Five Features of Effective Tenant Surveys

tenant_survey

As part of our suite of Tenant Engagement Services, Eservus coordinates tenant satisfaction surveys on behalf of our property manager clients. If you’re already doing tenant satisfaction surveys then you know how important they are to your overall tenant service strategy. A well-designed tenant survey can help you identify issues that you and your property management team never knew about; they can also provide confirmation that your tenant service strategy is actually working!

While at Marathon and Cadillac Fairview – and now at Eservus – I’ve done a ton of tenant surveys, and I’ve learned a lot about what makes for an effective survey process. Based on my experience, here are five features of effective tenant surveys:

1. Start with a well-designed survey: This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many poorly designed surveys are out there. Make sure your survey includes questions that cover all aspects of building operations (security, life safety, elevators, lighting, cleaning, HVAC, parking, outdoor maintenance, environmental, building staff, building services). Make sure you use an unbiased scale; for example, if your survey offers as four possible answers “Poor,” “ Fair,” “Good” and “Excellent,” that’s biased to the positive, since three of the four options can be interpreted as positive. A better scale would be “Very unsatisfied,” “Unsatisfied,” “Neutral,” “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied.”

2. Be sure to measure the importance of building features. If you include a set of questions about how important HVAC, cleaning, security etc. are, you’ll be able to compare importance scores with satisfaction scores. The bigger the gap (i.e. low satisfaction, high importance), the more resources you should focus on addressing those areas. Bonus points if you can guess which building feature usually has the biggest gap between importance and satisfaction. (Hint:  it’s HVAC!)

3. Communicate the results of the survey back to the tenants: More often than not, tenant surveys are one-way communication, where the tenants answer the questions but they don’t find out what the results are … they’re left to wonder if you’re going to do anything with their feedback. Plan to deploy a communication strategy via your building newsletter or website that summarizes the highlights of the survey. Your tenants will thank you!

4. Commit to responding to issues raised by the survey: Like it or not, once you ask the tenants for their opinions, you’re going to raise their expectations that something is going to be done in response to their feedback. So make sure you prepare an action plan that responds to the concerns expressed by the tenants … and communicate it! A lot of issues that the tenants raise can be addressed simply with effective communication.

5. Conduct regular surveys and compare results: The only way you’ll know if your tenants’ satisfaction is improving is if you ask the same questions with the same scale 12 to 18 months later and compare the results. If you have an effective survey tool, communication plan and follow-up strategy, chances are you’ll see consistent improvement year after year.

So if you don’t have a tenant survey process in place, strongly consider launching one. Speaking from experience, I know that it’s one of the cornerstones of a successful tenant service strategy.

Kirk Layton is the president of Eservus, an online corporate concierge company servicing over 30 property management companies in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Boston.

Net Promoter Score Connects with Customers

Okay, so by now you know that I’m a big fan of measuring customer satisfaction. At Marathon, Cadillac Fairview and now at Eservus, collecting customer feedback was (and is) at the core of our service quality strategy. Conducting annual tenant surveys is great – property managers use the results of their surveys to respond to tenant issues and improve service delivery. But how do you collect feedback between those broad-based surveys? That’s where the Net Promoter Score comes in. 

The Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is a simple way to measure customer satisfaction by asking one question: How likely would you recommend [Company] to your friends and colleagues?” (For more information on the methodology behind NPS, click here.) As it turns out, there’s a strong correlation between high NPS scores and profitability. One prominent real estate company to make use of the Net Promoter Score is Colliers, which, according to their website, is “the only major commercial real estate firm in Canada that uses the Net Promoter Score Program … to systematically measure client satisfaction.” Colliers uses the NPS to measure clients’ satisfaction with their dealings with Colliers employees, and employees with the highest scores are acknowledged on the company’s website.

My company, Eservus, has been using the NPS for about a year now, and we find it to be a much more effective metric than our old six-question survey. We can now compare our scores to those of other companies to see how we rate. We set an official company objective to have a Net Promoter Score that exceeded Amazon’s, which, at 70, has the highest NPS of all e-commerce companies. What’s Eservus Net Promoter Score you ask? Seventy-six!      

So if you’re looking for a way to collect feedback from your tenants on an ongoing basis, take a look at the Net Promoter Score. Of course, focusing on other key metrics, such as occupancy and retention rates, will always be important. But knowing that your tenants would recommend you as a landlord … or not … can help guide your tenant service strategy and increase tenant retention, which, as we know, goes straight to the bottom line.

