“We basically have nothing to sell but the service of our people. Customer service is our top priority ahead of growth, profitability, or selling the next piece of business because putting customer service first will make us the best and the other things will follow.”
– Bob Sulentic, President and CEO, Trammell Crow Company
In February 2002, after the tech bubble burst and the 9-11 attacks, an interesting article appeared in Commercial Property News entitled “Santora, Gunn Keep Tenants Happy While Cutting Costs”. The article touches on many of the same issues the industry is facing today; namely cutting costs while improving tenant relations. It also reveals the beginning of what is now called the Web-Based Operations Management (WBOM) software industry and how these Gen I systems developed by owners and managers themselves, as well as third party vendors, were seen as the best solutions to mitigating the effects of the economic downturn by cutting costs while bolstering tenant relations.
We all know that effective tenant relations programs include everything from blood drives to building newsletters but what the early WBOM systems proved, despite being home grown and offering limited functionality, is that software could be used as a tool to efficiently improve customer service and tenant relations in all building types while cutting cost. Now, almost a decade later, a new generation of WBOM tools have emerged and, again have become an urgent must have for the industry – rapidly replacing Gen I and homegrown systems with a single-platform, portfolio wide solution.
After the tech recession ended in 2002, many organizations, and indeed, many software vendors simply turned their attention away from the continued development of web-based solutions. The one-off approach that was implemented in the early part of this decade – where you might find a building using one solution for visitor access, another solution for service requests, and, yet another for preventive maintenance. From there, passing paper between the operations team and other departments (i.e. accounting) thus denying the dream of seamless paperless process. To make matters worse, buildings owned and managed by the same company were often using different solutions per building, making it difficult for asset and regional operations managers to generate reports and really know what was going on in each property.
From late 2002 to early 2008, tenant relations returned to a more traditional path, as staffing levels increased and the industry became flooded in cash. Advancing building operations and cost management took a back seat to high-flying business transactions. Then it all came crashing back to earth.
A repeat scenario for the real estate market ensued that was eerily similar to the tech recession. Layoffs, staffing shortages, higher level managers directly overseeing the operations of buildings across multiple regions, cost reductions, and reduced revenues. As Bob Sulentic said in the quote at the beginning of this article, “We basically have nothing to sell but the service of our people.” A difficult thing to do in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression and in one of the most heavily exposed industries.
Clearly business decisions will be made based on the bottom line but – ceteris paribus – the winner will usually be the property, the decision maker, or the decision maker’s employees. And like in 2002, a new technology trend started to emerge. With almost a decade of developments and improvements to boot, Gen II WBOM systems are now delivering an entirely new level of customer service to building owners and managers.
Gen II WBOM systems bring together key elements critical to what building owners and managers need to have in an integrated tenant relations program (similar to modern day building operations software). In the past, design and ease were one of the most often overlooked areas of tenant utilized applications. Imagine crumpling up your printed company newsletter and delivering it to your tenants. They would be very dissatisfied. The same would occur if they same to a difficult tenant landing page to submit a service request. Your tenants must feel confident; that the same or better level of service is going to be provided and there will be no interruption to their business due to cutbacks. In addition, they will be looking at your competition as a service comparison.
Here is what your WBOM system must do from a tenant relations standpoint:
- Be attractive and easy to use
- Be branded with your logo and color scheme
- Allow tenants to enter and view service requests on the landing page and allow tenants to enter and view visitors on the same page
- Display upcoming events and other items of interest in your traditional tenant relations program
- Provide one-click access to other amenities, services, and functionality delivered through your system
- Support certificate of insurance compliance through timely, automated notifications or save your tenant time and notify their vendor directly
- Deliver a single email and/or text communication so your tenants know all that you do for them
- Allow your staff to communicate with tenants when service requests have been received and completed
Implementing a Gen II WBOM system should deliver these tenant relations benefits to you and your organization, eliminate the spider web of one-off solutions, and deliver visibility throughout your organization’s chain of command. Remember, you are in competition to keep your tenants and to attract tenants from the building next door. Even if your overall market has a 16% vacancy rate, if you are at 8% your well positioned versus the next guy.
On tomorrow’s Blog we will cover Business Problem #3: Getting People in Your Building – How marketing your building can help you drive tenant retention, acquisition, and fill space.