From my early teens, through college and for the first stage of my professional career, I worked primarily in the hospitality industry. Restaurants, bars, and hotels. – Ok, I may have actually spent more time in bars than working in them, but those are stories for another day.

The hospitality industry is a terrific training ground for many aspects of business, including technology. And the most fundamental truth about the industry is that there is no better place to learn firsthand about customer service and the importance of collecting customer insights and feedback. …Both the good and the bad.

The *statistics were drilled into you early and often:

  • Every complaining guest represents 24 others who had the same problem and chose not to tell you about it
  • A complaining guest will tell 8-10 people about their problem
  • One in five will tell twenty
  • Losing a single $50-a-year restaurant guest could cost $50,000 over five years, etc.

Fast forward to today, and now that single guest has the power of social media so that one unhappy guest can alone cause exponentially greater damage to a business. You need to know how your customers feel about your business at all times.

While the impact of negative perception is perhaps not as immediate for commercial real estate firms due to lease structures, the importance of soliciting customer feedback and learning what makes them happy and unhappy is certainly understood and in practice today.

What’s perhaps not understood as well, is whether or not all the right questions are being asked. – Questions about their business and employees that might help provide deeper insight into risk and opportunity and impact on the bottom line.

millenial-workplaceThe changing nature of the workplace, both the physical space and demographics of the workforce – yes I’m talking about millennials – is also increasing the pressure on property owners and managers to ask these questions. They need to know more from more people and everyone certainly has an opinion.

Tenants let you know they’re unhappy with the cleanliness of the restrooms, need the temperature in their space adjusted, have lighting that needs replacing and a host of other issues. We provide a tenant-centric aspect of our SaaS-based (software-as-a-service) property management platform to submit those issues and we have helped our clients ask about tenant satisfaction with service received for a number of years. That insight has proved to be very valuable to our clients in terms of providing them with real-time visibility and actual data to support the effectiveness of their customer service programs.

So, what are some of the kinds of things you aren’t currently asking your tenants, or that they won’t typically tell you through systems like ours, in passing conversation in the hallway, in a traditional annual survey or, or even during a manager walk-through?

  • Their business is struggling
  • They’re growing faster than they can manage
  • They are two years out from lease expiration and already know that they’re not going to renew
  • The single biggest challenge they have is finding enough talent to help them meet their growth needs
  • They really hate their open floor plan
  • The concept of wellness is increasingly important and the building and or location is not contributing positively to that
  • They’re thinking of moving earlier than you’ll know because there has been a shift in the distance the majority of their employees (or, CEO) commute
  • They could really benefit from you partnering with a company like PivotDesk or LiquidSpace and doing the work to help them realize some revenue from their unoccupied offices/cubes
  • They don’t think the building represents their brand or is helpful as a recruiting tool
  • There aren’t enough in-building or local amenities to keep their folks suitably engaged
  • They don’t really care about the new bike racks you installed

Now, these are not all comfortable questions to asked, or items to have conversations around.

There is even a valid point that a number of them are not in the realm of responsibility for a property manager or team. But, they are all data points that have varying degrees of impact on the things that matter to any real estate organization, revenue, and NOI. This is information you need.

I recall a conversation in the very early years here at Building Engines, speaking with an asset manager and technology advocate from one of our clients. He explained that while he fully understood the value of what we are doing in terms of streamlining and automating building operations, the real value he saw was in freeing up property teams from the mundane, repetitive tasks they got bogged down in so that they could go and talk with their customers about these very issues.

It’s more important than ever to have these conversations and to gain this level of insight. Don’t avoid the uncomfortable. Information and insight, good and bad, is essential to every successful organization and commercial real estate owners and managers need to know more from their tenants than ever before.

Lots more to come about how Building Engines will help here. Stay tuned!

*National Retail Merchants Association,