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There’s a joke about outrunning a bear that Benedict Cumberbatch (as Alan Turing) tells in “The Imitation Game”:

There are two people in a wood, and they run into a bear. The first person gets down on his knees to pray; the second person starts lacing up his boots. The first person asks the second person, “My dear friend, what are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear.” To which the second person responds, “I don’t have to. I only have to outrun you.”

In the first blog in this series I looked at the ‘Stages of Change’ model and our reaction to change, which our body perceives as a threat.

This blog looks at whether, faced with the Covid-19 crisis, it’s better for the property industry to pray or lace up its boots!

From bricks and mortar to hospitality

It’s more than 25 years since I returned from the USA with a vision for our industry founded on the principle that we are “no longer in bricks and mortar business but part of the hospitality industry”. An industry inspired by the best hotels, seeing our tenants as guests rather than an anonymous income stream. It’s seems common sense now but it was close to heresy back then!

Some in our industry saw this idea as a ‘scary bear’, and prayed it would go away. Fortunately, others ‘laced up their boots’ and they’ve become our clients and friends.

Last week Property Week launched a campaign to “Save the Office!” encouraging the industry to lead from the front on the return to the office. Of course, it’s sensible to ‘underline why workplaces are so important and showcase best practice so employers can help their people return to the office confident that the appropriate Covid-19 safeguards are in place’. But I can’t help feeling that if this campaign is to be successful it needs to look beyond saving “bricks and mortar” and at “saving our customers”. Let me explain.

Offices will be saved not because developers like to build them, investors to own them and corporate leaders to enjoy their corner offices, but because people choose to work in them. Employees of the past had no choice where they worked but that’s different now. Covid-19 has broken the dam and given employees the taste for a different workstyle. The rows of empty desks in our cities and business parks are the strongest reminder that it’s employees who are our ultimate customer.

The latest data from Leesman doesn’t give much comfort to the “pray’ers”. 82% of 127,000 employees surveyed agreed with the statement that “my home environment enables me to work productively”. That is 19% points higher than the 63% of employees who say they have a productive workplace.

Insight

At RealService, we believe that the future of the office industry lies in getting in-depth insights into what motivates both the 82% “productive at home’rs”, and the 18% who looking for a different solution.

But if only it were that simple! There are a lot more than two types of customer, and the task of creating a new vision for the future workplace requires a granular understanding of the needs of the close to the 30 million people who form the UK working population. You can then scale that up to include the 1.25 billion knowledge workers across the world (source: Forrester).

We can learn lessons from the hospitality industry (itself decimated by Covid-19) where the focus is on asking “what is the experience that our customers want?”. For the property industry, this means applying the tools and techniques of service design to our existing assets and future developments. The starting point for our asset management or development plans should be “who is our customer and what are there practical and emotional needs?” and not “how much space can we get on the site”.

Likewise, our customer retention strategies need to step out of the world of spreadsheets and into the world of loyalty and brand building.

At RealService we believe that the successful development, asset and property management strategies of the future will be shaped by standing in the customer’s shoes. It’s only by truly aligning ourselves with the ultimate customer, that we’ll be able to outrun the Covid-19 bear.

So, we’re campaigning to “Save our Customers” and their businesses, and hope you’ll join us!

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Howard Morgan is the founder and MD of RealService

If you’d like to understand ways that RealService customer research, consulting and training is helping our clients to get ahead in the Covid-19 era please contact

Howard Morgan howard.morgan@real-service.co.uk

 

www.real-service.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eerie silence

I ventured into London last week for only the second time since March. There was an eerie silence in the heart of the City of London.  Working from home has sapped the lifeblood out of the financial district. My gut feeling is that we are witnessing a once in a lifetime step change in the way we work. I also think that it’s as futile for office investors to see this is a temporary blip as it was for retail property investors to believe that online shopping would have only a minimal effect on our high streets and shopping centres.

For those whose careers have been built on building offices in the City, it’s only natural to have self-belief in their products. Like me, you’ll have read the interviews which put forward the line that 1. We are social creatures 2. Teams can’t work well when separated 3. Young people need to learn by listening 4. Sandwich bars deserve our support. ….so it’s only a matter of time before the problem goes away and we return to the way things were.

I liken this self-belief to that shown by shopping centre owners who confidently told consumers that there’s no substitute for being able to try on a dress or shoes in store. Meanwhile the percentage of online sales has grown year on year. Retailers saw that the future was multi-channel long before shopping centre owners. For shopping centre owners, being invested in just one channel has proven a scary place to be.

Blended working

Flexible (or blended) working is the workplace equivalent of multi-channel retailing. It recognizes that one solution doesn’t fit all and that each business needs to think through what’s the best blend of workplace solutions for its customers, suppliers and employees. For some businesses that answer could still be the 9 – 5 traditional office but for the majority it will be a blend of office/hotel/cafe/business centre and home working.

