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Roundtable discussion hosted by Goodman Masson – 28th April 2020

RealService Founder and MD, Howard Morgan was invited by financial recruitment specialist, Goodman Masson, to host a roundtable discussion with leading CFO’s and FD’s in the hospitality and restaurant sector.

With well-known operators like, Travelodge, making the headlines and the battles lines being draw, is there a better way to align the interests of owners and operators?

Here are some top tips for avoiding conflict

  1. Talk about the whole package

Hospitality industry CFO’s were clear that the landlords that they were making most progress with are the one’s who are willing to look at the whole package. That means not just the March 2020 quarter’s rent but also the June and September quarters, service charges, monthly rents, turnover caps and the basis of rent calculation. Those landlords who recognise that “we’re in it together” is more than a slogan and actively engage in understanding the operator’s business and constraints will make the most progress.

  1. Look at each other’s break points

CFO’s are pragmatists and recognise that both parties have break points. Those break points could for example be linked to external funding commitments. Recognising and being transparent about these constraints can save a lot of time. Honesty is the key – this isn’t a time for gaming and hiding behind smoke and mirrors.

  1. March quarter rent

Not everyone sees the withholding of rent at the March quarter day the same way. While most hold the line “we can’t trade, we have no income so how can we pay rent?”, not all agree.  One FD told us that they do not believe that landlords should be denied the March rent as it was neither the tenant nor landlords fault that the lockdown was brought in. This FD took the view that withholding the March quarter rent set the discussion about the future financial relationship on the wrong footing.

  1. Be clear about language

There is a lot of new language being bandied about and FD’s told us that it’s important to make sure that both parties have the same understanding. Deferment, holiday, freeze, suspension, credit, waiver, abatement, concession, discount, reduction can mean different things to different people. Take care to define terminology.

  1. Don’t lose sight of our commercial reality

FD’s were keen to caution landlords about the speed of restart. “It’s going to take time to restart operations as the lockdown is released and its could be 6 – 12 months before the new normal is reached” said one FD. In the meantime, the viability of operating restaurants or leisure venues under social distance rule is likely to be marginal. “Just because a unit has reopened, don’t expect the pre-covid rent to be immediately affordable”. One FD warned that “if landlords are greedy, it’ll make more sense for us to keep a unit closed”.

  1. New operating formats

Hospitality operators are actively looking at new formats that will allow them to reopen and maintain their brand presence but comply with social distancing regulations. Expect to see coffee shops operating on a takeaway only basis and leisure operators to reduce the density of customers. The view was expressed that high street stores are far more likely to open first rather than those in a managed shopping centre environments.

  1. Fixed rent v turnover

CFOs see turnover rents as an essential element of the future leasing model. Most recognise and accept that this will lead to more involvement by landlords in their businesses. Some are wary saying “It will also put pressure on our already stretched finance departments. We don’t need more complexity now”. For a business with say 600 units across the UK, the thought of renegotiating leases from fixed to turnover and potentially running each on a difference turnover percentage is daunting. There are lessons from the airports and stations where true turnover rents are well established.

  1. Proceed with caution

One COO told us that he had decided not to enter into any written variation agreements with landlords until it was clear whether the Government would be offering any further support for the landlord and tenant relationship. There was wide support for pan-industry initiatives to win government support for a rent furlough scheme.

  1. Pandemic clauses

CFOs are starting to think about how they can build clauses into lease agreements which reflect the possibility of further lockdown waves and whatever comes next after Covid-19. They express the view that landlords and tenants will want to introduce force majeure clauses.

  1. Don’t press the nuclear button

A final word of caution. FDs warn those landlords who are not willing to engage from pressing the legal nuclear button. They say that contrary to perceptions “we are not being showered with cash by the government”. This is not a time for heavy handed action like winding-up petitions. “Hospitality operators have long memories and will want to work with owners that they trust” warned one FD.

Focus on the future

So what are the final messages from CFOs and FDs for landlords?

“Look at the long term, be flexible”

“Don’t just talk partnership, bring the words to life”

“Accept the reality, the March quarter has gone, let’s focus on the future landscape”

RealService would like to thank Paul Goodman of Goodman Masson for inviting us to chair this event.

 

Contact RealService

If you would like to discuss any of these themes, or understand more about the ways that RealService can equip you and your teams with the insights and skills to operate in the Covid-19 era, call Howard Morgan

07801 628554

howard.morgan@real-service.co.uk

Never has the business relationship between landlord and tenant been under greater pressure than now.

