Driving Customer Experience in Real Estate – Actionable Learnings from RExperience

9 minutes read

Customer experience is the most important aspect of any successful business – and real estate is no exception to that. Today's property industry is on a transformational journey validating this notion, embracing the centralization of customer experience in the entire value chain. The industry is adopting a mindset where space is a tech-enabled, community-oriented, multi-purposed hospitality service, and its users are customers rather than tenants or occupiers.  

This journey is full of dilemmas and pitfalls, yet holds huge potential and success in creating the most customized and resonating customer experience for each asset class, building, landlord and customer; carrying the industry to the desired level of progressiveness that it has longed for. 

Knowing where to start and what solid stones to set direction to in this journey is a challenge that Spaceflow’s annual RExperience event tackled, bringing actionable insights and learnings from 15 professionals driving customer experience in European residential and commercial real estate. 

Let's dive in! 

01 Understanding Your Customers Well 

First and foremost, the holistic experience we build through a physical product as real estate has a lot to do with understanding your customers. 

“Implementing key customer experience strategies starts with knowing your customers extremely well,” said Dragana Marina from CBRE. This happens by constantly collecting customer data via surveys and direct communication, being present in communication platforms that resonate with the specific customer groups to understand and act upon the general behavior that they show within the building.

For example, young residents living in student accommodations care the most about affordability and community. “We increased the flexibility in spaces by creating double and triple rooms to offer higher affordability for them. To drive organic traffic for our sales, we leveraged our presence on TikTok, the platform that students use more than they use Google these days,” says Dimitri Huygen from Xior Student Housing. 

On the other hand, customers in the commercial properties are willing to pay higher rents for workplaces with sustainability certifications and great space design. Even on the same site, the ways that people utilize the building functions will vary. 

At the same time, these implications will change depending on where the asset is located, and the entire value proposition that it has to offer. Therefore, “...customer experience management is something that needs to be customized – per building, per portfolio, and per customer group,” wraps up Lukas Balik from Spaceflow. 

02 Understanding How to Elevate Customer Experience in Real Estate 

Customer experience is all about people, and how we make services as hassle-free, engaging, enjoyable, and accessible as possible for them. It has a lot to do with: 

1. The threshold impression – Be it an office, apartment, or hotel building, the first engagement sets the dynamics for all future encounters. What do people experience when they enter a building? What do they see, hear, smell?

Learning: Having a signature scent, color, light structure of the building. 

Nobody goes to a bad restaurant or hotel twice. It is important to make the threshold experience so satisfactory that people keep coming back.
Sarah-Jane Osborne Head of Workplace UK and Europe, Avison Young

2.  Amenitization – Offering in-demand functionalities is vital in attracting people. Are there amenities and services within or nearby the property that solve key needs, or even create desires to keep people coming back? 

Learning: Introducing a community room, dry cleaning service, parcel pick-up room, and other functional benefits in the building, or offering perks and incentives from nearby service providers.

3.  Diversification – People working or living in the same building have diverse needs and expectations from the building. Is the space allocation and design diverse enough to address varying customer preferences? 

“In an office space, placing accounting and sales in the same open space is a very wrong idea. One needs focus and clarity, while the other gets empowered by chaos and collaboration. The space they need has to align with the work they do,” adds Dr. Andreas Muschter from EDGE. 

Learning: Combining individual workstations vs. collaboration-oriented spaces.

 4 Experiential consumerization – Today, people pay for values and experiences. What extra purposes is the space being used for, in addition to its workplace and/or accommodation functions? Are those purposes in line with the values of customers using the space? 

Learning: Opening low-demand common areas for purposeful public use (conferences, seminars, events, etc.) 

 5.  Operational optimization – Real estate is a people business, and it is always great to have the key building personas like the property manager, receptionist and others on site to bring the most personalized approach to customer experience. However, technology brings a huge impact on optimizing their day-to-day operations, so that they actually have time and resources to attend to customer demands and needs. 

“People need support when it comes to living in a more innovative, sustainable way – both physical and technology-oriented scaffolders. If you want them to be more sustainable, educate them and provide bins that are already set for separating waste. If you want them to participate in saving energies, provide them with the data on how much they are spending, and create a sense of gamification to save more on their bills. Involve them into the optimization process,” suggests George Konstantakopoulos from CERT Property. 

Learning: Introducing digital parcel services, keyless access, a tenant app and other technologies to streamline customer-facing operations. 

 6.  Non-hierarchical change management – The industry is changing at a rapid pace. Managing this continuous change should be done by reaching beyond the top management, and including the hands-on property staff that actually implements the change, as well as the customers themselves. 

“Culture is one of the biggest challenges in the industry, and change is fundamentally important to create the most inclusive and long-lasting customer experience strategies in real estate,” concludes James Dearsley.  

Learning: Letting property managers have a say in the sustainability actions to be implemented, rather than forcing decisions on them that were made without their insights on how customers approach sustainability. 

In a nutshell, it is vital to address the whole customer journey, innovation and sustainability to leverage the full potential of buildings, and create the best experiences in them. 

Watch the event recording to dive further into the learnings, insights, and case studies shared by NREP, Orange Capital Partners, CA Immo, and more. 

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21. June 2023
9 minutes read


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