The closed club of real estate is dismantling and that puts property management and customer experience front and centre.
PROPERTY management and customer experience will be key to the future value of real estate, said Professor Yolande Barnes, chair of UCL’s Bartlett Real Estate Institute, at a British Property Federation webinar focusing on tackling the property industry’s skills gap.
“The things that make real estate valuable are the people and what they do in the space.”
“There was a weird time in the 20thCentury when money was made through inflation and the value-adders were those who could trade property at rising prices.
“However, the closed club of big-building real estate is dismantling. Upward-only rent reviews won’t be what creates value in the future, it will be the long-term performance and management of the building.
“It’s about the income which can be generated from the people in the building and that puts property management and customer experience front and centre.”
However, according to a report for the British Council for Offices, written and researched by customer experience consultants RealService, the industry is not blessed with a customer-centric culture and
– those who have been employed in customer-facing roles have come largely from outside the sector.
“We found there is nothing in the major real estate universities or in the APC process which emphasises the importance of customer experience” said Howard Morgan, the founder of RealService and one of the authors of the BCO report. “People are graduating without an understanding of who their customers are.”
In an effort to transform real estate and provide training to ambitious young property professionals, BREI has teamed up with Experience Makers to launch an executive short course – CX in Real Estate: Future Leaders Programme.
“Customer experience is not just about making sure there’s a smile at the front desk” said Harriet Jones, Experience Makers’ Producer,
“CX is about understanding human need, aligning your goals with your customers, building relationships and crucially, demonstrating the value this adds.”
It is beginning to happen, and Experience Makers members can vouch for that, but it’s not happening quickly.
“The Future Leaders Programme is calling for pioneers to come and challenge the system, change the language and processes of real estate.”
Other areas covered by the panel included the lack of diversity in the industry and discussion around how young people from different backgrounds could be attracted into property management.
James Ainsworth, head of real estate at PwC, said despite the fact his degree in criminology covered many of the facets of property management – law, for example – he found it difficult to get into property management.
Now he’s here, he wants to be treated like a partner by PwC landlords.
“We are looking to be listened to, we want our thoughts on innovation or technology to be heard,” he said. “There’s a need for people with multi-faceted skills and a need for more customer-facing individuals, which we are increasingly seeing at the coalface.
“But the whole relationship revolves around the lease and landlord and tenant law is enshrined as the basis of the industry. Outside that we must create minimum service standards, perhaps in voluntary documents which could help come up with innovative ways to cover things like sustainability.”
Transport for London are placing a major emphasis on their property managers being approachable, good communicators and having an interest in individual customers.
Sovina Vernon-White, principal property surveyor at TfL, said: “The current APC system does not equip them with the right skills and there’s just this assumption that they will be picked up along the way.
“I say to our property managers that they should be nosy, be inquisitive and speak to the tenants so they have an understanding of their business.”
“We need to understand why change is happening so slowly. What’s the reason for the resistance? Is it cost? Is it mindset? There seems to be little value put in the soft skills and rent reviews certainly require soft skills.
“ RICS doesn’t impose change to the system, it relies on encouragement from members so it’s going to have to be driven by the industry.”
The CX in Real Estate: Future Leaders Programme aims to address many of these shortcomings and will be run over eight sessions, starting on May 6.
Core to the course are modules that follow a best practice framework for defining, delivering and evaluating Customer Experience strategy in real estate.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Experience Makers are the real estate industry champion for customer experience education and research.