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PROPERTY management and customer experience will be key to the future value of real estate, said Professor Yolande Barnes, chair of UCL’s Bartlett Real Estate Institute, at a British Property Federation webinar focusing on tackling the property industry’s skills gap.

Speakers at the event also included RealService founder and managing director Howard Morgan and Experience Makers producer Harriet Jones.

“The things that make real estate valuable are the people and what they do in the space,” Prof Barnes said. “There was a weird time in the 20th Century when money was made through inflation and the value-adders were those who could trade property at rising prices.

“However, the closed club of big-building real estate is dismantling. Upward-only rent reviews won’t be what creates value in the future, it will be the long-term performance and management of the building.

‘Property managers have come from central casting’

“It’s about the income which can be generated from the people in the building and that puts property management and customer experience front and centre.”

However, according to a report for the British Council for Offices, written and researched by customer experience consultants RealService, the industry is not blessed with a customer-centric culture and those who have been employed in customer-facing roles have come largely from outside the sector.

“Property managers often look as though they have come from central casting,” said Howard Morgan, the author of the BCO report. “We found there is nothing in the major real estate universities or in the APC process which emphasises the importance of customer experience. People are graduating without an understanding of who their customers are.”

In an effort to transform real estate and provide training to ambitious young property professionals, BREI has teamed up with Experience Makers to launch an executive short course – CX in Real Estate:  Future Leaders Programme. The course directors are Prof Barnes and Howard Morgan.

Experience Makers is a research, education and networking community which aims to put ‘life and soul into property’ and has a number of major landlords among its members. Many have contributed to the course content and endorsed it as a much-needed game-changer for the industry.

“There should be alarm bells ringing because landlords need to future-proof against what’s going to be a major change in the office sector and the impact of the internet on the retail sector,” said Harriet Jones.

“Customer experience is not just about making sure there’s a smile at the front desk, it’s about designing all your strategies around the customer and developing those processes. It is beginning to happen, and Experience Makers members can vouch for that, but it’s not happening quickly.

“The Future Leaders Programme is calling for pioneers to come and challenge the system, challenge RICS and change the language and processes of real estate.”

Other areas covered by the panel included the lack of diversity in the industry and discussion around how young people from different backgrounds could be attracted into property management.

The CX in Real Estate: Future Leaders Programme aims to address many of these shortcomings and will be run over five sessions, starting on May 6. Core to the course will be modules on customer experience strategy and design.

For more information on the Future Leaders Programme, please contact harriet@experiencemakers.com

To see the BCO report please head here

For the full BPF webinar please click here

A VITAL cog in the RealService business is the in-house research team.

These skilled researchers conduct the interviews which give RealService clients the in-depth feedback upon which they base key business decisions.

Many of the interviewers have worked for RealService for many years, returning to projects they know intimately on an annual basis. Others have backgrounds in languages, which enables the company to carry out research in the native tongues of customers all over Europe and beyond. For the Cromwell Property Group, for example, interviewers operate in French, Dutch, Italian, Danish, Finnish, and German.

This week, director and chief operating officer Louise Freethy registered her thanks to the team who have brought invaluable insight to RealService clients over the past 22 years, with a special emphasis on research carried out during the pandemic which, she said, has helped clients sketch out “the new normal”.

“Our research team are the unsung heroes of our business,” she said.

“They are practised in gaining invaluable information which can be analysed and presented to our clients. This has been true since RealService was founded in 1999, but especially over the last months where the real estate industry has been hungry for  intelligence around what they can expect the world to look like post pandemic.

Vast knowledge of the property industry

“We are not a market research company. We are a company with vast knowledge of the property industry and the insight our interviewers glean is used by our clients to inform their strategic business decisions.

“Major property companies will be establishing their post-pandemic offerings based on the findings of our research.

“The interviewers have to be highly proficient. They have to engage busy people in a conversation which will provide important feedback on specific questions, and, most importantly, they provide an independent voice.

“We rely on them and I wanted to take an opportunity to thank them for their work.”

So, what makes a great interview?

“A great interview is a conversation which is directed by the interviewer to cover specific points,” said April Davies, who has been with RealService for 12 years and whose projects have included Cadogan, Great Portland Estates, The Crown Estate and others.

April Davies … skilled interviewer

“We are often interviewing very busy people so we need to engage with them very quickly and convince them of the value of taking part in the research.

“It is about covering all the bases in the questionnaire and providing real-life examples, so when our client reads the transcript they know exactly why their customer thinks they are doing a good – or bad – job and what they can do to improve.”

The value of RealService feedback is described as “crucial” by David O’Sullivan, Director of Occupier and Property Services at Great Portland Estates.

“The feedback from the RealService surveys is not just important, it’s crucial, critical,” he said.

‘The feedback loop is essential’

“The feedback loop is essential and it’s one of the reasons we moved our survey from a biennial event to an annual one. Two years is too long to go without talking with your customers.

“To the question, what do we do with that research, the answer is we create action plans from the feedback.”

Before the start of each project, the interviewing team is briefed by the project manager. All have been trained around issues such as confidentiality and data protection. Last month, all undertook  Interviewer Refresher Training.

“We believe our research team is our point of difference,” said Louise Freethy.