The Covid-19 crisis has hit the already reeling retail sector, the demand for office space has disappeared overnight and viewing a residential property is a risk to health.

When the going gets tough, you might expect landlords to revert to stereotype – taking advantage of legally binding commitments made in better times.

RealService clients see the world differently – they see the crisis as chance to enhance relationships and demonstrate a genuine humanity.

We’ve been working for the past 21 years to help our clients to create truly customer focused property businesses. We’re proud that our clients pay more than lip-service to treating tenants as customers. We’ve helped them to measure customer loyalty and to understand what best practice looks like.

The coming weeks will test their resolve and whether their “customer first” mission statements are more than hogwash. We’ve been working with them to develop their empathy skills, to learn how to ask open questions and to listen to the practical and emotional needs of their customers. Some have already shown that they are listening https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2020/march/tfl-takes-steps-to-support-tenants

At RealService, we’ve always advised clients that when the going gets tough, the most important thing you can do is stick close to your customers. They will tell you what they need, you just have to deliver it. For the property industry post Coronavirus, this is going to mean radical change. We’re ready to help our clients gather even more intelligence about their customers.

The message to our clients is simple…. we are here for you and ready to give any practical support that you need. For example, helping you to keep in touch with your customers, to communicate important messages, or just to see how they are doing. If your resources are stretched, we are able to help.

We’re also bringing customer experience professionals in real estate together through our Experience Makers network – why not join our discussion group and share ideas and get inspiration at https://join.slack.com/t/exmnetwork/shared_invite/zt-cog6pzdt-XQZNLjZXHS1YVSsud9E6HQ

The RealService team are working from home and easily accessible via email, telephone and video conferencing.

Whatever the coming months bring, we remain relentlessly focused on providing our clients with excellent professional service and support they have come to expect of us, and we thank them for their continued loyalty.

It’s 2020 and here at RealService we’re celebrating our 21st birthday ……..the perfect time to dust off some past predictions.

When we launched the business on 2nd January 1999, we were greeted by the industry with a mix of encouragement and incredulity. “Advising on how to treat tenants as customers – how are you going to make money doing that?” asked one doubtful Prop Co CEO. Fortunately, others were less sceptical.

We’ve proudly made a name for challenging the industry with disruptive thinking and ten years ago published our 10 point “2020 Vision” for the future of customer service in the property industry.

How times have changed since then! Just look at this ringing endorsement of the customer-focused approach from Stephen Hubbard, CBRE’s chairman, retiring after 43 years in the business (source: Estates Gazette).

I would counsel against anybody getting into capital markets without having gone through the occupier side of the business…. unless you understand how an occupier thinks, how are you going to reflect it in what’s going to be a decent long-term investment?”

At RealService, we’ve proudly championed the simple notion that occupiers drive value and we’re excited to be entering a new decade. We’ll soon be revealing our Vision 2030 but first, let’s see how our 2020 predictions (made in 2009) have stood the test of time.

 

RealService Vision 2020 predictions

1. Property companies will become recognised brands

Ten years ago there were no real estate owners in the top 100 global brands and, in truth, there still aren’t any. https://www.ft.com/content/3a3419f4-78b1-11e9-be7d-6d846537acab

But what this list doesn’t reveal is a considerable effort that property owners have taken in the past 10 years to build their reputations. Today’s property companies and investment managers recognise that reputation matters to occupiers, investors and the wider community.

At RealService we help some of the largest property owners and managers in the world to track and benchmark their customer loyalty through our RealService CX Index which gives them in-depth insight into how their brands are perceived.

For further evidence of the importance of reputation just look at the growth of GRESB over the past 10 years. Back in 2009 APG, PGGM and USS came together with the University of Maastricht to design a real estate survey. They wanted more transparency on the ESG performance of their real estate investments and closer engagement with their managers. The inaugural Real Estate Assessment was launched in 2009, and GRESB was born. In the years that followed, an entire industry has come together to develop a common language and consistent approach to measuring and reporting on ESG performance. Today, more than 100 investors, representing over USD 22 trillion AUM, encourage their managers to report to GRESB, and the resulting Real Estate and Infrastructure Benchmarks cover more than USD 4.5 trillion in real asset value.

RealService is proud to be a GRESB partner and you can read about our recent joint event hosted by The Crown Estate here.

