What’s Your New-Tenant Welcome Strategy?

welcome_matOne of the ways that my company, Eservus, introduces ourselves to new tenants in the office buildings we serve is to hold a prize draw for the company’s employees. We ask the employees to create a free member account with Eservus and their name goes into a draw to win, say, one of ten pairs of admit-one movie passes. It’s a fun way to engage the new employees and welcome them to the building. So that got me thinking … how can property managers welcome new tenants to the building?

Let’s face it … often the key to starting a strong relationship is making a strong first impression. This holds true in personal as well as professional relationships. The new-tenant move-in is a great time for property managers to kick off the landlord/tenant relationship on the right foot. So here are a few ideas that can help you make a strong first impression on that all-important move-in day:

The Basics: 

  • Send a bouquet of flowers, a gift basket or other goodie with a card welcoming the tenant to the building. Better yet, hand-deliver it during the first few days of move-in so you can introduce yourself (if you haven’t already of course!)
  • If you’re not able to make it in person, leave the flowers or gift basket along with the card in front of the suite’s door on a residential-style welcome mat. It’s a little kitschy for sure but it will definitely be remembered!
  • Put together a tenant welcome kit with information on the building, coupons from retailers and gift cards from nearby restaurants. Sometimes retailers and restaurants give away free gift cards or coupons in exchange for promoting them to your tenants. To add some pizazz, have the folder designed to look like a little welcome mat. (Love those welcome mats!)

Upping the Ante:

  • Show up on moving day with enough pizza and soft drinks to feed the entire team. If you can’t make it in person, have the pizzas delivered.
  • Deliver a few dozen cookies or cupcakes customized with a welcome message and the company’s logo. (It’s not as hard as it sounds … Eservus works with companies who do a great job on custom confections!)
  • Buy a large tool kit and fill it with move-in must-haves (paper towels, window cleaner, tape, small tools, etc.). Wrap it with a large bow and include a nice card welcoming the tenant to the building.

A well-executed welcome strategy doesn’t have to break the bank, and can set the stage for a great landlord/tenant relationship!

Have you done something especially creative or unique to welcome your new tenants to the building? If so, I’d love to hear about it, so please click on the “Leave a Reply” link at the bottom of the page and post a comment.

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

Eservus Introduces Tenant Engagement Services

slot_machine_1Back when I was a property manager, I used to love organizing events and activities that involved my tenants. Things like contests, lobby events, tenant giveaways, and even tenant surveys are great ways for property managers to engage their tenants and create a fun distraction from the day-to-day routine at the office. But there’s more than just fun and games behind what I call tenant engagement services … building relationships with your tenants year-round pays dividends when it comes time to renew the lease: Rather than it being a pure financial decision, tenants will also take into consideration the social element of their relationship with the property manager. From a behavioural economics perspective, it’s about shifting the tenants’ perspective of the renewal from market norms to social norms, which can be much more persuasive. (For more detail on social vs. market norms, check out this blog post.)

I know what the property managers out there are thinking: Who has time to organize tenant events? Today’s property managers have so much more on their plates – from environmental initiatives to regulatory issues – that it’s tougher than ever to find time to engage your tenants. That’s why Eservus recently launched Tenant Engagement Services (TES). In addition to offering our core concierge services, we can now serve as the property managers’ partner in tenant engagement, helping them to organize events, source suppliers and engage face-to-face with their tenants. Eservus even offers assistance with tenant surveys and BOMA Award applications, which many property managers agree are important but they just don’t have the time to make them happen.

Eservus’s new Manager of Tenant Engagement, Kristin Mackey-Bernatt, is responsible for overseeing our Tenant Engagement Services; the role was specifically created with an eye to helping property managers engage their tenants and strengthen the landlord/tenant relationship year-round.  Eservus wants to continue to add value to our core online concierge service offering, and through Tenant Engagement Services we feel that we have a winning formula to help property managers build stronger relationships with their tenants.

What are you doing to engage your tenants? Please leave a reply!

