting to put customers at the heart of their operations.”

RealService are continuing to work closely with TfL.

REALSERVICE are delighted to congratulate our senior consultant and adviser Dr Danielle Sanderson on her promotion to Associate Professor at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning.

It was when researching her PhD that Dr Sanderson proved the link between occupier satisfaction and property performance. Her thesis demonstrated that if landlords could raise customer satisfaction levels by one point on a five-point scale they could enjoy an additional 1.9 per cent in total returns.

Her PhD research used anonymised data gathered from RealService studies and confidential financial results provided by property companies keen to establish whether the link between customer experience and improved financial returns could be established.

Dr Sanderson then began a lecturing post at UCL but retained her links with RealService where she is our first port of call for advice on statistics and analysis. She is also a key contributor to the Customer Experience in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme, which is run by Experience Makers and the Bartlett Real Estate Institute.

Howard Morgan, the founder and managing director of RealService, is also course co-director of the Future Leaders Programme.

“I am delighted for Danielle. RealService helped fund her doctoral thesis and she has continued her investigations into the return on investment in customer experience by landlords and property managers.

This is a topic very close to our hearts and it’s an honour to have played a part in her journey towards this prestigious promotion.”

For more information about Danielle’s role and research at the Bartlett School of Planning please see here.

For information on the Customer Experience in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme, please contact Danielle@Experiencemakers.com.

QUESTION. What do Singapore Airlines, the NHS and The Crown Estate have in common?

Answer. They all examine – and publish – their Net Promoter Scores.

The score is a measure of customer loyalty used by more than two-thirds of America’s Fortune 1,000 companies and which has been embraced in the UK by forward-thinking property companies like The Crown Estate and GPE (formerly Great Portland Estates). Both have published their Net Promoter Scores in their 2021 Annual reports.

RealService can help you measure the loyalty of your customers and benchmark your score against your peers.

Managing director Howard Morgan believes the NPS is putting the spotlight on customer loyalty in the property industry: “The NPS is independent, it’s transparent and it is a powerful device for landlords in motivating their leadership teams and suppliers,” he said.

“It’s an industry-standard measure and I am delighted we are trusted by our clients to gather data which tracks and demonstrates their progress in improving customer loyalty.”

End user satisfaction more and more important

Investors are increasingly focusing on rental income and that makes the satisfaction of the end user more and more important. A good NPS is attractive to investors but it’s also an early-warning system which highlights areas which could be improved.

The score was developed in 1993 by Fred Reichheld and later adopted in 2003 by US consultants Bain & Company and tech company Satmetrix.

It is based around the simple question: On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague? Plus the obvious follow up: Why?

The score identifies promoters, passives and detractors; it’s the promoters who will recommend your product or building to other potential customers.

As well as helping you calculate your NPS, RealService can also benchmark your score against other property companies, via our RealService Customer Experience Index.

RealService Customer Experience Index

The Index is based on around 35,000 responses to questions put to residential and commercial clients over the previous two years, covering eight core areas and incorporating overall Net Promoter Scores.

RealService clients can analyse their own data confidentially and compare their RealService CXI score with their peers in the property industry. It is published annually.

Louise Freethy, RealService director and chief operating officer, believes the property industry should embrace a metric which has long been used in other sectors.

“The NPS is a tried and tested tool which is an incredibly useful indicator for landlords as they reinvent office, retail and industrial environments and engage their customers in that process,” she said.

So please download our factsheet which covers NPS basics or contact RealService director and chief operating officer Louise.Freethy@Real-Service.co.uk for more information.

 

NPS Factsheet

THE Build To Rent [BTR] industry is ready to embrace an accreditation system which would set standards and protect the sector from rogue operators.

At a virtual roundtable event chaired by RealService founder and managing director Howard Morgan, industry leaders discussed how Build To Rent (BTR) could continue to improve its offering to customers. In summary, the participants agreed it was time to begin an accreditation process which could define a set of standards, be a trusted guide for customers and provide a means of communicating performance to audiences such as investors – while still leaving room in the market for different offerings at different price points.

Attendees observed there was an emerging need. “We are approaching a period of development and maturity in the sector so things which might have seemed impossible three years ago are now within our grasp,” concluded UKAA chief executive Dave Butler.

Accreditation and data transparency

Participants explored whether an accreditation system should involve the release and sharing of underlying data between industry peers. The main conclusion among attendees was that the sharing of data was not an immediate priority – not yet, anyway – but there appeared to be consensus around the need for a set of minimum standards around what customers should expect.


The debate around data sharing centred on trust, the quality of the information and the method of harvesting it.

Katherine Rose, director of BTR & PRS at Navana Property Group, said: “Sharing data is important but I don’t think the industry is ready to do it yet. We’re all still a little precious and also, how accurate is that data? Everyone wants to look good and how truthful are they? I’m not sure everyone will play fairly. But it’s the way to go. We should all pull together and be less precious.”

Opportunities for Market Differentiation

PPP Capital’s Sanjeev Patel, managing director of LuxuryDigs, said: “I do believe there is a need for accreditation but I also believe there is a place in the market for a Premier Inn and a Waldorf.