RealService has been tracking how Europe’s leading investors and listed property companies are presenting their brands to their customers and investors for the past 8 years. We have trawled their websites and their report and accounts documents and will be publishing our findings shortly.

At a micro level it’s fascinating to see how emerging sectors like Build to Rent residential are working on brand building. There is an active battle to build a consumer facing brand. Businesses like Get Living, Essential Living, Tipi, liv, urbanbubble and Go Native, are striving to win brand recognition.

2019 was the year of brands in the office sector with our clients Landsec launching new flexible office brand, Myo, offering leases ranging from 12 months to three years for businesses that need space for between 15 and 80 people. British Land continued to expand Storey, and The Crown Estate launched its first flexible office space at One Heddon Street.

Of course, 2019 will be remembered as the year that emerging global brand, WeWork, flew too close to the sun. A salutary reminder that a sustainable reputation must be built over time and on a firm financial footing.

Vision progress score: 6 out of 10

 

2. Property businesses will be better understood and valued for their consistently high level of service

There’s some progress here too as we move from a passive to operational style of asset and property management. You’ll hardly find an analyst presentation that doesn’t make reference to what a propco is doing to enhance relationships with occupiers and how it is working to create “great places”.

A good number of our clients like The Crown Estate, SEGRO and Great Portland Estates publish their customer service performance based on independent feedback gathered by RealService.  But there’s still some way to go before commercial real estate is valued not just based on income and bricks and mortar, but also on the loyalty of its customers. We expect loyalty indicators such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) to become even more widely adopted in the coming year.

Vision progress score: 5 out of 10 

 

3. The property industry’s customers will be more knowledgeable with information at their fingertips to help them make informed decisions about which suppliers are best

It’s more than ten years since review sites like TripAdvisor began to get real traction and peer reviews taken seriously. In the USA, websites such as www.apartmentratings.com, founded at a similar time to TripAdvisor have become the must go to site for renters.

The UK market has traditionally followed the USA and the launch of HomeViews www.homeviews.com in 2019 in the UK is further evidence of increasing transparency. As Homeviews says “One of the biggest decisions we ever make, financially and emotionally, is choosing a home. Our mission at HomeViews is to share useful, trustworthy insights about residential developments to support you in making that decision.” The site has gained impressive traction in its first year.

Another rapidly growing indicator is WiredScore whose certification helps occupiers find office space that will fit their current and future connectivity needs.

Vision progress score: 5 out of 10

 

4. Service quality and performance will be measured on a consistent basis across the world

The last 10 years has seen huge progress in terms of the standardisation of performance measurement in the areas of sustainability, wellbeing and workplace. At RealService we see the potential to extend this approach to evaluate the service quality and performance of buildings in all sectors. In 2017 we launched the RealService Customer Experience Index which is designed to enable our clients to compare their performance with best in class. We’re motivated by the vision of a worldwide standard for service performance and see this emerging as global investors become more demanding of information about operational service performance.

We’re excited to see the GRESB benchmark extend its reach into the measurement of social impact and looking forward to collaborating as partners.

RealService is also working with industry network group, Experience Makers www.experiencemakers.com to develop a series of new indicators to help measure the return on investment in customer experience (ROX). We believe this will help our clients make better decisions about where to invest to make the biggest impact of customer experience and loyalty.

Vision progress score: 5 out of 10

 

5. The products and services offered by the real estate industry will become more clearly defined and differentiated as opposed to an amorphous mass where one size fits all

Looking back 10 or 20 years the typical property owner or developer was opportunistic and with notable exceptions, not sector focused. The last recession highlighted the dangers of dabbling in sectors where you have no specific customer knowledge. Since then we have seen the emergence of sector and sub-sector specialists in the mainstream product areas like offices and retail and also in new sectors such as healthcare, student housing, self-storage and even caravan parks. The residential sector has led the way with a whole range of new products – live-work, co-living, retirement etc.

