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May 22, 2015

By Dan Pufunt, President of U.S. Property Management for JLL

Peter Merrett, Head of Customer Experience for JLL Australia, shared with me seven of his favorite simple tips for increasing customer satisfaction at the office buildings we manage.

1. Treat customers like guests at a top-quality hotel
“This approach entails an important change in mindset, from considering ‘tenants,’ as they are commonly known across the industry, to thinking of them as our customers or guests, just as they would be in a top-quality hotel,” Merrett explained. “So rather than only running a property management program based on the terms and conditions of the contract or lease, let’s also think of how we can embrace the aims and requirements of our customers. The main difference I see between a top-class hotel and a top-class office building is that one has beds and the other has desks.”

Merrett pioneered this unique “office-hotel” customer service concept while managing London’s iconic Tower 42 for eight years. Tower 42 became the first European property to receive the prestigious BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) International Office Building of the Year Award in 2008 and raised the bar for office management worldwide.

2. Greet your customers by name at every chance during their working day
“The experience starts from the moment our customers arrive at work in the morning. So that means no more grumpy security guards! Instead, imagine if customers were warmly greeted with a friendly and personal ‘good morning’ as soon as they entered the building,” Merrett described. “There is nothing new here, but simple gestures such as eye contact, a smile or a warm greeting cost absolutely nothing and provide a pleasant start to a customer’s day.”

He continued, A visitor to our largest premium office estate in Sydney recently shared his experience with us. The property has three towers, with approximately 9,500 customers and guests:
Arriving (nervous) for an interview, Ward the Concierge confirmed that I was in Tower 1 and directed me to the appropriate reception area. He gave me a bottle of water and advised me where the bathrooms were located. All of this without my asking. He pre-empted my needs and displayed the most wonderful and welcoming customer service. He left a lasting impression as someone who demonstrates first-class service. Bravo! He is truly an asset to your team.

3. Don’t forget to have plenty of fun!
“We’re seeing a significant shift in property management, from a focus on the hard services to a new emphasis on customer service. The focus is now, more than ever, all about making the lives of our customers easier, more convenient and ultimately, more enjoyable,” Merrett said.

Merrett firmly believes in the value of fun and thinks it’s important to provide the occasional treat “just because.” On one occasion, Merrett and his team set up a chocolate fountain during the evening hours in the main foyer of one of their buildings. “By mid-morning the fountain was absolutely mobbed. People loved it. It cheered them up and got everybody chatting together,” he recalled. “There’s real value in that.”

Another time, Merrett’s team delivered warm bags of popcorn to customers at their desks. “It costs next to nothing to do things like this, but the enjoyment it provides benefits our customers and guests. Small things like this contribute to employee satisfaction, which in turn assists talent retention and recruitment.”

Other ideas include carving pumpkins on Halloween, handing out fresh apples as a surprise one morning or even hosting a free yoga class or dance lesson on the premises.

“To nurture the quality of your ongoing customer service program, the most important thing to do – as challenging as this may sound – is to regularly stop! Take time out of your day to be creative, to think, to spend some time praising and congratulating your team. Before you know it, this will become a normal part of your routine, and the rewards will be overwhelmingly positive.”

4. Be creative and anticipate at every chance
What do you do if you get to a hotel and realize you forgot your toothbrush? You most likely call the front desk, and they’ll have one delivered to your room. According to Merrett, customers are always pleasantly surprised when we anticipate their needs with things like this at the office too. “Often they react as if we have pulled a rabbit out of a hat; they’re delighted!”

Stowing some extra umbrellas, phone chargers, sewing kits, etc. behind the front desk will always be appreciated.

5. Implement an employee recognition program to motivate your team to go above and beyond
Merrett is a champion of The WOW! Awards scheme, which celebrates individuals who go the extra mile to provide top-notch customer service every day. He advertises the program to all building customers and encourages them to submit nominations when they see members of the Property Management team going above and beyond the call of duty to satisfy their customers.

Since implementing the program in 2013, the Property and Asset Management Team in Australia has received almost 1,700 nominations from their customers.

“One thing we have found is just how much our customers enjoy sharing their positive feedback. All we have to do is make it easy for them! The WOW! Awards is one of the best things we have introduced into our customer service program. It helps us to make sure every employee not only feels special and engaged, but most importantly really appreciated.”

6. Embrace third-party providers as your own team
Taking the time to connect with our third-party service providers is very important. This way, when a building customer alerts the assistant general manager that the bathroom is out of toilet paper, the AGM doesn’t just explain that that isn’t his job; instead, he takes responsibility for contacting the right person to promptly solve the problem.

“A range of contractors can still be used,” said Merrett, “But when everyone works as one team instead of in fragmented groups, a far superior and well-organized customer experience can be expected.”

7. Offer simple services that save time
By implementing relatively low-cost programs at your building, you add significant value to your customers. Programs can include providing manicures in the office, delivering dry cleaning, shining shoes or even providing on-site meditation sessions.

“People spend so much time in their office and are actively looking for more from their workplace,” explained Merrett. “They want help to do all the things they don’t have time for anymore, like having their shirts laundered or securing tickets to the weekend game. It’s down to us to try anticipate the needs of our guests, in making the office a better place to be.”

Merrett continued, “The extras we can offer our guests during the work week save them time on the weekend. If you can get a manicure during a conference call, have your tickets to Sunday’s football game secured or your dry cleaning delivered to your desk, it spares you time on a Saturday morning or after work.”

So what does all of this mean? In the end, our primary goal as property managers is to keep our tenants–sorry, customers–happy! Happy customers are increasingly likely to renew their leases and/or recommend a building and its services, which in turn drives asset value for building owners and investors.

“It’s very difficult to put a dollar value on all of this,” Merrett acknowledged, “but based on the feedback we get, I know it can translate into a company’s location decisions. For property owners, that means a renewed lease or a new company moving in.”

For years, both corporate decision makers and property investors have been brushing customer service to the side, writing it off as unimportant fluffy stuff, but great customer service is now more than ever the expectation and an important point of difference for property management providers. So do your part by implementing some of these tips at your property. Don’t wait; start today! Take the lead on increasing the service we deliver to our customers every day.

Learn more about JLL’s Property Management services

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