The tenant experience has changed a lot in the last 5 years. For decades, an office was essentially a “people warehouse”—a place where people gathered to get their work done. The space was mostly just an afterthought. Fast forward to today. The workplace looks much different than it once did. With open floor plans, flexible and collaborative spaces, and many more amenities offered by buildings than ever before, the workplace is now an integral part of the employee experience. It is a talent magnet, not just a place to work.  

The problem is that as an industry, CRE hasn’t adapted the way it measures tenant sentiment to this new experiential reality. Most CRE owners and managers still default to the same tool they’ve been using for decades: The annual tenant satisfaction survey. But in today’s tenant marketplace, a 30+ year old process just won’t cut it anymore.  

To get the insight they need, twenty-first-century building owners and managers should understand four things about tenant sentiment:

  1.  Who are you hearing from? 
  2.  When are you getting feedback?
  3.  How are your customers sharing feedback with you?
  4.  What are you asking them? 

Who are you hearing from? 

Traditionally tenant surveys typically take one person’s feedback into account. This has led to the criticism that they are focused on the “wrong” person. In one sense, this is a valid critique. It isn’t fair or helpful to ask a single employee at a tenant company to represent the entire organization, whether or not that person is identified as a lease decision-maker. 

But in another sense, there’s really no such thing as the wrong person because there are many people who influence a given tenant’s location decision. For example, according to Building Engines’ research, as many as half of tenant employees say that they have at least some direct influence on the location of their office. What’s more, in the “Talent Magnet” era, the truth is that every tenant employee’s experience matters. This means that you must understand the sentiment of all of those people instead of fussing on one person that you think has the most say.   

When are you getting feedback?  

And equally important, how often? During a webinar we recently hosted, we asked CRE professionals how often they ask for tenant feedback. About half of them responded that they collect tenant feedback annually and another quarter said every other year.  

This approach is fraught with problems. For one thing, it’s putting a lot of pressure on someone’s mood at a single point in time to represent an entire year’s worth of experience! For another, it’s bound to miss something important. Consider the chart below:  

In this hypothetical example, a survey conducted in January shows that three tenants were equally happy. But there is important context missing! What is the trend? What events might have impacted each tenant at different points in time? What is truly actionable? 

Building owners and managers need feedback more frequently—both generally and in response to specific customer service events—so they can take the right steps to build loyalty rather than trying to interpret what a single number means for a whole year (or more).  

How are your customers sharing with you 

There’s no sugar-coating it: The annual tenant satisfaction survey is time-consuming, expensive, and painful for both property managers and tenants. Exporting a contact list, keeping it updated, following up with tenants who forget to respond, and digging through inboxes (or spam folders!) takes a lot of effort for everyone involved. That’s probably why someone at a recent industry conference told me it was “the most painful process in CRE!”. 

There is a better way. Think, for example, of taking an Uber or Lyft ride. These services provide a short, one-question evaluation directly in their apps immediately after each ride. Because it is quick, easy, and integrated with the customer experience, I complete the survey almost every time—which is more than I can say for the email surveys I get from airlines, hotels, and just about everyone else. 

Property managers and building owners should be doing the same thing. If you are asking for sentiment feedback directly in the software they use to communicate with building management, not only will it be less effort to administer, it’s also more likely that they will provide a valid, real-time indicator of the quality of their experience.  

What are you asking them? 

It’s hard not to notice that a traditional tenant survey questionnaire reads more like a building engineers’ checklist (I.e. questions about elevators, windows, and response times) than a genuine inquiry into a customer experience. Yes, operations are important, but it doesn’t give you a full picture of their overall sentiment.  

There is a reason that we use the term “sentiment” rather than simply “satisfaction.” Our tenant sentiment model considers all the factors that go into the tenant’s experience at and loyalty to the building. A survey centered only on satisfaction is missing key elements in the story. By contrast, a well-rounded sentiment measurement program will include not only satisfaction but also questions that probe the value provided by the building and indicate other factors that might influence a tenant’s choice to stay or go, with not just building operations, but the workplace, amenities, and work experience that your building is providing their employees.  

Tips for Making Things Better 

To deliver the kind of insight today’s CRE professionals need, sentiment measurement program should be:  

  • Easy to administer (for property staff) and to participate in (for tenants) 
  • Ongoing and frequent, not just once a year 
  • Focused on the tenant experience rather than the building’s guts 
  • Targeted to as many participants as possible  
  • Connected with operational performance and service events  

As long as employees are still expecting prime office spaces and best in class amenities, tenants will continue to have high expectations of their buildings. If you’re still using outdated, once a year surveys, you could be missing the competitive insight you need to meet these increasing tenant expectations.  

Watch the full webinar, Do You Really Understand Your Tenants, to learn new ways of collecting sentiment data and how to apply it to improve the tenant experience.  

You can also learn more about how to use new technologies to keep on top of tenant experiences, needs, and feedback with less effort than traditional annual surveys by visiting