The office has changed a lot since March 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic. As the entire world scrambled to adjust to heightened health and safety protocols, the commercial real estate (CRE) sector unsurprisingly took a substantial hit: after all, how could landlords and property teams justify the ROI of physical office space when many people — about 48.7 million people, in fact — had suddenly shifted to remote work?
These challenges to the traditional workplace have caused quite a stir between employers and their employees. With employees able to work from the comfort of their homes, many employers who want to continue with “business as usual” are losing employees at alarming rates. This phenomenon has been dubbed The Great Resignation, and it continues to combat the assumptions that employers have about supporting employees and attracting and retaining talent in today’s world.
However, the weight isn’t solely on employers to support a modern workforce. Now more than ever, owners and operators of office space are being tasked with creating more meaningful environments for their tenants to support return to office needs. And fortunately for them, the answers are already out there. Property teams are quickly adopting strategies from the retail and hospitality industries to enhance the workplace by creating customer-first experiences. These experiences don’t just engage with tenants and their employees in new and exciting ways, but they bring the right kind of value to the office — value that can prove its ROI for tenants and property teams around the world.
It should go without saying that such changes to the value drivers of the workplace have a significant impact on the professionals running CRE buildings. As HqO’s Lead Product Researcher, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to our customers and their customers about the obstacles they face and the solutions they’re implementing. During my research, one particular truth was evident: property management as we know it is evolving, and the specialization of these roles will be what makes or breaks the customer experiences of the future.
Introducing the Experience Manager
With property managers being tasked to create more customer-first workplaces on top of their already strenuous roles of maintaining building operations, they have begun to express burnout or inefficiencies in their business. Though many property teams have increased the responsibilities of their staff to incorporate tenant engagement strategies and execution, a handful are shifting gears and hiring individuals with hospitality and events backgrounds to spearhead these initiatives. In my research, I discovered that there are three distinct roles emerging from the pandemic: the property manager, the experience manager, and the concierge.
Property managers, as we all know, are focused on managing building operations and expenses. Their day-to-day may involve sifting through work orders requests, coordinating security teams, managing invoicing, handling tenant escalations, or other building maintenance responsibilities. An experience manager, on the other hand, focuses solely on tenant experience and engagement initiatives. This includes building meaningful relationships with tenants by creating a strategy and budget for workplace experiences, and then implementing those initiatives to track their success for each tenant. A concierge, though similar, is more task-oriented and manages smaller, one-off interactions such as booking reservations at local restaurants or helping with other specific requests. This individual often evokes the setting of a hotel lobby, serving as a personalized greeter and resource for quick questions and information.
These roles ultimately come together to form a customer success team for the tenant company, with each different role playing a critical part of the solution from their respective focus. As more and more tenants look for support from their landlords, having these dedicated roles will help customers who may or may not have their own office managers, and even open up new channels of tenant feedback that property teams can then leverage to continuously improve their workplace experiences.
People Come First
Recently, I moderated a panel at EXPERIENCE — HqO’s first-of-its-kind event dedicated completely to the tenant experience — on this very same topic. Joined by Daisy Gauck, Senior Vice President of Hospitality at Work, and Karen Allen, Community Manager at Hines, we aimed to shed light on the importance of experience management in our current economy. Here are a few key takeaways I gleaned from our discussion.
First and foremost, people always come first. Whether you’re looking to invest in technologies that can make property roles easier or planning initiatives to create excitement about the workplace, hospitality-focused strategies are the path to success.
“We really put the tenants at the center of our program,” explained Karen. “It’s not about doing what others are doing, but instead it’s about finding someone to talk to the tenants and their employees to learn what’s going to be utilized and valuable.”
Secondly, to truly ensure that people come first, specialized skill sets are needed to operate the workplace. Whether an individual has a background in hospitality, marketing, or events, successful experience management is dependent on staff who are solely focused on the tenants and their workplace experiences.
Finally, iteration is critical. You don’t need to make big or costly investments in order to start personalizing experiences for your customers. The most important thing here is your mindset: whether you have technology tools or not, you can still get started on listening to tenants and seeing what they positively respond to. By piloting different tenant engagement strategies and not getting discouraged at failures, property teams have the chance to really understand what their customers are looking for, and why they are looking for it.
At the end of the day, the industry is changing and property teams have a lot of decisions to make. If you’re already investing money in your assets, you may as well make smarter, more informed investments.
For more information about the future of the workplace, check out our related resources and webinars here.