We live in the era of creating experiences.
An elevated focus on customer experience and seamless customer service are the driving forces for all types of businesses today – from education to healthcare, or from gastro to real estate. Addressing the demands of the era and people living in it is now a must, says Lukas Balik, CEO of the digital tenant experience solution Spaceflow.
We interview Lukas, where he addresses the why, when and how behind the tenant experience.
Why do you think setting a tenant experience strategy has transformed from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘need-to-have’ for Build to Rent operators?
All property owners and operators should remember that we spend almost 90% of our lives in buildings. We can turn it into a time well-spent by placing customer satisfaction at the centre of the business, and taking it as a holistic journey. We can add value to it day by day with initiatives that make tenants’ lives easier and more enjoyable while also addressing all the letters of ESG.
The same applies to Build to Rent operators as to all operators in other real estate segments. Observing the speedy growth of Build to Rent competition, standing out among others and making a change will be possible with a strong tenant satisfaction strategy. We see this transformation happening organically – and we help operators achieve this in an easier way with technology.
Why is there a digital enabler for tenant satisfaction now? I believe that in the last few years, people’s expectations of services have changed. People expect to use technology in every aspect of their lives to deal with daily issues and tasks. Having a mobile app which acts as a remote control for the building seems a natural part of our lives now. Easy means satisfaction.
We are one of the first digital tenant experience solutions for the residential segment – that is why we have been able to observe these tendencies toward digital transformation and push the market to improve.
How can a tenant experience strategy help Build to Rent operators stay ahead of the competition?
The goal of a strong tenant experience strategy should be to make tenants happier and more satisfied – which translates into better means of tenant loyalty and keeping the space occupancy steady. Many property operators understand that it is not about simply providing tenants with space anymore, but providing services that contribute to tenants’ lives from many angles.
Setting a tenant experience game plan should help property owners look at their assets from an opportunistic perspective to unlock the potential of the space, and provide a valuable living experience to their residents. This way, tenants have easy access to all building services from day one, such as document management, issue reporting, room cleaning, amenity booking, building community activities and the list goes on. When these services are easily accessible with a digital layer, the road is an easier one to take.
What can landlords achieve with a digital tenant experience platform in addition to increased customer satisfaction?
On the other side of the coin, property managers are the ones who benefit from digital operations, too. Let’s take a complex building of a hundred residents. Some want to report that the elevator is broken. Some want to renew their contracts. Some want to attend the evening yoga class at the building. And some want to book the common room to host an event.
Imagine a hundred residents rushing to reception, or calling the property manager to solve these issues on a daily basis – and imagine that the residents could manage all these operations by themselves with their tenant app.
If all these operations are in one place, property managers can address these more effectively through the admin console of the app – and track the process of reported issues, and even collect feedback from tenants. Operators will simply have extra time to take care of tenants in a more meaningful way. This will help tenants feel heard, and their satisfaction will naturally increase.
What are the pitfalls that landlords fall into during the process of digital transformation? What steps should Build to Rent operators and technology providers follow to avoid these pitfalls?
In the beginning, property owners in both the commercial and residential spheres were resistant to transformation as they did not know where to start. Very often, they wanted to complete the entire digital transformation in one day, with one technology partner, with one solution that solves all problems.
The first step would be to understand that digital transformation gets easier and more effective with technology partners who can help real estate achieve their digitalisation goals as an end-to-end journey. That is why we have decided to partner with Hydda and be a part of a comprehensive yet simplified technology ecosystem.
With realistic expectations and a thorough grasp of the challenges to be addressed, budget, staffing, type and class of the buildings, choosing the right solution among the vast number of technology providers will not feel like an uphill battle.
I see tenant satisfaction as the planting the seeds phase – one of the easiest yet most rewarding areas to start with digital transformation. It works successfully in almost all segments of real estate, eliminates time-consuming tasks quickly, and helps build a community in the building that tenants care about. When the product’s user interface design is simple and easy to operate on, it immediately becomes more attractive, and onboarding the building to the platform gets easier too.
We should note that in this process, one common pitfall we observe is property owners’ decision to build their own tenant experience app. Unless you are a tech company with great engineers to create the app and deal with user feedback, security updates, issues and you also maintain a customer success team to support users; it will be extremely expensive and time-consuming to build the app. You will only shift away from your initial goal of offering a better customer experience, as your staff spends more time taking care of the in-house-built app.
As landlords test out communicating more with tenants, understanding their demands and solving their issues more effectively, organising community activities and seeing the impact of them with the help of the digital platform, they water the seeds. After this phase, they are ready to make more data-driven decisions because they know what works with their building and tenants and what doesn’t. This is the phase where they collect the fruits, and add additional tech-enabled services to their operations if needed, such as smart metering, keyless access, parcel tracking – you name it. Step by step, they can introduce more enablers that make sense to their unique tenant groups. This is how we see the tenant experience journey – a never-ending one, but always improving.
When it comes to the proptech’s – what needs more voice in the sector is that embarking on the digital transformation journey with your clients and genuinely growing and evolving with them pays off. This means being open to feedback, listening to your clients, designing the journey with them and addressing these with a dedicated team. This is how you can get everyone on board – from the landlord to the tenant, and in between, and join the harvesting with them.
What are your observations on the ongoing market expansion and trends of Build to Rent in the UK?
I believe that Build to Rent is an asset class that will only grow due to its flexible model. The whole world, just as the UK and Western Europe, is turning to flexibility as a go-to model. Our market research shows that there is a bigger tendency to rent rather than to buy. Build to Rent projects address the needs of young people who are, and will be, the dominators of the real estate market. This is one of the reasons why Build to Rent is an exciting market for us as a technology provider for tenant experience.
I see really exciting and unique brands around Build to Rent projects these days that resonate with a specific target group, offer an experience, and sustain the same brand identity and predictability in services in different locations. Our client Gravity is a great example. Gravity recently won the Coliving Operator of the Year award due to its strong focus on community and tenant satisfaction.