How Technology Can Drive Tenant Engagement

When I started Eservus way back in 1999, my vision was always to help property managers retain their tenants by providing high-value online concierge services. The equation I pictured from Day One was concierge services = happy tenants = renewed leases = increased profit for property managers. (See my blog post on this very subject: The Concierge Equation Quantifies the Benefits of Concierge Services.) Of course, tenant retention is still important to property managers, but I’ve noticed that the focus has shifted from tenant retention to tenant engagement. I think that’s because retaining tenants is seen as a longer-term strategy, whereas engaging tenants is more immediate and tangible, and therefore more impactful.

The big question, of course, is how do you engage your tenants on an ongoing basis without breaking the bank on tenant events, newsletters, contests and giveaways? The answer is technology. Some property managers use their building websites and digital newsletters to engage tenants with interesting, fun and informative content. Other property managers use apps, like Brookfield’s myBrookfield app, to engage their tenants in unique and compelling ways. For example, members of myBrookfield receive invitations to exclusive events put on by retailers in the building concourse. The key to effective tenant engagement tools like myBrookfield is that it offers tenants things that they value, on their terms.

Eservus has been offering our online concierge services to our property manager clients for over 15 years, and we’ve been engaging tenants in a number of meaningful ways, but we recognize that our ability to engage tenants is limited to the services we offer. That’s why we’re in the process of developing technology that takes tenant engagement to an entirely new level. We’re building a tenant engagement portal that, among other things, provides a number of tools for property managers to engage with their tenants, and even tools for tenants to engage with each other.

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For example, say you’re a tenant that’s having a bake sale in your suite to raise money for your favourite charity. (As a former property manager, I used to get a lot of requests from tenants to help them promote their fundraiser to the other tenants in the building, something that is not really feasible or practical.) Imagine a portal that allows you to post your event on a digital bulletin board for all of your fellow tenants to see. Or say you’re looking to set up a car-pooling group to make your daily commute a little easier. Like a lot of technology these days, we envision the portal helping to connect people of similar interests in order to enrich their lives.

We did a survey with some of our 30-plus property manager clients to find out what tenant engagement tools were of most interest to them, and the top five were:

  • Building-specific announcements (e.g. ice-cream days, fire drills)
  • Hyper-local community news
  • An interactive building-events calendar
  • Social media integration
  • Food ordering and delivery

(That last one surprised me!) You can be sure that when we launch our tenant engagement portal in early 2018, these and many more services will be at the tenants’ fingertips … on their terms.

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

Creative Building Events a Hit with Property Managers

beach_selfie_stationEservus has had a very busy summer organizing building events and barbecues for our property manager clients. With more and more property managers looking for ways to engage their tenants, many have turned to building events to create a stronger relationship with their community and generate tenant goodwill. One of the challenges that property managers face is coming up with events that are fresh and original – events that will grab the tenants’ attention – and that’s where Eservus has been focusing our attention. Here are a few examples of how Eservus put a new spin on our PM clients’ events over the past year.

THE GREENEST OF PENCILS

One of the more innovative products we sourced for a PM client’s Earth Day event was a pencil that you could plant in soil and would actually take root and sprout! The pencils come in a number of varieties, including basil, forget me not and thyme. We also arranged for one of our clients a “living wall,” an actual plant wall that we set up in the building lobby. Talk about going green!

COOKIN’ ON THE BEACH

Tenant barbecues are one of the most popular events that property managers organize, and when Eservus was asked by one of our PM clients to take care of their annual BBQ, we tried to bring a unique spin to the event by organizing a beach-party theme. Our Tenant Engagement Manager, Kristin Mackey-Bernatt, went all out on the beach theme and even went to The Home Depot to pick up giant bags of sand for the tropical selfie station!

WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR A COOKIE?

How do you motivate your tenants to participate in evacuation drills? One of our PM clients decided to use bribery and offered delicious cookies customized with their logo to everyone who made the trek down the stairs and outside the building during the drill. Not only did the tenants welcome the tasty treat, but the property manager built both their brand and tenant goodwill.

As more property managers look for innovative ways to engage their tenants, building occupants can expect to see events that have a fresh and unique spin on the tried and true. What’s the most creative idea for a tenant event that you’ve seen in the past year? Leave a reply below … I’d love to hear about it!

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

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.

