This article was published in part by Bisnow UK
One of this generation’s most impactful trends has been the meteoric adoption of coworking. According to a report by Statista, there was just 3 coworking spaces worldwide in 2005. Fast forward to 2017, and there are over 13,800.
As spaces sprouted globally, competition also exponentially increased. To the benefit of consumers, this brought about the rapid advancement of office design - particularly, flexible, community-based workspaces - a trend that has spilled over and influenced the corporate world.
Gone are the dull boxes divided into cubicles. In are standup desks, flexible spaces, open environments, not to mention table tennis, beer taps, and nap pods. Companies today encourage sociability and a full immersion into the surrounding environment, instead of shunning it. In fact, in a 2016 survey by Cort, 81% of companies rated workplace environment as a very important factor for attracting top talent.
Yearly lists, such as,The Sunday Times’ Top Companies to Work illustrate the intense competition between today’s top firms. The competition is warranted - a 2016 study by Fidelity found that millennials (aged 25 to 35) would take an average pay cut of £4,400 to transfer to another company with a better culture.
That’s right - work environment now trumps salary brackets for staff retention.
In recent years, forward thinking property owners and managers in Australia, have been leveraging the benefits of community, culture and an “enhanced work environment” in their office buildings. Grouped under the term “customer experience,” it has evolved to become the latest weapon aimed to increase lease renewal and desirability.
By investing in key features ranked most important to employees - such as convenience, a sense of community, health and wellness, sustainability, communication, and more - these owners aim to provide attractive incentives for the companies employing them who are seeking a new home.
Today, customer experience is a key differentiator for landlords in the Australian market. The market sentiment in Australia has very much evolved to that of who can provide the correct environment and community is at a strong advantage in the competitive marketplace. Compared to Australia, this movement is at its infancy in the United States and is just picking up steam in the UK.
As it stands, UK property groups have a real window of opportunity to get ahead of their competition by adopting a customer experience (“CX”) strategy.
The key tool at the centre of any CX strategy for a commercial building, is a digital tenant engagement app or “tenant portal”.
Portals can be thought of as a digital concierge for an office tower or commercial estate that provides access to a suite of services, including news, events, space bookings, deals, online shopping, health and wellness, and more, exclusive to occupants.
Most importantly, Portals also act as an exclusive LinkedIn for the building, connecting all occupants to one platform, giving them ways to engage with each other and fostering a community.
Equiem pioneered this technology, launching our first tenant portal for a commercial building in 2012 at Rialto, a 904,200 sqf premium office tower in Melbourne. Since then, Equiem has been launched into 1 in 3 large Australian office buildings, covering over 55M sq ft of premium real estate. The platform has been adopted by 10 of Australia’s largest commercial landlords and has accrued over 80,000 active users. With properties and team members now also in the UK and US, building owners and managers around the world are experiencing how tenant portals add enormous value to their assets
Why have the building owners and property managers adopted the technology so rapidly? In this article, we’ll explore 7 key benefits of a tenant portal for commercial property managers. They are:
Up to 90% of a building’s entire population sign up to their Equiem Portal. This gives building owners and managers more access than ever before to the entire occupant base.
Traditionally, property management teams communicate and engage with their occupants via a tenant representative or liaison. By limiting themselves to just a few key points of contact, they lose direct interaction and risk personal preference and opinion playing into how communications are conveyed to the general building population.
By carefully managing the Portal database, property managers can now send a direct message to the vast majority of their building occupants by publishing a newsfeed article, sending out a building notification or via regular newsletter updates. In a recent building survey completed by over 930 of its occupants, 65% of respondents said that they now received information about their building via the email newsletters, with 47% stating that they now also consumed information directly from their building Portal.
By accessing their building occupant’s inboxes and homepages directly, the Equiem Portal has fundamentally changed how a management team communicates with its tenants.
Besides brief, polite conversation in the elevator, companies coexisting within a large building rarely have any interaction with each other. Given the rise of coworking and the the growing demand for an in-depth feeling of community, building managers are searching for a platform that facilitates collaboration and communication between tenants.
“You can push out a post saying, ‘I need a solicitor to help me with XYZ task,’ and have someone, somewhere in the building comment with a response in seconds,” Equiem CEO Gabrielle McMillan says. “With our platform, everyone in the building has access to the perks, events and sense of community you get from a co-working space.”
Software developers can seek out the design startup down the hall, to signal boost their new dating app. A small company wanting to throw product launch can post an event on the portal and promote it to others in the building.
By building links and networks between the co-inhabitants of the building, occupants become more loyal to their community and the business opportunities it provides them.
