We recently participated in a Realcom webinar, “Technology and the Impact to a Commercial Real Estate Strategy,” with other industry leaders from Washington REIT, GSA, IoTium, Lynxspring, and Corning to discuss the latest trends and technologies emerging in commercial real estate and how they are changing the landscape.  

The CRE industry, once seen as a technology laggard, now has the opportunity to accelerate full throttle into a world of digital transformation. NextGen communications, connected building, artificial intelligence, enterprise integrations, and innovative security technologies are just a few of the many trends that are changing the way CRE organizations are operating today. These trends tie into one overarching theme – the occupant experience.  

In fact, 63% of webinar attendees agreed that this is a critical theme, anticipating that technology that helps improve the occupant experience will impact them most next year.   

Susan Gerock, VP, IT and CIO of Washington REIT, shared an experience of new hospitality technology that improved her stay in a hotel recently. When the hotel advised Susan to download their app, she was able to schedule a restaurant reservation, sign up for workout classes that the hotel offered, view a map of the property, and notify valet that her car needed to be picked up, all from the palm of her hand. “We need to be offering the same kinds of things to our tenants,” she said and went on to explain that office tenants have been neglected compared to other sectors in real estate in the past. So, the question is, how do we bring the same ease and level of positive experience to the CRE industry?  

The answer may lie in utilizing technology for better tenant communication and data collection. Rather than focusing on what tenants may actually want, many CRE organizations are chasing the model laid out by WeWork – a model that may not directly translate to all CRE spaces and tenant needs. As a result, they are missing the opportunity to respond to specific tenants’ needs in an effort to improve the tenant experience. The resulting “amenities arms race” is led by a less than fully informed understanding of the factors that influence where tenants continue to resign leases or whether they renew a space.  

Instead of making guesses at what you think tenants want, CRE organizations should use the solutions and data available to them to start tech-enabled conversations with their tenants to understand what they really want 

Tech-Enabled Tenant Conversations  

Improving the occupant experience starts with effectively using technology for enhanced customer communication and using the data you collect from these conversations to make better decisions. Tech-enabled conversations will allow CRE organizations to see what tenants need, what they think, and how they feel.   

What do tenants need?  

The best way for you to understand what services are most important to your tenants is to collect and analyze all data related to building services. By collecting service request data from tenants, you will be able to understand what their primary concerns about the building and office space are. You can also understand if certain service requests are missing service level agreement (SLA) targets. This enables management to know what level of service tenants need in their buildings to stay satisfied.  

How do tenants feel? 

Asking tenants specific questions about their office space as it relates to attracting and retaining talent will help you understand how tenants truly feel about their space and what amenities might have an impact on their decisions to renew leases or search for new office space. Understanding what is important to your tenants will help you decide what areas to focus on improving in the future, I.e. do you renovate the gym, or should you focus on something different that involves less capital investment. If your tenants don’t care about a brand-new gym, switch your focus to something else that they do care about.  

What are your tenants are thinking?  

There is tremendous value in analyzing unstructured data from different systems to understand what your tenants think. Look at the unstructured text of service requests that are coming through. In the initial service request submission, we found that the most frequent word is “please” compared to a follow-up request where the most dominant word is “still.” This is an example of how quickly satisfaction can change if you aren’t monitoring requests or feedback closely.  

As tenant expectations continue to skyrocket, it is becoming more critical for property managers to listen to and understand what tenants actually want, rather than simply waging a guess. Property managers must use the technology available to them to collect data that they can quickly be informed where they can make changes that have the biggest impact on the occupant experience. Occupant experience can vary from building to building and tenancy to tenancy, which is why it is so important to focus on your specific tenants and hone in on what really matters to them. Listening to your occupants through tech-enabled conversations will enable you to provide the best occupant experience possible.  

Watch the full Realcomm webinar “Technology and the Impact on a Commercial Real Estate Strategy” here