If you want a Waldorf, fantastic, pay for it

“If you want a Waldorf, fantastic, pay for it. If you want a slightly cheaper product, go to a Holiday Inn or a Premier Inn and pay a bit less. They may be very different but in both you will get a clean room and a comfortable bed. I’m comfortable with everyone signing up to a minimum standard – a high minimum, mind you – then you can pitch your assets wherever you want them to be and marketing and customer expectations can be managed appropriately.”

Creating standards 

“I would draw an analogy with Wimbledon,” said, Howard Morgan.

“People had been hitting a ball around for a long time but had no ability to compare their skills with others until Wimbledon came along and defined a set of rules and how to score. I think there comes a point in an industry’s evolution when someone has to say it’s time to draw up some standards that we all abide by and, although it might not be comfortable for everyone, it seems that we are getting closer to that point.”

The group also heard from Chris Garthwaite, the chief executive of customer experience consultancy CGA, who worked with 26 different rail operators to define a set of common standards.

‘Accreditation builds trust’

Having an accreditation system, he said, would build trust and help re-set expectations.

“Trust is a key differentiator; if you lose trust, you lose loyalty. In a world which is accelerating, becoming more digital but where you have a fragmentation of customers, understanding the emotion and sentiment of your customers will become fundamental to delivering the value of the brand – or the industry – to those audiences.”

There is already an accreditation system in the student accommodation sector and according to Jane Couch, chief operating officer of Fresh Property Group, while this is an extra cost – around £2-3 per student – this extra spend actually helps attract investors.

“Investors are traditionally risk-averse but they know about the accreditation costs up front and it means they know you are a responsible operator who is not going to have problems with negative feedback hitting the press.”

Prospects and next steps

Dave Butler said there was already a UKAA benchmarking group working together to deliver a manifesto around what ‘good’ looks like and he issued a call for anybody who wants to contribute to that debate.
“While I’m not going to die in a ditch over the sharing of data – I think that’s a while down the road – it is hugely important to define ‘good’,” he said.

Read the article on the UKAA website here

WE are very proud to present our latest innovation; ladies and gentlemen, clients and friends (cue fanfare), this is the brand new RealService Dashboard.

Created over the last 12 months from a RealService brief by Jon Saville, of our tech partners at Walnut Innovation Limited, and our own data supremo Lasha Gegidze, this live reporting tool will make it possible for our clients to analyse their data in real time and in more segments than a chocolate orange.

“It’s a brilliant, new versatile tool which will bring up-to-date statistics and customer insight to our clients,” said RealService director and chief operating officer Louise Freethy.

It’s especially useful for clients with diverse portfolios who might want to monitor trends by country, or by sector and it provides both the macro and the micro view. Want to know your NPS score over the last five years? It’s all there. Want to know what a specific occupier said in response to a specific question in a specific building in Poland? That insight is there too, in Polish and English, at the click of a button.

Lasha Gegidze … RealService data supremo

Daily refresher dynamic

“It has a daily refresher dynamic, it looks modern and enticing and the information is easily navigable,” said Lasha. “Clients can add new pages so it’s bespoke to them and the data is sliceable and diceable in every way.”

While RealService was the driving force behind the brief, it was Jon Saville at Walnut who had the technical know-how to make it happen.

Based near Peterborough, Walnut have worked with RealService for around 10 years.

It started with our Quest system, the cloud-based client portal which securely stores the transcripts from the thousands of interviews RealService conduct every year.

Jon Saville … dashboard designer

“We were given the opportunity to redevelop the Quest system, which was a substantial piece of work – in fact, it took two years,” said Jon.

Focused on the needs of clients

“This dashboard is similar and it has been an interesting journey. RealService are completely focused on the needs of their clients and they want to deliver the best service. It’s our job to give them that support.”

Jon sees the dashboard as a real value-add.

“It is completely integrated into the Quest platform so any data put into Quest is reflected on the dashboard.

“The other advantage is that all you need is a web browser or mobile phone in order to see it. It has been designed so there is the least amount of ‘friction’ between the data and the user.

See at a glance and track trends

“The immediacy in the way the information is presented means you can see at a glance what it’s trying to say and track the trends. It’s pretty much piped into your eyeballs!”

If you are thinking of conducting Voice of Customer research and would like to hear more about the dashboard and our other services, please contact Louise Freethy, our chief operating officer, at the email address below.

Louise Freethy can be contacted at: Louise.freethy@real-service.co.uk.

Walnut Innovation can be contacted via www.walnutinnovation.co.uk.

WELCOME to the third of our interviews in our CX Conversations series. Here, David O’Sullivan, director of occupier and property services at Great Portland Estates, emphasises the importance of gathering regular, independent feedback from customers.

David O’Sullivan

He talks about how ‘over-communicating’ during the pandemic has improved the relationship between landlord and occupiers and emphasises the ‘people-focused’ nature of the business.

Oh, and don’t do what the banks do. Definitely don’t do what the banks do.