As real estate transitions from a brick and mortar business to a customer experience industry we are seeing this trend accelerate.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, how about this innovative new property sector from California. Bisnow is currently promoting an event called “THE SOCAL CANNABIS CRE EVOLUTION – The event explores “ where are institutional investors looking as California continues to cultivate innovation centers, coworking cannabis spaces, and trends in cannabis retail offerings?” https://www.bisnow.com/events/los-angeles/the-socal-cannabis-cre-evolution-3359

Vision progress score: 7 out of 10

 

6. Relationships between property suppliers and customers will prosper in line with other industries i.e. founded on a partnership style of doing business where mutual understanding/symbiotic relationships exist

A couple of years back I visited the John Lewis National Distribution Centre at Magna Park, Milton Keynes. I quickly learned that the graduated blue and white cladding is just a wraparound for the automated handling systems provided by JLP’s Austrian equipment supplier KNAPP. It was the most impressive example of supplier partnering that I had seen in ages: a symbiotic relationship that serves the ultimate customer brilliantly.

Our vision remains that occupiers and their property suppliers will one day have a similar degree of mutual dependence. We increasingly hear occupiers tell us that they have a preferred list of landlords / developers / property managers that they like to do business with. Our clients are spending far more time and resources researching the needs of occupiers and of the end users of buildings.

We expand on our vision in this article authored with Jon Lovell of Hillbreak. http://www.real-service.com/the-civil-partnership-solution/

Our research with major corporate occupiers indicates that they are finding its far easier to forge partnership relationships with the new style flexible office businesses like The Office Group, Fora, IWG and WeWork than with traditional office landlords.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the initiative by LGIM Real Assets (Legal & General) to establish a new innovative operating model for managing its buildings, which it claims will “help disrupt the property industry, maximising the performance of investments and developing stronger occupier relationships.” https://www.legalandgeneralgroup.com/media-centre/press-releases/legal-general-shakes-up-property-management-industry-with-new-operating-model/

Another example of the partnership approach is The Crown Estate appointment of JLL as managing agent to its entire Central London portfolio. Commenting on the appointment James Cooksey, Director of Central London said:

We believe that working closely in partnership with a single managing agent will enable us to better collaborate and drive efficiencies to improve quality, consistency and encourage innovation.”

Vision progress score: 5 out of 10

 

7. The property industry will become more transparent about the way it does business and the costs of doing business

Feedback from occupiers tells us that the industry still has a long way to go before it is as easy to do business with or as transparent as other sectors. We’re excited to see some real innovation coming out of the PropTech sector and it’s refreshing to see many new entrants challenging the traditional way that, for example, real estate transactions are conducted. There’s also been a lot of progress in the residential sector to streamline the process of renting an apartment with a new law banning the charging of letting fees to applicants, with paperless leasing and pre-qualified financial checks.

Service charge costs and a perceived lack of transparency continue to be the bug bear of many occupiers. This is particularly acute in the retail sector where even the likes of John Lewis & Partners have signalled their distrust in the system with a threat to take unilateral action if costs are not reduced. There is continuing concern about insurance commissions too.

Vision progress score: 5 out of 10

 

8. The property industry will move from being self-focused to being obsessively customer inspired

At RealService, we’re fortunate to work with many of the most customer focused property investors, developers and managers. The fact that our business is growing is evidence that the industry is investing more in customer research, improving skills and changing cultures.

In the last 24 months, we’ve seen the focus of our clients’ attention move from simply satisfying customers at a “business to business” level to providing a great customer experience to all those who shop, work and live at or around our clients’ real estate. In essence the real estate customer challenge has become no different to any other “business to consumer” industry. This calls for new skills and talent and we’re excited to be helping our clients to make this exciting transition.

This change in business focus requires our industry to make a huge cultural shift. We have identified a significant skills gap and explore this in our latest report for British Council for Offices http://www.real-service.com/alchemists-hold-the-key/

Vision progress score: 6 out of 10

 

9. The property industry will play a leading role in demonstrating how industry in general can minimise its impact on the environment and actively work with its customers to minimise their impact too

This is a particularly strong area for our sector and we have seen some outstanding examples of best practice. A quick look at British Land’s website shows the wide range of environmental initiatives and targets that are typically being followed.

RealService is a GRESB partner and we are looking forward to working with GRESB to increase the focus placed on occupier engagement as part of a responsible approach to property ownership and investment.

An important industry commitment was unveiled by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) in 2019 including a framework for the UK construction and property industry to transition new and existing buildings to become net zero carbon by 2050, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement. https://www.ukgbc.org/news/uk-green-building-council-presents-industry-framework-for-net-zero-

Vision progress score: 8 out of 10

 

10. The property industry will develop a clearer understanding of the link between adopting customer service strategies and performance

This has always been one of the Holy Grail topics for our industry. While the intuitive case for treating tenants as customers is strong, we can now point at the academic research by Dr Danielle Sanderson for quantifiable evidence. This PhD research co-sponsored by RealService and the Lord Samuel Memorial Trust has identified a 1.9% total return loyalty bonus which can be achieved by increasing customer satisfaction by one whole point on a 5 point scale.

