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RealService is delighted to announce that our Founder, Howard Morgan, has been conferred with the title of Honorary Professor at the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction at University College London (UCL).

Picture of Howard Morgan
Howard Morgan, Founder, Real Service

The appointment recognises Howard’s pioneering work in the field of customer experience and real estate over the past 30 years.

The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction is an international centre of excellence in the teaching and research of project management, real estate and economics.

Speaking about the appointment, Howard said

“I’m very proud to receive this honour and looking forward to contributing to the development of this new field of real estate education and research.

The real estate industry will need to develop new skills and to attract a far more diverse pool of talent if we are to respond to the challenges imposed by pandemic and climate change. I’m excited to be working with an internationally recognised School which can bring fresh thinking to this challenge.”

Howard’s appointment builds on his role as course co-director with Professor Yolande Barnes to launch the ‘CX and Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme‘ at the Bartlett Real Estate Institute (BREI).

Professor Yolande Barnes said

“I’m delighted that Howard’s real-world expertise in this critically important area of real estate will be available to our students at the Bartlett.”

Howard will continue to provide advice on customer experience strategy to RealService clients who include leading investment managers, real estate investment trusts, landed estates, professional firms and professional bodies.

 

For more information contact:

howard.morgan@real-service.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Our collaboration with CGA is enabling us to provide the best of both worlds to our clients: customer insight, CX consulting, training and benchmarks from within and outside the real estate industry.

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

www.cgaexperience.com

 

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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.

 

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 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

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.

By Sue Flatto

We can all see that the pandemic has accelerated some important working trends. There has been an increase in flexibility in terms of where and when people work. Automation of jobs has been pushed forward on the agenda with technology enabled working catapulted into our lives, and the horizon for robots replacing repetitive tasks and use of AI moving even closer.

At RealService, we have been talking with occupiers and observed that, although people who have been forced to work from home (WFH) by the pandemic have found that technology has enabled them to do that successfully, what is missing is the sociability and serendipity of the office. Companies are grappling with rethinking what the office is for. The working models based around most people spending most of their time office based has been shattered and forward thinking employers are going back to the drawing board and building a new model.

Whilst we are still in the midst of the pandemic, it is easy to look at the empty office space and conclude that people want to stay at home to work, and some studies, such as Leesman, show that people think they are more productive and are happy working from home. However, Professor Lynda Gratton, of London Business School points out that there are gaps that employers need to recognise and factor in.  The office also provides opportunity for socialising, networking and creativity. These things are very difficult to do remotely. Bruce Daisley, author of The Joy of Work, and Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat, agrees that there are gaps that need to be filled when people are all at home, only meeting on Zoom. Those random, chance conversations after face to face meetings and informal brainstorms are valuable to organisations. As this plays out, companies are likely to find that they are missing these vital aspects of working life.

Research done during the Covid crisis says that, not only have people enjoyed working from home but, without the daily commute, they have been able to spend more time with their families and more time working. However, Lynda Gratton suggests that this has come at a price. Some feel isolated and unconnected and many are missing out on chance conversations and random meetings and connections which spawn creativity. It is essential to take on board that employees have their own, individual, experience of WFH and to understand what they are. No two WFH experiences are the same and so no single answer will suit everyone.

Bruce Daisley believes that the ‘Hotelification’ of office space will become the norm with companies forming team hubs that meet in the workspace together at pre agreed times. One thing we can all agree on is that to entice people back, the experience of being in the office needs to be better than being at home.

Another point that needs to be taken into account is ‘Zoom fatigue’. There is a limit to how much the brain can absorb, using this medium. We all need a social break now and again and some human interaction.

So how will businesses move forward?

One pointer for the future comes from  Kevin Ellis, Chairman, PWC who on 20th October 2020 is quoted as saying

“From the messages I get from our people I know that many really value having the option to use an office, whether for a personal or business need. In the longer term it will be important to continue to ensure offices offer people something more than they can get at home, whether it’s working together, innovating or learning. I am sure I’m not alone in wanting this to be the case.”

But not all employers see things the same way and it’s our view that office life will not go back to where it was before the pandemic. Some organisations are already designating employees and long term homeworkers and this trend is likely to continue. Perhaps the term ‘office’ will become obsolete, in favour of ‘workplace’. Businesses will need to re draw what work looks like, and what and where the workplace is. They will need to identify aspects of job roles that can be done at home, and others that would benefit from having people together, at least some of the time. They will need to gather insight into how their employees are responding to the new world.

So as we go through this pandemic, and come out of it, as we surely will, and as future of work emerges, we need to remember that we are inherently social beings and business need to harness the value of social interaction in a way that gives us the best of both worlds. In all of this, one thing is still true – customer and employee experience is everything.

Does your organisation have the skills and insight it needs to navigate its way through this new world?

RealService, like many other businesses has had to pivot our services to meet the needs of our clients during the pandemic, and we have been helping them keep even closer to their end customers.  For landlords, developers and managing agents, this means gaining more insight into the behaviours and emotional needs of employees and finding a way to be part of the solution not the problem.

If you’d like to discuss how you can think differently about the future of your office portfolio, contact:

 

Sue Flatto

Director

RealService

 

+44 203 393 9603

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Morgan, Founder and MD, RealService and senior consultant, Dr Danielle Sanderson will be speaking at this webinar hosted by GRESB on Tuesday, June 16 

Program:

1. Presentation of research from Professor Danielle Sanderson and Howard Morgan, Real Service covering scientific evidence of the correlation between occupier satisfaction and performance of real estate portfolios: “Occupier satisfaction and its impact on investment returns from UK commercial real estate”. The outcome proves that it pays off to engage with your tenants and occupiers.

2. Necessities and unique selling points for investors in real estate! Rob Palter, senior partner at McKinsey and Company will present a summary of the article “Commercial Real Estate must do more than merely adapt to the Corona Virus” with their worldwide vision of the consequences for stakeholders in real estate coping with the 6 feet economy.

3. Worldwide status of consequences of Covid-19 for the office market in Europe and the US by Jeroen Lokerse, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield NL. “Practice what you preach”. Emphasis on the required modification in working environments caused by the 6 feet economy. Worldwide consultants of Cushman advise tenants on making their working environment Corona-proof. As Cushman’s organization returns to the offices in several countries, hear their experiences.

4. Theories and measures to enlarge the safety (the 6 feet economy) of people are necessary, but how are they perceived? Phil Jonckheer, founding partner of Keepfactor, will present this new emphasis in their platform and their tenant engagement program on the perception of the occupiers about safety, health, hygiene and well-being.

Following the presentations, an online Q&A will be hosted by Steven Pringle from GRESB.

Jun 16, 2020 05:00 PM in Amsterdam

Register here https://gresb.com/event/webinar-social-distancing-or-working-from-a-distance-consequences-of-covid-19-on-the-real-estate-office-market/

 

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. 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.

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