In “The New Tenant Journey,” we explored the importance of understanding the attitudes and opinions of tenant-employees. While employers set the work rules that determine when, where, and how their teams work, the mindsets of their respective staff members are playing an increasingly significant role in how companies make those decisions. To collect the empirical tenant data required to make informed decisions, companies and building managers must reach out to solicit the candid views of their employees and tenants using surveys and other research tools. Asking relevant questions of the broadest representative sample of company or building community members is essential. Asking the right questions is crucial. Be sure to design surveys so that data include not only intentions and preferences, but also the underlying causes, motivations, and feelings. In this way, your company can make decisions based not only on the employees’ and tenants’ subjective opinions, but also on the underlying reasons that help form their points of view.
Here’s one real-life example of how asking the right questions can make all the difference. Several years ago, the National Football League noticed a steadily growing number of no-shows at their stadiums: that is, tickets that were purchased by season ticket holders but were empty throughout the event. Viewership of the games on television were at an all-time high, suggesting that a superior at-home experience was increasingly competing with the in-stadium experience. Even though the ticket was already paid for, it was certainly more convenient, less stressful, and less expensive to watch a game on television rather than battling traffic, and paying exceptionally high prices for parking, food, and beverages. Clearly, some number of no-show purchasers felt it was not worth the inconvenience, stress, and additional cost to attend every game. It was up to us to find out why they felt that way.
The NFL conducted a survey to determine what elements of the stadium experience were viewed in disfavor by the fans. We had already suspected that the overall journey to and from the stadium might already be a factor in the fans’ decision-making, and the surveys validated that notion. The most disliked component of the stadium experience was, naturally, when the home team lost. Rooting for a victory was the primary motivator for buying a ticket in the first place. The survey further confirmed, as we suspected, contending with traffic was the second most disliked touchpoint with the fan. It was the third most-hated part of coming to the stadium, however, that generated the most incredulity. It was halftime.
With the exceptions of the Super Bowl and a small number of holiday traditions like star entertainment for Thanksgiving games, teams generally consider halftime at NFL stadiums as an afterthought. It’s time for a local marching band, a drill or dance team, a sponsor promotion, or even frisbee-catching dogs to take to the field to provide a light diversion to a thin and largely ambivalent crowd. Was it the fact that the mere un-specialness of halftime was part of the problem? How much money would it cost to upgrade the entertainment value league-wide over the course of a season? The answer was millions of dollars. Doing nothing didn’t make sense. Based on the question we asked, ignoring a key source of dissatisfaction was inadvisable. But the solution we assumed would address the problem was something didn’t make financial sense, either.
It wasn’t long before we considered that we may have asked the question in a way that only gave us part of the answer. The cost of solving what we assumed the problem to be, based on the question we asked, was too high not to go back and ask the question differently. And, when we did, we discovered that what our customers hated the most about halftime had absolutely nothing to do with the entertainment value. Fans actually liked having a break between the two halves of football action. What they hated were the incredibly long lines at the concessions and the bathrooms that characterized the halftime experience. That’s when everyone left their seats to go to the concourse for one or both refreshing activities. We could have spent millions of dollars addressing a symptom that solved the wrong problem.
How does this lesson apply to commercial real estate managers and their tenant companies as we hope to more fully emerge from remote working during the pandemic? It may not be enough to simply find out if tenant-employees are ready to return to the office full-time, part-time, or not at all. The more important questions may be why they feel the way they do, especially if they prefer not to come to the common workplace. Decisions on how tenant-employees will be expected to return to the office, and how often, might be different if their preferences are based simply on cost and convenience, as opposed to other more challenging reasons. Anxiety about returning to the office based on health and safety concerns requires a response that is proactive and visible to reduce those concerns. Adding desirable lifestyle amenities, programming, and conveniences to the workplace that tenant-employees want can mitigate the loss of the options and freedom that remote working can offer and can make it worth the cost and hassle of commuting. Delivering a better physical and digital tenant experience is dependent on knowing which problems you are trying to solve. Asking the right questions to identify not only attitudes and opinions, but also the motivations, beliefs, and emotions behind those perspectives will help to ensure the best, most effective responses as we rebuild and re-energize our tenant communities.
Frank Supovitz, an award-winning experience designer, producer, event organizer, and author, has played a leading role in the success of such world-class properties as the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, and the South Street Seaport in New York City. A respected global thought-leader in sports, entertainment, and facilities management, he brings more than three decades of expertise to the HqO Team as a senior consultant for Tenant Experience. Contact HqO to put our Tenant Experience team to work for you.