Technology is enabling the change in workstyle with high-speed broadband and low-cost software tools like Zoom and Teams making it possible to work from anywhere. Covid-19 has added another reason not to commute to the heart of our cities, but the underlying trend towards flexible working is not new.

If we accept that office real estate’s biggest competitor is now the ability to work from anywhere, then the question for owners is “what can we do to compete?”. At RealService we’re excited by the opportunity to work with our clients to better understand the desired workstyle of employees. We are already seeing a move away for the formulaic and to the creation of a new and exciting range of products and services which give companies and their employees the workstyle they want.

For those financially and emotionally invested in the old model, this will require a transformational change in thinking.

So how ready is your business to change its thinking?

Real estate has a fundamental health problem but how ready are we to face up to this?

We can learn a lot from the Stages of Change model used by the medical professions.

https://rcni.com/hosted-content/rcn/first-steps/stages-of-change-model

The Stages of Change model describes the different stages we go through when we want to change something in our lives. This readily translates into the world of business

  1. Pre-contemplation: This is where we’re not thinking seriously about making a change or we don’t really see it as a problem.
  1. Contemplation: We’re now beginning to think about our business models and we’re beginning to see that maybe there is a problem that’s affecting our long-term business health.
  1. Preparation/determination: By now, we’ve realised that something needs to change, and we’re ready to make changes – but maybe we don’t know exactly how, so we look for help.
  1. Action: We now know what we want to change, we’ve researched how we can change it, and we’ve got a plan to put into action.
  1. Maintenance: We’ve got to a position where we can sustain our new approach
  1. Relapse: we may revert to our old ways when the market begins to strengthen or it just gets too difficult

Where is your business at today?

The starting point for real estate business leaders is to ask where are we today in terms of our readiness for change? It’s time to be honest. Do we have the energy and resolve to change? Do we have the clarity of customer insight and vision to take action?

In this new series of blogs, we’ll look at ten strategies to accelerate your business through the change model.

 

Howard Morgan is Founder & MD RealService, customer experience consultancy

 

www.real-service.co.uk

 

To discuss any of these themes contact Howard at howard.morgan@real-service.co.uk

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/

 

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.

Reporting from the 4th Annual RealService / GRESB Customer Experience Seminar

“Today we are launching the search for property’s next holy grail. It’s our belief that we as an industry need to be able to better measure and prove the return on investment in improving CX,” said RealService founder and MD, Howard Morgan.

Setting the scene at the start of the fourth annual RealService / GRESB customer experience seminar hosted by The Crown Estate in London on November 7th 2019, Morgan went on to explain: “It is easier to spend the money than it is to measure the impact of it.

“There will be those who say that investing in improving CX is about belief –  that you’ll never be able to measure it, it’s just too complex. Well, we disagree.

“Those like us at RealService, and no doubt many in this room, who intuitively believe in investing in CX, need to expect to come under scrutiny from two important stakeholders – our investors and our occupiers.”

It was clear from the full house and lively sessions that measuring the return on customer experience is firmly on the agenda in the property industry. However, the conundrum now is where best to invest your customer-experience budget, and how to judge if it was money well spent.

Morgan has been preaching for 20 years that real estate is no longer a bricks and mortar business but firmly ensconced in the hospitality industry.  “It’s a crazy world and in times of great change the only sound strategy is to stick close to your customers,” he said. “They will tell you exactly where to go with your business.”

Morgan and Harriet Jones, the Producer of property networking group Experience Makers, have started the search for the ‘holy grail’ and have been working on a method of measuring ROX.

“So, if CX professionals can demonstrate that by investing £X you will be able to increase your Net Promoter Score by Y points and increase total returns or net revenue by Z%, we will be able to access the funds we need to improve CX and raise the status that our specialism deserves.” said Morgan.

 

Measuring ROX scorecard

Harriet Jones introduced the prototype ROX Scorecard which asks those proposing to spend CX budget to identify the target audience, the overall purpose, how this fits with their CX strategy and the resources necessary. Crucially, it also asks for the intended emotional/social output, the hoped-for change in customer behaviour and the financial outcome. All three should have targets and measurement strategies identified.

“Before you can successfully evaluate the impact of Customer Experience investments, you need a clear CX strategy,” said Jones. “The scorecard should help you identify and measure what would otherwise be deemed simply ‘aspirational’ or ‘fun’,” she said.

Jones explained how the Scorecard would enable faster and better decision making, quicker budget approvals and the knowledge that money has been spent wisely​.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The customer lens

The keynote address was delivered by The Crown Estate’s Director of Central London, James Cooksey, and he welcomed the idea of a ROX scorecard.

“We have recognised that if we are to maintain our relevance we must operate as a business which adds service to the customer, rather than a property company that organises leases,” he said. “You can’t just build stuff and say, ‘do you want it?’ We need to do everything through the lens of our customers and to do that we need to get to know them.