Competition between commercial buildings or estates, particularly those approaching renovation and redevelopment is undeniably fierce, with many building owners applying poorly executed quick fixes and band-aid approaches to retaining tenants.
Capital investment into the facilities of the building and its base building amenities (lobby, facade, elevators, change rooms and car parks) are crucial to the longevity of the asset, but need appropriate planning and future design thinking; which takes time.
An Equiem Portal can be launched within a 6 week period from sign date, to people on the ground. This is in direct contrast to a building regeneration which could be upwards of an 18 - 24 month period.
By implementing a technology and engagement strategy into the building, property managers are providing a valuable 21st-century upgrade to their tenants, without rushing physical improvements.
Equiem’s platform boosts engagement across a number of ageing premium sites, bringing tenants back into common areas and rebuilding the sense of community within the building while delivering invaluable data critical to making the right decisions prior to redevelopment.
With the potential to incentivise large-scale surveys, collect daily polling data, track usage and ask for individual opinions, property managers through a portal have the ability to predict trends and react to changes within their asset.
By accessing a more complete, long-term database of client testimony property managers are more empowered than ever before. Combined with built-in reporting and analytics infrastructure, property owners can run reports and analyze their occupants' activity from mobile and smart devices in real time.
“The key is that the platform must offer genuine value to occupants," Equiem’s Head of Marketing, David Chiapoco said. "It needs to offer relevant, convenient, useful content and services. Because there’s a genuine value, occupants register in droves and engage with the platform daily. That’s when you can start to leverage the Portal’s analytics to better understand occupant behaviours and needs. It becomes Google Analytics for your building.”
Across the Equiem portfolio, actionable data has been collected and distributed, resulting in real changes to the way their buildings are managed and which projects are prioritised.
The end result? Building occupants are more satisfied with their workplace, prompting lease renewals and higher occupancy rates.
Tenant portals also help connect occupants to all the local amenities around a building, such as restaurants, retail, gyms, yoga studios, dry cleaners and newsstands.
"Our platform lets you create a workplace experience packed with valuable services that make people love the space they’re in," McMillan said. “A space they are proud to be part of.”
With more buildings investing in, and improving their auxiliary amenities; such as change rooms, bike storage facilities, break-out spaces and outdoor recreational areas, maximising the ROI for these items is crucial for the building’s ongoing success.
By leveraging the building’s portal to promote and demonstrate these facilities, property managers are seeing increased usage month on month for these facilities, with many reaching close to capacity. One of Equiem’s client buildings facilitates its locker subscriptions via their Portal and has been able to achieve 84% utilisation.
In addition, following a major campaign on the building’s portal, use of the bike storage facilities climbed by over 12% in just one month. The promotion also caused a 13% gain in use of the male change facilities and an impressive 20% increase to use of the female change facilities.
“Every building has a fixed square footage. By unlocking additional value within the existing space, property managers can generate more pounds per square foot - this is exactly what the Portal was designed to do.” McMillan said.
Leasing agents play a crucial role in filling vacant space within a building and curating the right tenants for a property. The Equiem Portal offers potential tenants a window into the community, prior to moving in. With many properties providing temporary access to both leasing agents and company decision makers, these individuals can now accurately experience the building’s engagement strategy.
Portals can be used to streamline the tenant onboarding experience by providing access to unlimited information, services and even the existing tenants. By booking tours of the building’s facilities and chatting online with the onsite concierge team, companies become part of the community before they even arrive.
One major Australian financial advisory firm recently moved their head office into a building with a flourishing tenant portal. Within just one week of being onsite, over 90% of employees had signed up to the Portal making the move in experience much easier and more enjoyable. Their team are now regular users and have accessed hundreds of different services via the Portal.
Bringing tenants and building occupants together around a common project or cause helps to build a sense of community and encourages an open dialogue with their property managers.
At Melbourne’s Rialto, the entire community were inspired and empowered to help raise the funds desperately needed to support one of its wheelchair bound members. Equiem’s Community Manager, placed at Rialto, facilitated a fundraiser via the building’s portal, and managed to raise £11,500 needed for a new wheelchair in just two weeks.
These incredible achievements were made possible by the passionate and active occupants of the sites. With over 90% of Rialto’s occupants are connected to its Portal, every communication connected with almost the entire building directly. Compared with traditional communication methods, such as snail mail, elevator screens and lobby posters, this provided a neater, more efficient and undeniably more effective means of communication.
With community focused placemaking and co-working office design still bringing the largest waves to commercial real estate in a generation, it’s critical that building owners and managers embrace technology to maximise their building’s potential. As tenant portals continue to unlock value and deliver outstanding value to their customers, UK and US property owners are being presented with an enormous opportunity to adopt this proven strategy and replicate the success already seen within the Australian Market.
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