Dr Sanderson is a consultant at RealService and we are working with clients to use big data techniques to better understand this important link and to be able to use customer feedback as a predictive tool of occupier behaviour at future lease expiry or break.

The next stage of our work is to be able to more accurately measure the return on customer experience (ROX) at an individaul asset level.

Vision progress score: 8 out of 10

 

How are we doing? –  2020 and beyond

If you add up the progress scores you’ll see that the industry is close to 60% of the way to achieving the 2020 Vision we set out 10 years ago.

We’re very proud of our work over the past 21 years and would like to thank all our loyal clients, colleagues, collaboration partners and industry friends for your support.

It’s time to look forward to 2030 and we will shortly publish our Vision 2030 which will be even more stretching and entirely shaped by what customers want.

We’re looking forward to playing our part in the real estate customer experience revolution in 2020 on beyond.

Can we help you?

If you’re interested in chatting about how you can capitalise on these trends in your own property business please give us a call +44 20 3393 9603.

We all recognise that feedback is key to our business. As investors or developers, we want to understand what drives our customers; as landlords and property managers we need to know what keeps our tenants happy.

The problem is that as occupiers or consumers we can feel we are being harassed for information, asked to fill surveys, click buttons or give ratings after practically every interaction, no matter how small.

‘How Did We Do?’, we’re asked as we go through border control.

‘Would You Recommend Us?’, we’re asked after a visit to the GP.

‘Rate Our Facilities’, we’re asked after a trip to the loo.

The UKAA’s September breakfast roundtable, hosted by JLL, had the theme ‘Residents’ Feedback: Lifeblood or Unwanted Gift’ and was facilitated by customer experience consultancy RealService.

As a company, RealService is very much in the feedback business, conducting independent qualitative and quantitative reviews to help inform and guide the customer experience strategy of major clients from all sectors of the property industry.

And so, the presentation from founder and managing director Howard Morgan revolved around the notion that those who want customer feedback should really have to earn it.

He said that it should be an easy process, completed at the convenience of the customer and requested only after a relationship has been cultivated through meaningful contact.

Basically, the customer giving feedback should be treated in the same way as the customer buying, or renting, your product.

“Business makes such wonderful claims about service but doesn’t always think about whether their methods for gathering feedback measure up to those claims,” said Morgan.

“I recently went on a cruise and almost as soon as I disembarked was asked by email about my experience,” he said.

The mail said the feedback would take about 10 minutes to complete but filling in the initial questions – how did I rate my cruise overall – led to a 32-page survey. The person who designed it was clearly not thinking about the customer.

Asking for feedback on washroom facilities, he added was “the height of madness”.

“Why would you have to ask how clean the toilets are? I am your customer, not your cleaning supervisor.

“Outsourcing feedback is too easy. We have to learn how to gather feedback in an independent, ethical way, without making it onerous for the customer.”

For those attending, volume of feedback was important, to weed out customers with extreme views, be they good or bad. Other points offered or raised included:

  • Asking for feedback got a better response than simply waiting for it – generally it’s unhappy customers who give it unasked
  • It’s hard to integrate feedback systems; for example, word of mouth with digital or electronic
  • Uber’s 360-degree feedback is stressful – should the supplier really be scoring the customer?
  • Verification is important; how do we tell if anonymous feedback is from a true purchaser?
  • In the residential renting world might it be wise to include ‘responding to requests for feedback’ in the leasing process?
  • The Build To Rent Sector is way ahead of other property sectors because of the realisation that ‘these people could be your customers for years to come’

Hannah Marsh, co-founder of digital feedback company HomeViews, said property was learning from the hospitality industry.

“Hotels wanted feedback but kept getting it from outlier customers – those with extreme views, which were usually negative,” she said.

Now they ask everybody because if you ask all your residents you get the people who might be happy with your service but wouldn’t write a review unprompted.

Sam Winnard, JLL’s Director – Residential Agency, gave an overview of their feedback methodology which included monthly email and telephone calls and residents’ forums. Google Reviews and Net Promoter Scores were used for benchmarking so JLL can compare itself with competitors and with scores from outside the industry.