“We do not contract out our interviewing to a call centre. We use an experienced, in-house team who are a key component of our business.

“They go above and beyond when interviewing to provide the sort of insight which allows RealService to go above and beyond for our clients.”

RealService, founder & MD, Howard Morgan, has been appointed joint course director for the new CX in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme launched this week by Experience Makers and the Bartlett Real Estate Institute .

Experience Makers is the real estate industry champion for customer experience professional training and research. The Bartlett Real Estate Institute (BREI) is part of University College London’s world-class faculty and the focal point for all built-environment professionals to re-think real estate.

The CX in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme is the first short course of its kind to combine academic research with industry insight to provide a vital understanding of customer experience strategy in property, and the skills to implement it.

This exciting initiative is the culmination of research and consultation carried out by Experience Makers and partners that highlights an alarming gap between current training and the skills required for a fast evolving and increasingly service-driven industry.

The impact of coronavirus has plainly revealed the property industry’s reliance on its customers. The call for new and improved knowledge on how to create attractive and healthy places that respond to customer need has only increased.

Fellow course director Prof. Yolande Barnes, chair of the Bartlett Real Estate Institute, said: “This new short course is an exciting next step in our journey to explore the richness and diversity of the value that real estate generates.

 “The programme sets out to open minds to new ways of thinking about real estate in the Covid-19 era and will equip students with practical tools to put this into action. Our ambition is to foster a new generation of professionals who see real estate not as a commodity, but as means to deliver an outstanding experience to customers.”

The CX in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme is aimed at ambitious individuals working in all areas of property and its related fields, who recognise that real estate has evolved and who see themselves leading CX programmes at asset, team or business level.

Initially delivered online via eight units over six weeks, the intensive short course provides participants with a rewarding learning experience, equips them with practical tools to take back to their business and offers the chance to be part of a new alumni of property professionals with a customer mindset.

The CX in Real Estate – Future Leaders Programme is supported by Experience Makers members and developed in consultation with an Advisory Group of leading organisations passionate about pushing the industry forward.

These include The Crown Estate, Get Living, MAPP, Savills and Transport for London. Their involvement ensures that the programme is rooted in real-world aims, actions and successes.

Howard Morgan, said: “RealService was founded 20 years ago with the ambition to transform our industry’s approach to customer relationships. RealService is a proud supporter of Experience Makers with it’s mission to champion education and research in customer experience in real estate. I am thrilled to be collaborating with Professor Yolande Barnes and UCL Bartlett, an academic partner that shares our ambition to rethink real estate.

 “I believe that this programme is an international first and am excited to welcome participants from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

 

Information about the course is available here:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/real-estate/study/short-courses/cx-real-estate-future-leaders-programme-short-course

Course start date: Tuesday, May 4 2021

 


 

 

About BREI (+ UCL press office number +44 (0)7747 565 056)

 

The Bartlett Real Estate Institute is a new global institute that is rethinking the traditional view of real estate. We offer MSc programmes, short courses and research opportunities that critically evaluate real estate within its wider societal, economic and environmental context.

 

About Experience Makers www.experiencemakers.com

 

Experience Makers are the real estate industry champions for customer experience professional education and research supported by a network of leading organisations and trailblazing individuals committed to pushing the industry forward.

 

28/01/2021

IT’S the ski season, or it would be in normal circumstances.

But is your business enjoying a view from the top of the mountain, or in danger of sliding down the icy slopes?

Even in the property industry your customers are your most important assets; treating them well will help with your retention, your reputation and, vitally, your revenue.

So, how well do you know your customers?

Take our fun quiz and let’s see how you’d go on the customer-experience slopes. Are you ready for the black runs? Or stuck in ski school?

 

YES!

5pts

Hmm

3pts

NO!

0pts

Your website and published documents refer to ‘customers’, not ‘tenants’
Your staff refer to your customers as ‘customers’ not ‘tenants’
Your mission statement refers to your customers
You have a senior manager with a customer experience remit
Staff training includes sessions in customer experience
You know what your customers think of you
You regularly survey your customers internally
You regularly have an independent body survey your customers
TOTAL

 

35-40 points

You’re sitting back in the ski lodge, sipping a vin rouge enjoying the view. The Ski Sunday music is playing in the background. Well done! You are very aware of the importance of your customers, they have told you what they need and you are making every effort to meet their expectations. However, you also know that there are icy patches on the run home so you might need our expertise to keep you ahead of the game.

Contact us and we can help you devise a CX strategy which will enable you to make customer experience your point of difference.

 

20-35 points

You’ve mastered the snow-plough and the beginners’ slopes but you have loftier ambitions. You are aware that you need to get closer to your customers but you’re not quite ready to point your skis downhill and go for it. You need a good instructor to get you past the basics.

We can help you move onto the red and black runs with Voice of Customer research and training programmes for your staff. You can trust us to get you down the mountain safely.

 

0-20 points

Oops, you’re in danger of losing your bindings or heading off-piste! You need to get onto the beginners’ slopes as soon as you can and we can help you with our CX starter pack. We can carry out a baseline study of your customers so you know immediately what you are doing well and where you need to improve. This is really vital knowledge, especially in these challenging times.

We are the equivalent of the fabulous ski instructor who made your trip something special. Call us.