About eight years ago I had a physical, and it wasn’t fun. Through a combination of hereditary, lifestyle, and dietary factors, a few numbers (I’m talking about you, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol!) were a bit out of whack. It was sobering, and it demanded immediate action—which I took.
These days I still have the occasional checkup. But I also wear a fitness tracker, log calorie intake, and train in specific heartrate ranges. I’m a healthier person now, and all these tools have contributed to it.
Maintaining the health of a commercial building is not altogether unlike maintaining physical health, at least in the sense of measurement tools. Some tools are like that annual checkup. The results can shock you into action when something appears to be wrong. But true health means paying attention to other metrics, the ones that indicate the strength of vital signs every day.
The same can be said for the health of your commercial property operations.
The Loyalty Link
Property managers and building engineers have long realized that they are not so much in the building business as they are in the customer business. In other words, they know that, when it comes to controllable lease decision factors, customer satisfaction tops the list. They know this because research has consistently proven it out: more satisfied tenants are more likely to renew. With the cost of losing and replacing a tenant so high, an increase in loyalty can add millions to a building’s value.
It makes perfect sense, then, that when we recently asked a broad range of CRE professionals about their customer service practices, 61 percent of them told us that they conduct annual tenant surveys. This was by far the most commonly cited customer service measurement tool—and why not? What better way to get started than with the customer service equivalent of a medical checkup?
But, as with personal health, relying on an annual checkup is not enough to avoid illness, much less maximize fitness. There are a number of reasons for this, including two big ones that we heard in our outreach to CRE professionals: Timing and breadth.
A property manager once told me a disheartening story about the misuse of annual survey results. A few months after the survey, an asset manager was reviewing the report and noticed a negative comment from a tenant. Soon this particular property manager was on the phone with her boss, struggling to defend herself.
In reality, she had noticed the comment right away and had immediately gone to the tenant to smooth things over—which she was able to do quickly, given the strong relationship she had developed. But that didn’t stop an out-of-town asset manager from reacting to out-of-date information in an out-of-proportion way.
Given stories like this, it’s no wonder many CRE professionals resent that annual surveys are often the only mechanism their superiors use in evaluating their performance. Here is what they’ve told us:
- Only 47 percent say that surveys give them timely information
- Only 39 percent agree that surveys are a fair evaluation of their performance
- Only 27 percent indicate high confidence that they understand tenant sentiment right now
Another shortcoming of annual surveys is their extremely narrow focus. Each tenant is nearly always represented by one single respondent. This is not all bad.
Nobody wants the property management team roaming around suites, striking up conversations with tenant employees and distracting them from their work. Those single points of contact (to whom we affectionately refer as “SPOCs”) are in the best position to evaluate customer service, and that’s by design.
But, absent other insight, this lack of breadth can backfire. Suppose, for example, that a particular tenant SPOC is impossible to please. They may not have any input into the leasing decision, and they may not even know (or care) that most of their company’s employees love the space—they’re just there, making life hard for the management team because they can.
On the other hand, the reverse can also happen. A seemingly good-natured SPOC can lull property management into a false sense of security with positive feedback. Meanwhile, perhaps out of misplaced benevolence, they are neglecting legitimate problems experienced by people in the suite, obscuring them from the management team’s view.
Because of scenarios like this, we hear that:
- Only 48 percent of CRE professionals believe they are hearing from the right people at tenant companies
- While 60 percent agree that their “customer” includes each and every tenant employee in the building, less than half say that they have any understanding of their sentiment
3. Feeling the Pulse
What can property managers do to get a better handle on the heartbeat of their buildings, not just grit their teeth until the next survey? One practical answer is regular, ongoing measurement. This involves both operational metrics and customer satisfaction metrics.
Operationally, this means creating service standards and documenting actual performance against those standards. Not only does this lead to more consistent service delivery, it also arms property managers with hard evidence when responding to questions from asset managers or demands from “squeaky wheel” tenant SPOCs. What better answer could there be than a bona fide track record of excellence?
Customer satisfaction measurement is equally crucial, and it is best to capture it at the most appropriate time—which is immediately proximate to the experience in question.
Rather than waiting on an annual survey to ask tenants about service performance, why not do it right after (or even during) the fulfillment of a service request? It is hardly reasonable to expect anyone to recall a full year’s worth of service experiences, then give a fair rating while in the middle of an intensive, 60-question annual survey. Much better to get fast feedback that is both timelier and more accurate.
An annual checkup is a great way to find big problems, especially if you haven’t had one in a while. But if the goal is to thrive, ongoing property operations performance monitoring is an essential part of any building’s health plan.
Go beyond simple “work order automation” and view real-time performance data in a building, or across a portfolio, with the web and mobile Building Engines Property Management Software platform.
Our platform empowers property operations teams to monitor tenant service delivery, including tenant satisfaction, throughout the life of a work order and beyond.