Five Features of Effective Tenant Surveys

In my previous blog post, I talked about the importance of conducting tenant satisfaction surveys in order to measure the success of your tenant service strategy. In this post I’m looking at tenant surveys in more detail.

If you’re already doing tenant satisfaction surveys then you know how important they are to your overall tenant service strategy. A well-designed tenant survey can help you identify issues that you and your property management team never knew about; they can also provide confirmation that your tenant service strategy is actually working!

While at Marathon and Cadillac Fairview – and now at Eservus – I’ve helped do a ton of tenant surveys, and I’ve learned a lot about what makes for an effective survey process. Based on my experience, here are five features of effective tenant surveys:

  1. Start with a well-designed survey: This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many poorly designed surveys are out there. Make sure your survey includes questions that cover all aspects of building operations (security, life safety, elevators, lighting, cleaning, HVAC, parking, outdoor maintenance, environmental, building staff, building services). Make sure you use an unbiased scale; for example, if your survey offers as four possible answers “Poor,” “ Fair,” “Good” and “Excellent,” that’s biased to the positive, since three of the four options can be interpreted as positive. A better scale would be “Very poor,” “Poor,” “Neutral,” “Good” and “Very good.”
  2. Be sure to measure the importance of building features. If you include a set of questions about how important HVAC, cleaning, security etc. are, you’ll be able to compare importance scores with satisfaction scores. The bigger the gap (i.e. low satisfaction, high importance), the more resources you should focus on addressing those areas. Bonus points if you can guess which building feature usually has the biggest gap between importance and satisfaction. (Hint:  it’s HVAC!)
  3. Communicate the results of the survey back to the tenants: More often than not, tenant surveys are one-way communication, where the tenants answer the questions but they don’t find out what the results are … they’re left to wonder if you’re going to do anything with their feedback. Plan to deploy a communication strategy via your building newsletter or website that summarizes the highlights of the survey. Your tenants will thank you!
  4. Commit to responding to issues raised by the survey: Like it or not, once you ask the tenants for their opinions, you’re going to raise their expectations that something is going to be done in response to their feedback. So make sure you prepare an action plan that responds to the concerns expressed by the tenants … and communicate it! A lot of issues that the tenants raise can be addressed simply with effective communication. For example, one common complaint we are all familiar with is that the building is too hot in the summer. This is a perfect time to remind the tenants of the importance of using window blinds properly to help control solar load.
  5. Conduct regular surveys and compare results: The only way you’ll know if your tenants’ satisfaction is improving is if you ask the same questions with the same scale 12 to 18 months later and compare the results. If you have an effective survey tool, communication plan and follow-up strategy, chances are you’ll see consistent improvement year after year.

So if you don’t have a tenant survey process in place, strongly consider launching one. Speaking from experience, I know that it’s one of the cornerstones of a successful tenant service strategy.

What Do Tenants Want?

In the fall of 2013, BOMA International released the results of their global office tenant survey. The survey involved over 1200 office tenants from Canada, the U.S. and abroad. I found the results to be very interesting – among other things, they highlighted the importance of customer service to overall tenant satisfaction. (To order either a digital copy or hard copy of the survey results, visit the store on BOMA International’s website.)

One of the more interesting observations from the survey was the five factors that are most strongly correlated with tenant satisfaction (from highest to lowest):

  1. Property management in general
  2. Overall quality of property
  3. Property management communication
  4. Maintenance/engineering
  5. Health and hygiene factors

Of these top five factors, only “Health and hygiene factors” scored an average of below “Good” on the survey. This suggests that focusing immediately on a building’s health and hygiene factors can have a more significant and immediate impact on tenant satisfaction than focusing on other areas.

I also thought it was interesting that even though concierge services are one of the less-common amenities (available in properties of less than 25% of survey respondents), they had a satisfaction rating of 4.39 on the five-point scale, one of the highest-rated tenant amenities. I guess one of the key findings of the survey (for me anyway!) is that concierge services are a key contributor to tenant satisfaction.

How does your building measure up when it comes to tenant satisfaction? If you’re not doing tenant surveys, think very seriously about implementing them. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your tenant satisfaction scores increase year after year as you continue to work on tenant satisfaction. Tenant surveys are the best way to confirm that your tenant service strategy is actually working.