Three Tips for Creating Engaging Lobby Events

At the end of January, Eservus will be announcing a promotional partnership with a well-known Toronto company (hint: they’re in the transportation business). We’ll be promoting our partnership with this company through a number of channels, including special events in the lobbies of some of our property manager clients’ buildings. Lobby events create a unique opportunity to interact with tenants in a much more personal way than, say, a building newsletter or tweet, and it’s that face-to-face aspect of lobby events that makes them an indispensable part of a property manager’s tenant engagement strategy.

Eservus has been doing lobby events in cooperation with our property manager clients ever since we launched in November 1999. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about what makes for successful events … and by successful, of course I mean engaging. You only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention in the building lobby … after all, tenants in the lobby are always on their way to somewhere else – to work, to lunch or to a meeting – which makes it difficult to capture their attention. So how do you increase your chances of engaging your tenants as they stride through the lobby to somewhere else? Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned over the 17-plus years of doing lobby events:

Create a Visual Focal Point

Make sure you have a lobby display that’s big enough to grab people’s attention. There’s little use in simply positioning someone at the building entrance to hand out postcards – people will just walk by. Eservus uses a professionally designed 10’x10’ display and ancillary signage with two or three people to create a presence in the lobby that’s hard to miss. We work with our property manager clients to set up in a high-visibility, high-traffic location to maximize opportunities to interact with the tenants.

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Attract and Maintain a Crowd

We’ve all done it … you see a crowd of people and you want to know what’s attracting their attention, so you wander over. If you attract even a small crowd to your lobby event, you’ll observe first-hand the behavioural-economics principle known as social proof: People will be drawn to do what they see their peers doing. One way to attract visitors is to feed them: Eservus usually has cookies on hand to entice tenants to visit us in the lobby. But cookies are a short-term draw … people can just grab a cookie and walk away. What you want to do at this point is engage the tenants with something that’s fun and interactive, like a game, that gives you a chance to talk to them about why you’re there. Eservus has used iPad apps where the tenants have to enter a code to crack a virtual safe, or find the Eservus logo behind one of three doors à la Let’s Make a Deal. People don’t mind waiting a minute or two to play a game that they see as fun, helping to build the crowd and attract even more attention to your event.

lobby5

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

It doesn’t matter how big or small they are … tenants love prizes. Make sure your engaging game has some sort of prize attached to it, be it a random draw that tenants are entered into or an instant-win prize that they get on the spot. This adds to the element of fun and engagement that you’re trying to create, and the excitement shown by some of the prize winners draws an even bigger crowd!

lobby3

Eservus plans to use even bigger and better engagement tools in future lobby events, including interactive games on large touch-screen monitors to make playing the game more of a group experience. So if you see a crowd in a Toronto building lobby later this year, wander over (you know you’ll want to) … it might be Eservus’s new promo partner!

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

Team Spirit Contest Engages Tenants

One of the things that Eservus tries to do as much as possible is engage the tenants in the buildings we serve. We think of ourselves as our property manager clients’ partner in tenant engagement; we have opportunities every day to connect with tenants and provide them with an engaging experience. And one of the most effective techniques to engage tenants is with contests.

Tenants LOVE contests, and they can be a very cost-effective way to interact with tenants and create a bit of fun and excitement in the building. Eservus recently organized a very successful contest called the Eservus Team Spirit Luxury Suite Giveaway. The Toronto Blue Jays were finishing off their regular season and we took advantage of the excitement surrounding the Jays with a contest that asked tenants to submit a video showing their team spirit. We received two dozen videos, many of which were of impressively high production value. The company whose video was deemed to show the most creativity, originality and team spirit was awarded a luxury suite for 16 to watch the Blue Jays take on the Yankees at the end of the regular season.

The contest was a success for several reasons. First, we capitalized on the excitement and enthusiasm already surrounding the Jays. Second, it was a really cool prize! (That said, you don’t have to pony up an expensive prize to engage tenants … when I worked at Cadillac Fairview, we had a contest where the prize was a jar of jelly beans, and we had hundreds of entries.) Third, we posted the videos on our YouTube channel while the contest was still running to create even more engagement (at last count, there were 4,300 views). Finally, after the contest was over, we shared each tenant’s videos with the property manager of the tenant’s building. The property managers were impressed to see how involved their tenants were in the contest. I also think they were impressed by how Eservus created such a high level of tenant engagement!