He emphasised the benefits of customer engagement, saying: “There are people elsewhere who think customers are a pain in the proverbial, to be avoided at all costs. From our experience, engaging with customers is rewarding and enables us to build strong relationships. Now is our time.”

James Cooksey, Director of Central London, The Crown Estate

Completing GRESB assessments is a task undertaken by many investment managers and property companies and Roxana Isaiu, the GRESB real estate director, emphasised in her presentation that sustainability “no longer stops at climate risks and resilience”.

Stakeholder engagement is now a growing component of the GRESB assessment, but she was surprised that although many GRESB members were undertaking customer surveys, only 27 per cent of more than 1,000 portfolios were using the Net Promoter Score. “That is very low, considering it is the most comparable and the most quantifiable way of measuring customer experience,” she said.

‘Start measuring’

Her advice to GRESB members wanting to engage with their stakeholders was to carry out a survey of occupiers / customers. “Once you have your baseline and your NPS score, in principle the only way is up. It is important to measure. You have to start somewhere, so start with a few assets and start measuring,” she said.

Investment managers have traditionally been reticent to spend client cash on occupier engagement but are now having to react to investors who want to see initiatives in environmental sustainability, health and wellbeing and customer experience.

Kaj Bakker, the sustainability manager for Europe with Cromwell Property Group, said the company’s asset managers were now rewarded based on the NPS (customer loyalty) scores they achieved. “We needed data and for that we went to our customers, carried out research and now the NPS score is the best way for our asset managers to chase their bonuses,” he said.

“They were worried that there were different cultures in different countries, but you can get a ‘nine’ in Italy or a ‘nine’ in Finland – or you could get a zero. It just depends on how good the relationship is between the asset manager, the property manager and the customer. “The key is to ask your customers. If you hide behind your property manager or facilities manager, you cannot make a real impact, especially on customer retention.”

The operator’s view

When it comes to the operator’s view, the main issues have been extracting and justifying a customer-experience budget from investors. Speaking from the operators’ perspective, Sylvana Young, chief design officer at Get Living, said allocating budget to different projects is based around Get Living policies which focus on Tech, community amenities and wellbeing.

“Feedback suggests our customers want us to get the basics right. They want to know they have a good home, which is well-managed, and they feel secure. However, occasionally you do get the impression that a strong internet connection is more important to some residents than having hot water!”

Get Living’s customer experience activities have included pizza making, ‘paint like Banksy’ classes, and outdoor exercise sessions. “Measuring the impact is challenging,” said Young. “We try to look at cost versus benefit, but there are so many factors which contribute to that process that it is hard to value. We use NPS data from thousands of residents, getting feedback at the beginning, middle and end of their leases; we use ReviewPro to harvest comments on social media and there is an element of anecdotal evidence.

Endorsing ROX, Young said: “Can we clearly measure the return on experience? No, we can’t, so it would be great to have industry guidance and a process for putting a value on input versus output.”

Outside lessons

Chris Garthwaite’s lessons from outside the industry featured how the rail network was transforming its outdated ethos of passengers as “self-loading freight” into a culture which put its customers front and centre. Using its Heartbeat(R) product to map the differences between passenger expectations and reality, Garthwaite’s consultancy CGA is helping the rail industry get back on track.

An expert panel of Chris Richmond (Head of Real Estate at PwC), Dr Danielle Sanderson (lecturer, UCL), David Wright (Director, Director Group) and Darryll Colthrust (SVP of Technology) offered external perspectives, emphasising the value of putting customers at the heart of your property business.

Colthrust was forthright. Asked if there were ways of gathering information without dealing directly with customers, he said: “You cannot get around talking to your customers. You have to talk to them to get context, otherwise all you have is data. The last best experience someone had anywhere is the experience against which they will judge you. You can’t just link it to real estate – they are comparing you every single day.”

Summing up at the close, The Crown Estate’s Head of Customer, Michelle Laramy, endorsed the importance of having a clear CX strategy and a process by which you can assess, measure and prove the success of that strategy.

Tooling up with the ROX Strategy Scorecard can help you judge your CX outputs and is the first step on the road to measuring the return on experience. Holy grail, here we come.

               

Clockwise: Kaj Bakker of Cromwell Property Group (l) in conversation with Howard Morgan; Networking opportunities; Roxana Isaiu, Real Estate director at GRESB; James Cooksey at the lectern 

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RealService would like to thank The Crown Estate for hosting the event; James Cooksey, of The Crown Estate for his keynote address; speakers Michelle Laramy, Kaj Bakker, Sylvana Young, Roxana Isaiu, Chris Garthwaite and panelists Chris Richmond, Dr Danielle Sanderson, David Wright and Darryll Colthrust.

Want to know more?

RealService can help you measure customer loyalty and advise you on your CX strategy.

If you’d like to discuss ROX call Howard Morgan on 020 3393 9603 or contact RealService on info@real-service.co.uk

​You can find out more about CX networking group, Experience Makers, at www.experiencemakers.com