“Our customers have all interacted with the likes of Amazon or First Direct and they expect the same level of service across the board,” he said.

The Net Promoter Score is a good way of finding out if your customers are passionate about your product and benchmarking their experience inside and outside the property industry, agreed Morgan.

“However, if you are going to be rated a nine or a 10 – the scores which suggest a customer will stay loyal and actively recommend you – there needs to be an emotional connection,” he said.

“After getting your scores, there are two challenges.

“The obvious one is to identify your detractors and proactively manage any issues they have.

“The second is to convert any sevens or eights – those who are passive – into nines or tens and to do that, you need qualitative information around what would make the difference.”

It must also be desirable to have that feedback collected and verified independently.

Wrapping up, UKAA CEO Dave Butler said: “Customers are essential to the success of our business, but we have a long way to go before we put people before buildings.”

If you’d like to know more about how RealService could help you to design a customer feedback programme, or measure and benchmark customer satisfaction, please contact Howard Morgan at howard.morgan@real-service.co.uk 

STAKEHOLDER engagement is becoming a key area for GRESB assessment and the ability to deal with stakeholders – clients, customers, occupiers, tenants (call them what you will) – has become a key skill for anyone in a client-facing role.

Investment managers – for whom customer has previously meant investor – are coming around to the view that the definition is now much broader than that.

However, there is a widening skills gap which has become especially yawning in the office sector where the disruptors have had a field day shortening leases, providing excellent customer experience and pretty much doing away with the service charge.

This prompted the British Council for Offices to commission customer experience consultancy RealService to carry out a major piece of research.

The BCO was interested in how the office sector, and primarily its property managers, was dealing with the new emphasis on customer experience and how businesses were going to retrain, retain and recruit staff who were suited to this new world order.

And while the full report is an excellent read (The Customer Experience Revolution Closing the Skills Gap) and can be download for free via www.bco.org.uk, one of the areas thrown up by our research was how diversity – or the lack of it – was impacting on the recruitment and retention of the sort of staff best placed to thrive in a customer-first, space-as-a-service industry.

All the companies we interviewed had policies around equality and expressed that they were doing their bit to help change the image of the property industry from ‘male, pale and stale’ into one which better reflected the industry’s customers.

It was a similar story in terms of inclusion. Behind the rainbow-themed Twitter logos and lots of posts on mental health awareness, especially during Pride/Mental Health Awareness month (or similar), there is clearly some good work going on.

However, we found two ongoing issues.

  • First, the production line for those going into the property industry still (in the UK anyway) usually begins with a “relevant” university degree (as emphasised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
  • Second, even as the universities do their best to attract a wider range of undergraduates, once that production line reaches the leading property companies even the most diverse of candidates becomes moulded into the old-fashioned, traditional system

As the report found:

The road to diversity is not yet well trodden; those with great customer service skills are not being attracted into the property industry, which still predominantly recruits from traditional universities offering ‘relevant’ degrees. Property management is not perceived as attractive an option as investment or asset management.

There are alternative routes into the property industry which might attract more women or black, Asian or ethnic minority candidates and there are many examples of best practice.

However, while major companies run apprenticeship schemes (there’s a government levy on larger businesses), they are not major areas for recruitment. Indeed, there is no guarantee an apprentice who completes their qualification while working at a property company will be offered a job there.

“There is a welcome drive to increase the diversity of students coming into the UK property industry,” we say in the report.

“Property Needs You and, especially, Pathways to Property, with its emphasis on state-school recruitment, are doing their best. RICS, too, is endeavouring to widen its base and overcome what it calls the ‘unconscious bias of middle management’.

“The need for increased diversity at entry level, in recruitment and career development underpins any attempts to close the skills gap.”

We concluded the conundrum around this skills gap, and by extension the lack of diversity, needs a radical solution.

So, property managers of the future must be alchemists, with a combination of base skills – customer service, technology, business and marketing to name a few – which can be turned into CX gold. While some technical knowledge is still required, property management no longer revolves around bricks and mortar. In fact, the term ‘property manager’ is obsolete.

Alchemists will not come into the property industry via traditional routes. They will have a wide range of degrees and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They will be capable of disrupting the disruptors. Currently, they are being plundered from the hospitality sector and are providing the sort of customer experience which keeps occupiers happy and the rent coming in.

And that will be music to the ears of investment managers.