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I’ve seen the future of the high street and it’s in Bideford, Devon!

We’ve had some wonderful staycations this year in Yorkshire, Scotland and Cornwall and experienced some really first-class hospitality. Staying a AirBnB’s is a reminder that you don’t have to book into a big hotel chain or luxury boutique hotel to find people passionate and caring about the service they provide.

Our most recent staycation in Devon was also a reminder that you don’t have to travel to New York or Milan to discover innovation in retailing. In fact, in Bideford it’s right on our doorstep.

Bideford is a historic port town on the banks of the River Torridge in North Devon. In retailing terms it used to be what we called a “Boots and Woollies town”. Steady but unexciting. Of course, Woolworths have long gone and so have most of the multiples. I expected to see lots of empty stores but in fact there seems to be an organic process of change underway which is bringing a new vibrancy to the high street. That’s coupled with an excellent local-authority-run arts and craft market hall at The Pannier Market.

Some of the stores that you’ll want to visit are Josie’s Interiors, Sunshine and Snow  and Hip and Waisted. Let me tell you about Hip and Waisted, a shop that sells leather belts. What’s so exciting about leather belts? Let me share the wonderful experience we had and why this is the future of retailing.

The first thing you notice as you walk into this neatly presented store is the smell of leather, a bright array of colours and Adam, the co-owner working at his bench crafting belts. We were warmly greeted by his partner, Fee and given time to browse. Before I knew it, I’d struck up a conversation about my passion for handmade belts and I was hooked. It wasn’t the case of was I going to buy a belt, it was how many!

An orange/tan coloured belt caught my eye and I was about to buy one off the shelf when Adam said that he had a piece of leather with more detailing and  “would I like a belt made from that?”. He took the skin from under a stack and placed in on the shop floor. To my delight and surprise, he crafted my new belt right in front of me and gave me an unlimited choice of buckles to select.

For those like me who analyse customer experience encounters, why was this so special? The answer is that it met three essential ingredients of a great experience: He got the basics right in terms of quality, choice and price; he made it easy – the belt was ready while I waited – but most significantly, he created a strong emotional connection. We all want to be made to feel special and Adam did just that.

Why is this so important for the future of retailing?

On-line shopping can give us great choice, value and make our lives easy but, at least for now, it can’t create that strong and positive connection with us. You can’t smell the leather online and you can’t speak to the craftsman.

In years gone by we’d think, how can we take this exciting retail concept and make it a national brand on every high street? Let’s put those thoughts to one side and just ask ourselves “what can the property industry do to enable more craft businesses like Hip and Waisted to prosper?”

 

If you’re inspired by Adam and Fee, and excited by the challenge of improving customer experience in your property business, just call me to chat further.

 

Howard Morgan

Founder, RealService

howard.morgan@real-service.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONNECTING on a human level with the end user is the way the office sector will remain relevant as it undergoes the most radical change in decades.

So concluded CGA founder and managing director Chris Garthwaite as he wrapped up the first roundtable event to mark his organisation’s collaboration with RealService.

The event was the opening salvo in RealService and CGA’s series Revitalising Real Estate and the discussion revolved around the theme Reimagining the Office: The Customer’s Voice.

“The office is one of the last institutions which is now breaking down,” he said. “Covid is an accelerator, but a distraction. The office now can be a home, a coffee shop, it’s wherever the end user wants it to be.

“It’s the biggest change in 40 years and probably one of the last industries which is being fundamentally altered.”

Strategic partnership

RealService and fellow customer experience consultants CGA have launched a strategic partnership with the aim of giving clients the best of both worlds: RealService’s expertise in the property industry and CGA’s renowned knowledge of other sectors.

The launch event featured some of RealService’s valued clients and they were challenged by one of the industry’s biggest customers, Chris Richmond, senior head of real estate at PwC.

Those around the table impressed Richmond with their commitment to customer engagement although he said his personal experience was a patchy one.

RealService and CGA launched their formal collaboration with a roundtable online event which discussed the future of the office

“Maybe PwC are dealing with the wrong landlords,” he said, adding that while some had engaged with him during the pandemic, there had been little dialogue around a return to work.

David O’Sullivan, director of occupier and property services at Great Portland Estates, said his team had, if anything, over-communicated with occupiers.

“It’s disappointing to hear of Chris’s experience, because I can say with certainty our delivery of that type of response has been exemplary,” he said. “We went early, issuing a return to work playbook to advise occupiers.  We have kept every one of our buildings open, we’ve communicated throughout the process and run occupier clinics.

“Moreover, it has been a highly-valued process that has really improved our relationships. It has been the one constant thing we have been able to talk to them about in the last year and it has really cemented our relationships.”

While Richmond was preaching to the converted an even bigger question remains: what is the office environment going to look like in the future?

PwC have announced they will be embracing flexible working with its chairman Kevin Ellis saying he hopes it will be “the norm rather than the exception” and that “we want our people to feel trusted and empowered”.

Its workers can now work from home for a couple of days a week and start as early or as late as they want, which could have major implications for the space PwC currently occupies.

RealService founder and managing director Howard Morgan, who facilitated the discussion, wondered if space should be priced by the day? “Surge pricing is prevalent in every other sector,” he said.

Paul Rostas, founder of Plus X, the coworking provider, said: “We’ve tried to develop our product in a different way; we used to work at our desks and have an away day to think differently, maybe now, we work at home at our desk and come into the office to think differently.

We haven’t really tried a hybrid model

“Maybe Monday is for one company, Tuesday we set it up differently for a different organisation. From a cost-efficiency point of view that’s appealing; we reconfigure the space as and when people need it, driven by what the customer wants.”

