We all know that the property industry needs to harness the power of technology to evolve, but what does it mean for the customer?
This was the focus of the Experience Makers Proptech Masterclass which took place last week, in collaboration with founder partners Equiem. For a subject so vast and rapidly moving as proptech, it felt good to focus at customer level. The masterclass reminded us that getting to know your customer is the first step in any innovation process and that positive customer outcomes are at the heart of the business case for investing in technology.
Go beyond standard cost benefit: Our first speaker was Julie Alexander, Director of Technology & Innovation at Places for People, one of the largest property management, development, regeneration and leisure companies in the UK. She put investing in tech in context and looked at the business case behind it. Going beyond standard cost benefit assessment, Places for People developed a “techno-economic” model. This looks at over 350 inputs to track direct and indirect benefits. Drawing on a number of examples, Julie emphasized the need to take the long view and consider the ripple effect of initiatives implemented.
Trial it, they might like it! We heard about housing pressure posed by an ageing population and the increased expectation on landlords to fill the gap. To help people live independently in their homes for longer, Places for People trialled a voice technology support system in homes. Despite initial apprehension about using technology, in this case Alexa, many participants adopted the tech permanently after the trial. It began with understanding residents needs and using the tech to address them. The success of the project was measured in socio-economic terms, with a 34% increase in residents feeling more socially connected and a 40% increase in group activity amongst them. This also achieved a cost neutral solution with happier, healthier customers through savings in services.
Convenience is still king, currently... Moving on from residential to the office sector, Paul Unger, founder of digital publication PlaceTech, moderated a panel of experts on the future of the workplace. Competitive job markets, new ways of working and mixed functions means ‘the office is more important than ever’ says Sander Schutte CEO of Mapiq. The team at Mapiq consists of Behaviour Psychologists and Customer Success Managers as well as developers, engineers and architects. Their ambition is to create smart offices where employees actually want to be. Gabby MacMillan, CEO at Equiem, a tenant platform with over 137,000 users tapping into it, knows a lot about the actions and desires of workers. She says friction free convenience is still the number one driver. ‘Don’t talk to me about meditation classes if the toilets are constantly blocked!’. We were also joined by Emilio Facciolo, COO, Gyana which uses data and AI to track how people use a space. He spoke in terms of convenience and efficiency to maximise productivity.
'Space as a Service 2.0' Getting the basics right may still be a concern for some landlords and managers, but as Darryl Colthrust, former Director of Innovation at Palmer Capital, points out, today’s wow factor is tomorrow’s norm. ‘Space as a service’ is in it’s infancy and will continue to evolve to encompass a huge variety of factors. Be aware of outside influencers and recognise that we are living in an age where people feel empowered. When asked about the future of the workplace, all agreed that it would continue to be customer lead, with more flexible, networked and targeted offers.
Translators not techno-boffs: Technology will be fundamental in creating and managing this kind of environment. The panel went on to discuss however, that this doesn’t mean every property professional needs to be a techno-boff. Instead, we need translators - people or service providers who can respond to a human problem. Be open and work with property companies to make the tech come alive. Our final speaker, Araceli Caramago does just that. Founder of The Centric Lab, her company uses neuroscience and urban data to help organisations create healthy and resilient environments.
It's all about human response: Also concerned with the question of productivity, The Centric Lab breaks it down into neurological effects and capabilities. These include Cognitive Flexibility - the ability to quickly transition from thought to thought; Theory of Mind, essentially empathy and understanding others, and Sustained Attention - how well you can concentrate. All these are affected by stressors in our environments which trigger a biological response from the brain and body.
Using a ‘stress score’, The Centric Lab traces stress factors in the environment, from light and noise pollution, to the toxicity of paint and makes recommendations to improve the workplace (quick answer - plants!). Fundamental to the value revealed by the tech, is human experience. As Caramago succinctly summarised - stress for the individual leads to fatigue, which dulls human performance, which effects economic growth.
Align with investors that get it: This is language that investors should understand. It’s not always easy for landlords or managers to justify the cost of investing in technological products or services that improve CX. Again, we need translators. Colthrust spoke about the importance of aligning with investors who get it. To return to the message at the start of our masterclass systematically linking the human cost to the economic cost will continue to be an increasingly important step to champion CX in the property industry.
Experience Makers knows that there is a growing demand for the ability to prove ROI on customer experience. This is a wide area with many related fields. We will shortly be launching a programme of research activities that brings expertise and knowledge across sectors and specialisms to scope the boundaries of this measure.