In all sectors of the economy, organisations need to not only think about the quality of the service they provide, but also the quality of how they provide that service. This has a decisive impact on the impression a business leaves on its customers, and with that, customer retention and acquisition. Ultimately, a business must deliver service excellence, that is, an exceptional customer experience that meets (and sometimes exceeds) customers’ expectations.
By Farhan Malik, CEO, Manor Interiors
This is particularly true of the hospitality sector – an industry that newer sectors such as Build to Rent can learn from. In this sector, how the customer receives the service is just as important as the service they’re receiving. If a customer stays in a hotel, the room is only one half of the experience – the other half is the service customers receive during their stay. Both need to be excellent for the business to fulfil its duty effectively and deliver customer satisfaction. Many businesses in the hospitality sector are focused on delivering customer excellence as an integral part of their business strategy, so that they can successfully meet the customers’ needs and desires.
This same ethos should be reflected across the Build to Rent sector. Residents are not just paying to rent a property – they’re also paying for the service they receive as part of the Build to Rent offering. Therefore, service excellence is key to ensuring a Build to Rent operator’s success, and this approach is championed by leading single-family Build to Rent operator, Placefirst.
“Delivering exceptional customer service to our residents is at the heart of the Placefirst business model. Not only is it essential to the modern rental market, but it is also a level of service that residents should expect, and creates a stress-free environment where families can rent for the long term and put down roots in our neighbourhoods.
“Today, we find that modern renters want high-quality, energy-efficient homes in safe and well-maintained neighbourhoods, with communal green spaces and a real sense of place. Residents want to know that they can stay for the long term and rely on security of tenure. This is something that institutional single-family rental providers like Placefirst can offer, as all our homes are built specifically for long term private rental. Our award-winning resident services team are on site at every Placefirst neighbourhood, walking the grounds, building relationships with residents and making sure their time with us runs smoothly. It is this approach which makes single-family Build to Rent neighbourhoods highly desirable for those who choose or are reliant on the private rented sector.”David Mawson, Chief Executive Officer, Placefirst
So, what can the Build to Rent sector learn from the hospitality industry in terms of delivering service excellence?
Setting goals is the first step to delivering service excellence
A long-term strategy needs to be put in place so that a company is aware of the areas and ways in which it needs to deliver service excellence – and have a plan in place for how it is going to deliver it. The focus of this strategy should be clearly defined goals that are realistic and aligned with business objectives.
To set these goals, businesses in the hospitality industry identify what challenges they are facing in terms of delivering service excellence, and through this they identify areas for improvement. Undertaking in-depth research to understand how the company is currently performing its customer service offering enables hospitality organisations to ensure that their goals are accurate. The goals are then communicated clearly to staff, ensuring they know how they are expected to fulfil them.
Listening to customers is key to meeting goals
A business’s goals should all point towards one overarching ethos: a drive to always improve the service it offers. In effectively setting goals and ensuring that they’re met, a business needs to know what its customers are saying about the service it provides. Through resident engagement, collecting and reviewing customer feedback, a business can identify ways in which it effectively delivers customer excellence, and areas in which service excellence is lacking. That’s why hospitality businesses have systems through which customers can leave both in-person and online feedback. This feedback is reviewed, acted on, and used to adapt to the advantage of future customers – enhancing the quality of the service delivered.
“Hospitality professionals identify their customers and analyse their requirements, to ensure we tailor our service standards to our customers. We measure every cost to drive profitability and have one clear strategy to drive customer satisfaction and experience, which then drives rates and the ultimate profitability of the development.
“In our view, there are too few professional hospitality companies in the Build to Rent sector.”John Angus, Managing Director, Switch Hospitality Management
Customer convenience should be considered in all business operations
Maintaining a customer-first approach in all areas of the business will help to ensure that customer convenience is embedded in company culture, which is vital to delivering service excellence. For example, in terms of communications, many hospitality businesses offer customers multiple communication options through which they can reach out to the company with enquiries, questions and complaints. This enables the customer to choose the method of communication that is most convenient to them.
A fast, seamless process for resolving potential problems customers may face – for example, a centralised system for maintenance issues – is a key customer service feature in many hospitality businesses. In terms of convenience, the small details can make a big difference to the quality of service the company delivers.
“As a hospitality operator I whole heartedly agree with Farhan’s views; tenants are customers who require excellent service, and hospitality providers give excellent service to thousands of customers every day. Switch are vastly experienced in providing excellent customer service and we were delighted when those customers voted our Park Regis Hotel in Birmingham as the Best UK Hotel. When we take our service levels, trained teams, and drive to excellence to the Build to Rent sector, we are seeing amazing results with enhanced customer service and increased rental yields.”John Angus, Managing Director, Switch Hospitality Management
In a fast-evolving and growing sector, Build to Rent operators can take learnings from the hospitality sector’s experience delivering customer excellence, and implement them in their business processes, ultimately leading to customer satisfaction, a strong reputation, and business growth.