Check out the winning video by clicking here. And think of ways you can engage tenants through contests. If you’re an Eservus client, we’d love to help you with that!

team_spirit

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

Importance of Tenant Engagement Increasing for PMs

I was at a BOMA International conference at the beginning of February in Washington DC and I participated in a round-table discussion with a number of senior property managers about the latest trends in commercial real estate. As you can imagine, there was a lengthy discussion on a wide variety of topics, including security issues (this was the U.S. after all!), technology, maintenance and other more mundane topics that all PMs need to think about. But by far the most spirited – and for me, most interesting – part of the conversation centred on the PMs’ attempts to engage their tenants in meaningful ways. While some of the PMs seemed to have elements of what could be called tenant engagement strategies, most didn’t really know what to do to engage their tenants (especially the millennials) and were asking for ideas. I see that as a huge opportunity for corporate concierge companies like Eservus.

BOMA Washington meeting

Corporate concierge services do a great job engaging tenants. Whenever tenants interact with Eservus, whether it’s a member reading an e-mail, browsing through our website or talking to a concierge on the phone, we are engaging the tenants on behalf of the property managers. And as more and more property managers look for meaningful ways to engage their tenants, concierge services can make an even more valuable contribution, especially if we leverage technology.

Website designers talk about creating websites that are “sticky” – that engage browsers, maintain their interest, keep them on the site and increase the chances of making a sale. I think a trend for property managers in the near future is going to be to do whatever they can to make their buildings “sticky” – to engage their tenants in meaningful ways so that they renew their leases. A lot of what tenants will be engaged with will be driven by technology, and I think concierge services like Eservus can have a hand in that. For example, the property manager can put in a running track around a suburban property as a tenant service, but to engage the tenants, wouldn’t it be cool to have an app that allows tenants to sign up for a running group? That’s something that concierge services can are poised to have a hand in, because we’re engaging with the tenants already.

So concierge services should be thought of as an integral part of property managers’ tenant engagement strategy … whether they have one or not! And proactive concierge service providers should work on developing strategies to provide property managers with tools to help them engage their tenants. Here’s to sticky buildings!

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

The Concierge Equation Quantifies the Benefits of Concierge Services

One of the biggest challenges for property managers is quantifying the financial impact of a tenant service strategy. Many property managers think that a tenant service strategy is a good idea, but they have a hard time justifying the costs, because the benefits are intangible. Or are they?

Using three research-based studies, I’ll show how a property manager’s tenant services strategy can have a quantifiable impact on your bottom line. And more specifically, I’ll show how an investment in a concierge service can save a property manager a lot of money, help drive profitability and result in a significant return on investment.

Equation #1: Offering Concierge Services = Increased Tenant Satisfaction

According to BOMA International’s survey “What Office Tenants Want,” the one amenity that tenants were most satisfied with were concierge services, with an average satisfaction rating of 4.39 out of 5. (Concierge services were followed by health/hygiene programs at 4.27 and secured document removal at 4.26). The survey pointed out that the availability of concierge services were reported by less than 25% of the respondents, indicating that the one amenity that the tenants are most satisfied with is actually offered in a relatively small number of properties. The BOMA study concludes that “if executed well, the addition of some of these amenities could offer an opportunity for property owners and managers to have ‘quick wins’ with their tenants.” And since concierge services was the one amenity that tenants were most happy with, we can further conclude that offering a concierge service can have a more immediate and significant impact on tenant satisfaction than any other amenity.