Effective Tenant Newsletters Help Engage Tenants

Before starting Eservus back in 1999, I worked in property management with Cadillac Fairview; one of my responsibilities was putting together a newsletter for the office tenants at the Toronto Eaton Centre. I learned first-hand the value of a newsletter as a great way to engage the tenants. Now that Eservus offers tenant newsletters as part of our Tenant Engagement Services, I’m reminded that a well-written, well-designed newsletter, either in digital format or hard copy, is still an effective tool to inform, educate and – most importantly – engage your tenants. But not all newsletters are created equal … so here are some tips to help make your tenants actually want to read your newsletter!

Based on my experience – past and present – there are three elements to an effective tenant newsletter:

  1. Provide tenants with content they can actually use
  2. Remind tenants of what you’re doing for them at the building every day
  3. Engage tenants with newsletter content in a fun way 

 

1. Provide tenants with content they can actually use

box_saladThis can be as simple as a tip of the month to relieve neck stress, or a quick and easy way to pack a salad for the office. You can even remind them of some of the retailers that are in the concourse (your retailers will thank you for that as well!). What you don’t want to do is include information that nobody can use … a prime example is the office tenant profile. (“In this month’s newsletter, we’re profiling XYZ Company in suite 1013.”) In my experience, nobody cares about the office tenant profile … except the tenant in the profile!

2. Remind tenants of what you’re doing for them at the building every day

umbrellaDo you provide complimentary bicycle racks in the parking garage? What about umbrellas at security? Or an after-hours escort to the tenant’s car? Whatever great tenant amenities you offer, use your newsletter to communicate their availability. At the same time you’ll show that you care for your tenants’ well-being, which is always a good thing!

 

3. Engage tenants with newsletter content in a fun way

jelly_beans.2jpgIt’s easy to do a contest for a couple of movie tickets where you ask tenants to e-mail the management office with their one-line review of the latest hot movie, or have a picture of a jar of jellybeans, with an invitation to guess the number of jellybeans (closest one wins the jellybeans!), or a scavenger hunt through the newsletter to find answers to silly clues. What you actually do is less important than giving your tenants a chance to connect with you in a fun and engaging way.

So keep your newsletter relevant, informative and fun, and you’re bound to reap the rewards of an effective tenant newsletter strategy: increased tenant engagement.

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

Five Features of Effective Tenant Surveys

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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.

Four Benefits of Digital Lobby Displays

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Back in the good ol’ days when I worked in property management, digital lobby displays didn’t exist … I think we chiseled tenant updates onto stone tablets back then! It’s amazing to think of the advancements in digital communications over the past decade or so, and how those advancements have enabled property managers to be more engaging and creative with their lobby displays. Eservus has recently partnered with a leading Canadian manufacturer of digital directory boards to explore the possibilities of digital lobby displays as yet another way for property managers to engage their tenants, and we’re looking forward to working with our clients to get the most out of the technology.

Here now are four benefits of using digital displays in your buildings lobbies:

1. Long-Term Cost Savings: Sure, digital displays have an up-front cost … a decent unit can easily cost a few thousand dollars. But how much are you currently spending on traditional print signage in your lobbies, not to mention those (sometimes) expensive sign holders? Do the math and you’ll likely find that digital displays are a cost-effective option over the long term.

2. Tenant Engagement Opportunities: Property managers have only scratched the sleek glossy surface of the potential of digital displays in their lobbies. Imagine using digital displays to get tenants to “check in” during an evacuation drill for a chance to win a prize. Or what about sharing discount codes on your display to promote and drive traffic to your retailers? If any of you are using your digital lobby displays in unique and creative ways, leave a reply below … I’d love to hear about it!

3. Integration with Social Media: More and more property managers are taking advantage of social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, to communicate the details of new projects, community involvement, job postings … you name it! So why not feature your Twitter feed or LinkedIn posts on your digital lobby displays? Using integration tools like Sprinklr, TINT and Screenfeed, your displays can be seamlessly integrated with your social media content, allowing both to serve double-duty and further engage your tenants.

4. Additional Revenue Generation: As most property managers know, there are a ton of companies that are willing to pay to get in front of tenants in office buildings … a 30-second ride in an elevator equipped with a Captivate screen will give you a ready-made list! Digital lobby displays represent another channel for advertisers to target office tenants, which represents a potential income stream for property managers. Done right, display ads can be fun, engaging and will actually reinforce a property manager’s tenant engagement strategy.

As mentioned, Eservus is exploring the possibilities of offering our property manager clients’ digital lobby display services, from sourcing the hardware to managing the software, messaging and advertising. Stay tuned for further updates in the Tenant Service in Action blog.

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!