For Dan Lovatt, head of property management and build to rent at Transport for London, the problem is two-fold.

He said: “First there is a technical side – help me with PPE, signage etc but then it’s, ‘I’ve got this space, help me understand what I am going to do with it’. The second lockdown has been a lot harder on people and there is less of a desire to work from home.

“Presenteeism plays a part. We talk about a hybrid model but we’ve either all been in or all been out, we haven’t really tried a hybrid model.”

From his perspective outside the property industry, Chris Garthwaite said change was inevitable.

“I remember working for Kingfisher when the internet arrived. It’s the same here. Your customers will have access to anything they want, on their terms. The focus must be on considering what are you selling? Is it productivity? Flexibility? This is about brands selling environments and this is where it starts to become really interesting.”

 

*RealService and CGA would like to thank Dan Lovatt (TfL). Michelle Laramy (The Crown Estate), David O’Sullivan (Great Portland Estates), Paul Rostas (Plus X), Rowan Packer (Mapp) and Raj Rajput (Hines) for responding to Chris Richmond’s challenge and to Chris Richmond (PwC) for being the provocateur.

 

CX Conversations: Listen to Claire Middleton’s interview with Chris Richmond here.

Announcing a new strategic partnership between RealService and CGA to support the drive for change in the real estate industry

REALSERVICE is delighted to announce an exciting new collaboration which will bring even more insight and opportunities to our clients as they revitalise following the pandemic.

We are teaming up with customer-experience consultancy CGA to provide clients with the best of both worlds: RealService’s renowned expertise within the property industry plus CGA’s insight from other sectors.

Howard Morgan, the founder and MD of RealService, said: “This is a crucial time for the property industry and we believe it needs the best thinking from both within and outside its boundaries.

“The industry is looking for radical thinking to help it quickly reposition and rethink its products and services.

“With CGA we believe we have found a partner with a similar real-world outlook and new tools, such as Heartbeat®, which will enable our clients to monitor customer experience with even more precision.

‘A great fit’

“We are a great fit in terms of culture and believe this will put us in an even stronger position to support our clients’ ambitions to become even more customer-centric.

“By speaking the language of customer experience and of real estate, we can offer our clients a fully integrated service covering customer insight, change-management consulting, performance measurement and training.”

RealService clients cover all sectors of the property industry and include The Crown Estate, Cromwell Property Group, Schroders and Great Portland Estates.

Chris Garthwaite, the CEO and founder of CGA, said: “The timing is right for the property industry to think in a radically different way about its customer relationships.

Thinking in a different way

“The industry is realising it must engage in a different way. It is finally thinking about the practical and emotional experience that the end user and business customer wants today and will expect in the post-pandemic world.

“It can learn a lot from the way that other industries are responding and changing their products and services.

“Bringing Howard and his team’s deep knowledge of real estate and customer experience together with our outside-in perspective from 20 years of working with blue-chip clients across the world like Coca-Cola European Partners, The Telegraph, Renault, and many more, is I believe a compelling proposition.”

RealService and CGA have already combined with great success on a project for Transport for London.

Dan Lovatt, head of property management and head of build to rent at TfL, said: “We have enjoyed working with both consultancies over the past year and the collaboration is exciting in that it gives clients like us access to fresh thinking about customer experience from within and outside the property sector.”

For more information please contact Howard Morgan at Howard.Morgan@real-service.co.uk or see the RealService website at www.real-service.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RealService is excited to launch the first of our new online training programmes starting with Financial Skills for Property Managers.

This easy to understand course helps explain financial information specifically for property professionals without financial training, giving you greater confidence when discussing financial matters.

This fundamental knowledge will help you feel more confident when dealing with businesses that are struggling, be more in control of situations when presented with financial documents and be able to present a better business case to your management and colleagues.

The course is being delivered by our highly experienced financial training facilitators; David Levenson and Joel Featherman; over four 2.5 hour sessions you will learn to decipher the confusing world of financial terminology with clear and simple explanations of the fundamentals including how to read and interpret profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and use financial ratios to assess the health of a business.

Further information about the programme and to register for the course is available at course details

** Early-bird rates available now! **

 

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!

____________________________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no argument that providing a better customer experience leads to better returns.

Research done by PwC in 2017 (Ingredients for Great Experiences) found companies that make experience a priority can charge a premium of up to 16 percent for their products and services.

And, Dr Danielle Sanderson’s PhD thesis, based on thousands of interviews conducted by RealService, revealed a total return increase of 1.9% “loyalty bonus” for property companies who could improve their customer satisfaction ratings by one level on a five-point scale.

However, the next big question for those in the property industry who are spending money on customer experience is in which areas is it best to invest, which areas will net the best returns on that investment – and how do we measure those returns, the ROX, the return on experience.

RealService, partnered by GRESB, the global benchmarking organisation, will be discussing Measuring ROX, the next Holy Grail, at a seminar hosted by The Crown Estate, in London on November 7.

We will have speakers representing the owner/investors, the developers and the operators – and a panel of customers who will kickstart the deliberations around how to create a reliable metric which tracks the results of your investments in customer and employee experiences — and how to implement it.

We will also be presenting the developing research which is being undertaken by networking community Experience Makers, of which RealService is a founder partner.

You can find out more about the programme – and sign up for the free event [button link=”https://www.eventbrite.com/e/return-on-experience-in-search-of-the-holy-grail-tickets-74103909789″ newwindow=”yes”] HERE[/button]

RealService is a GRESB partner and this is our fourth annual Customer Experience seminar.