18 October 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The UK office industry is undergoing a fundamental shift towards a more customer-centric approach, placing more emphasis on delivering outstanding customer service to occupiers.
This is the finding of a report from the British Council for Offices (BCO) entitled Office Service Standards and Customer Experience: a Best Practice Guide.
The authors state that while for those who hold "a very traditional landlord occupier relationship this change in thinking, attitude and operation may feel revolutionary; what is clear is that we are seeing the industry evolve across the board".
New property sector disrupters, who are driving a shift in the relationship between property owners and corporate occupiers, are accelerating this. To make sure they are keeping pace with their changing requirements and aspirations, property owners and managers are realising the need to invest in building strong relationships with their occupiers.
The study, by Howard Morgan, Dr Danielle Sanderson and Sue Flatto, from the RealService consultancy, provides guidance to property owners, managers and occupiers in the form of best-practice checklists, case studies and scorecards. These are intended to assist all parties in collaborating to satisfy the ever-increasing expectations of occupiers. Building on BCO research from 2015, the report gives clear direction on how to deliver and measure the progress of a great customer experience.
The case for providing great customer experience has historically focused on supporting the 3R's - revenue, retention, and reputation. But the report provides evidence of the growing importance of 'soft' skills - empathy, understanding and trustworthiness towards occupiers, who view these as being as important as the 'hard' financials in driving customer loyalty.
For example, it cites that when recruiting customer-facing staff, the most important attribute Broadgate Estates' head of service delivery looks for is empathy, to ensure his staff can understand what the customer wants.
As customer requirements shift from 'space as a commodity' to 'space as a service', established operators are showcasing new ways of operating. British Land has launched its Storey flexible office space product, and Landsec has reflected its customer-centric approach with a vision focused on delivering to show 'Everything is experience'.
To ensure owners and property managers are delivering the type of customer experience that will match the best that can be found outside of the property industry, the report identifies that a much wider set of skills is required, with a new mindset to deliver better customer experience at all stages in the relationship. These new skills, and the greater emphasis on delivery of enhanced customer experience, will lead to an increased profile of the property management profession.
Richard Kauntze, CEO of the BCO, said: "For any business to be successful, continued evolution is necessary to remain relevant and responsive to change. New entrants in the office market have prompted an acceleration of this evolution.
"The BCO's research endeavours to encourage and support property owners and managers in providing their customers with the very best experience. It is significant that within the BCO our NextGen members have been strong supporters of this project. I hope that these rising stars will help lead the charge on this within their own businesses, as well as providing the inspiration to others to create and successfully execute new delivery models."
The checklists included follow the broad structure of the RealService 'Best Practice Framework' and cover the following areas: customer experience and culture; customer insight and service design; collaboration with service partners; leadership and training; operational excellence; and performance measurement.