Equation #2: Increased Tenant Satisfaction = Increased Tenant Retention

So if they have access to a concierge service, your tenants are happier. What difference does that make? A lot of companies across all industries spend a lot of time – and money – on customer service initiatives in an effort to make their customers happier. The theory is that a satisfied customer will keep coming back for more, resulting in repeat business that more than makes up for the cost of the things that are keeping the customer happy. And we’ve all heard that it costs a lot more to attract new customers than it does to retain existing ones. That sounds logical, but is that true in the world of commercial real estate? Do satisfied tenants actually result in more lease renewals? According to a study conducted by Kingsley Associates, a leading market research firm that specializes in commercial real estate, the answer is a resounding YES. Satisfied tenants are more than three times as likely to renew their leases than dissatisfied ones. And since we’ve shown that concierge services can have an immediate and significant impact on tenant satisfaction, we can conclude that offering concierge services directly contributes to lease renewals.

Equation #3: Increased Tenant Retention = Increased Profitability

Okay, now this is really where the rubber hits the road. We know that it costs more to attract new tenants than it does to retain existing ones, and happy tenants are more likely to renew their leases than unhappy ones. But how much should we spend on keeping our tenants happy? What’s the return on investment? Quantifying the benefit of tenant retention strategies has always been a tricky thing, but thanks to a study conducted a couple of years ago by real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle, we know that by retaining a single 10,000-square-foot tenant, property managers stand to save nearly $1 million on hard costs like lost rent, tenant inducements, and other tangible costs. Retain two, three or more tenants a year and you can see how the savings are going to add up. And since you’re reducing expenses, those savings go straight to the bottom line.

That brings the entire concierge equation into focus:

Concierge services = happy tenants = renewed leases = cost savings = increased profitability

So what’s the ROI of offering concierge services? For a property manager with, say, 500,000 square feet of office space, the cost of providing an online concierge service like Eservus (www.eservus.com) works out to about $12,000 a year. (Eservus is about one-quarter the cost of a traditional lobby-based concierge, with a number of advantages, including 24/7 online access and typically a broader range of products.) Looking at the concierge equation, you can count on increasing tenant retention by offering a concierge service. (Let’s assume that concierge services contribute 25% of the impact of a property manager’s overall tenant service strategy.) So if you retain just one 10,000-square foot tenant a year as a result of your tenant service strategy, and concierge services is responsible for 25% of that, you can attribute annual savings of about $250,000 to concierge services. At a cost of $12,000 a year, that’s a return on investment of over 20 times!

With such an impressive ROI, you can expect to see more property managers turning to concierge services – especially online concierge services – to powerfully augment their existing tenant service strategy. And as we learned from the BOMA survey “What Office Tenants Want,” concierge services are offered in less than 25% of office buildings. So not only can offering concierge services retain tenants and save you a ton of money, they can also provide a competitive advantage for years to come.

How Tenant Service Can Save You a Million Dollars

Forward-thinking companies have always known that the investment they make in service quality pays for itself many-fold in the form of customer retention and brand equity. But how do you calculate the return on your investment in tenant service? I came across an article recently that quantifies the value of retaining a tenant versus replacing that tenant with a new one. I was surprised to learn that, based on the research outlined in the article, losing a single 10,000-square-foot tenant can cost a property manager close to a million bucks!

The article, by real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle, tallies the costs associated with replacing a 10,000-square-foot tenant that decides not to renew its lease. Additional costs include lost rent, construction costs, free rent, tenant inducements and, of course, leasing commissions. While there are still costs associated with a renewal (estimated by JLL to be around $570,000 for that 10K SF tenant), the estimated costs of finding a new tenant are over $1.5 million, so the difference is a whopping $986,000. (To see a breakdown, click here.)

Research by Kingsley Associates has shown that satisfied tenants are three times more likely to renew their leases than dissatisfied ones. So the math is simple: Keep your tenants happy and save nearly a million dollars for each 10,000-square-foot tenant you hang on to. Wondering what services tenants are most satisfied with? According to the 2013 BOMA Global office tenant survey, the highest-rated building amenities are concierge services (4.39 on a 5-point scale), health/hygiene programs (4.27), secure document removal (4.26) and car washes (4.13). As mentioned in “What Tenants Want,” BOMA’s summary of the survey results, “[i]f executed well, the addition of some of these amenities could offer an opportunity for property owners and managers to have ‘quick wins’ with their tenants.” I couldn’t agree more!