By itself, workflows (or lack thereof) won’t really make or break your organization. You can probably even maintain the status quo without them. But they are also the easiest, most tactical thing you can implement in a relatively short timeframe to bring about a big change in the quality of your tenant service delivery program and your team’s efficiency.
Property management teams are increasingly asked by owners and investors to prove performance in all areas of their business with real-time data. The only way to do this is with clearly defined workflows in place, and tools to help you collect data and generate reports that deliver results. Add the ability to measure and compare these results against performance benchmarks, and you now have something that can transform your service delivery results.
Property management teams that adopt a data-driven approach to tenant service, with a clearly defined workflow process at its core, have clear visibility into service metrics. This insight helps to deliver consistent results they can prove, differentiates them competitively, and provides an identifiable operating brand in their markets.
Great service doesn’t happen by accident.
Most property management teams have had some type of tenant service request workflow process in place for years. It may be loosely defined and just something their staffs know how to do, or they may actually have a written definition in place. Some may even utilize technology to execute the process.
The problem is that change is hard. And the old adage “if it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it” often represents the path of least resistance. As a result, most property management teams never scrutinize their workflow process for areas of improvement. And because there is very little operational standardization in commercial real estate portfolios, and even less so in properties managed by third parties, there often isn’t enough consideration given to the impact that process changes can make.
After more than 12 years of working with thousands of property teams, observing processes and studying the best practice providers in the CRE industry, we have noticed some common reasons firms are reluctant to address and implement tenant service request workflow changes.
1. People are resistant to change.
It’s Newton’s first law: an object in motion stays in motion. Change is hard! Additionally, there are often people who are integral parts of an inefficient process and are concerned that if the process and their role changes, they may lose some of their internal value. The thought process shift needed here is to refocus those people on the higher value activities they could undertake when freed from mundane tasks.
2. “We’re too busy!”
Change takes time, and given all the things that property management teams have to deal with on a daily basis, there has to be solid justification for devoting energy and effort to a project. We suggest that there may be no more important effort than this one. In addition to delivering improved service, firms that implement defined workflow processes often realize increased time savings for their teams as well as another step in the transition from reactionary to proactive management.
3. Management practices are decentralized.
It is common, particularly for 3rd party management firms, to allow for operational autonomy at the property level. The problem with this approach is that it eliminates the possibility of a consistent service program that you can build a brand identity around (no standard terminology, reporting, benchmarks for performance comparison, etc.).
4. No one “owns it.”
Every major process needs an owner.
Someone whose job it is to make sure that steps are clearly defined, roles are explained, supporting tools are in place, and results are reported on. We have seen this role successfully filled by tenant coordinators, administrators, project managers and chief engineers. An additional benefit is that “ownership” also helps address objection #1.
5. The tools are not in place to execute an optimal workflow.
Incredible improvements are possible today with the technology available through mobile tools (smartphones, tablets, etc.), improved networks, and property management systems. While service improvements can certainly be made without the use of those tools, it is difficult to realize optimal efficiency and performance without them and impossible to collect the data needed for true operational insight.
Change can be scary. Not changing can be even scarier. In order to attract and retain tenants in the fiercely competitive CRE market, property owners and managers need to stay relevant and continuously improve their operations. They need to take a hard look at the one thing they have complete control over: tenant service request workflow (the lifeblood of responsiveness). Performance improvement starts with critical self-analysis.