The Evolution of Concierge Services

Prior to starting Eservus, I worked with a property management company that offered portfolio-wide in-lobby concierge services. The tenants LOVED the service – I knew that because part of my job was doing tenant satisfaction surveys! – and what they loved most was discounted ticket services. So when I launched Eservus in 1999, that’s what I wanted to focus on … offering discounted tickets online without the cost of an in-lobby concierge. Even though it was a disruptive idea, fortunately the property managers liked it, they replaced their in-lobby concierges with Eservus, and we were off and running!

Disrupt Improve Evolve Cycle Process Change Innovate 3d Illustra

I find it interesting that over the years, some property managers have come full circle and are offering in-lobby concierge services again. Well, not exactly concierge services … now it’s less about offering traditional concierge services (including discounted tickets) and more about engaging tenants in meaningful ways in order to build a sense of community. With discounted tickets being made available through a number of channels, some property managers have the perception (and I emphasize perception, because I don’t necessarily agree 100%) that discounted tickets are becoming a commodity. So that means that Eservus needs to stay ahead of the curve, offering more than discounted tickets to meet the needs of our clients.

That’s the main reason behind our focus on providing a broader range of services to property managers, such as Tenant Engagement Services and our soon-to-launch Tenant Engagement Portal. That’s why we offer in-lobby concierge service to CBRE in Toronto, and Hines in Calgary … a service that we can only expect to grow. It’s all about understanding what the property managers value and giving them what they want.

Speaking of what property managers value, we’ve heard from a number of clients that they’re very interested in providing a mobile app to their tenants, and I’m pleased to announce that we’ve started working on one. We’re in the process of getting proposals from four different tech companies, and we’ll be in a position very soon to make a decision on our tech partner and begin development on an app. Our app will be another tool in our tenant engagement – and property manager retention – toolkit.

So as the needs of property managers has evolved, so has Eservus and the services we provide. I’m interested in hearing your observations on the evolution of concierge services, so please post them in the comments section.

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.

Using Sports to Engage Your Tenants

Now that the winter Olympics are in full swing (or should I say full schuss?) and everybody is caught up in supporting their country’s athletes, it’s a good time to look at how property managers can use sports to engage their tenants. Piggy-backing on the Olympics is a no-no for most companies unless they’re sponsors (like Cadillac Fairview, which is an official partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee). But there are tons of ways to leverage sports outside of the Olympics to engage your tenants and show some team spirit.

team_spiritSpeaking of team spirit, that was the theme of the promotion that Eservus’s Toronto office brought to life in the fall of 2016 (check out my blog post on the promo here).  We asked tenants in our member buildings to put together a video showing their company’s team spirit, with the team submitting the best video winning a luxury suite for 16 to watch the Toronto Blue Jays take on the New York Yankees.  Of the two dozen videos submitted, the winner was the team from DHX Media, with honourable mention going to Anderson DDB. This was a truly engaging promotion that really showed a lot of spirit!

lake louiseOf course, a luxury suite is expensive, so how can you bring to life a sports-themed promotion without breaking the bank? Eservus’s Calgary office created a fun contest that engaged tenants by asking them to guess how many lift-pass zip ties were in a Lake Louise-branded glass. The winner received a one-night stay at the Lake Louise Inn plus two lift passes. The contest was a huge success, with 256 entries and over 4,400 people reached on Facebook. The passes and accommodation were donated by our supplier partners in exchange for promoting them to our members, making this a very cost-effective promotion.

living_trophyNot to be outdone, the Eservus team in Boston is gearing up for the 2018 baseball season by organizing a Red Sox opening day event in April that’s sure to wow the tenants in Beantown. We expect to have a lot of fun at this event, which will include popcorn, ice cream, a “living trophy” and a virtual reality pitcher’s mound. We all know that Bostonians love their baseball, so what better way to engage the tenants than with a fun event featuring their beloved Sox!

We’d love to hear about any other sports-themed tenant events, so if you’ve attended or organized one, be sure to leave a comment.

 

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.

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.

Property Manager as Small-Town Mayor: Strengthening Community at Your Building

Mayor job title on nameplateBefore starting Eservus, I worked in property management, helping to oversee operations at a four-building complex in downtown Toronto. In addition to running the buildings efficiently, my goal as a property manager was to try to create a strong sense of community, to connect with the tenants on an individual level and build something similar to what townspeople would call “civic pride.”  To help put me in the right frame of mind, I actually imagined that I was the mayor of a small town. I think the small-town-mayor analogy works well as a model to help connect with tenants (the town folk!) and create a strong sense of community. Here are a few examples:

Key Account Meetings as Town Halls

In a previous blog post, I talked about how Key Account Management Meetings are an effective way to create a dialogue with tenants and to ensure that the voice of the tenant is heard loud and clear. These key account meetings serve a similar purpose as town hall meetings in a small town … as a way for stakeholders and management to create an open, honest and ongoing dialogue, voice grievances and discuss plans for the future. In fact, “town hall” is a pretty good name for key account meetings, so if you’re not already doing so, consider setting up town halls with your key tenants and try following some of the guidelines I presented in my key account meeting post.

Tenant Newsletters as Small-Town Newspapers

For those of you who have a tenant newsletter, I’m sure you’re always looking for fun, engaging or informative content. If you take a page out of a small-town paper, you’ll see all sorts of human-interest stories, funny photos, recipe submissions by the town folk and lots of other tidbits that you might not see in a typical building newsletter. Why not try something different and ask your tenants to contribute content for your newsletter? You can have a “Community Corner” section that includes more light-hearted content that helps contribute to the sense of community that you’re trying to build.

Tenant Events as Re-election Rallies

When you or your team organizes a building event, do you show up early, leave late and try to meet as many tenants as possible? Tenant events are a great way for property managers to connect with tenants on a personal level and help create that small-town feel. Sure, you’re not trying to get re-elected like a mayor has to, but that makes the experience so much more genuine and sincere … you’re connecting with the tenants because you want to connect, not because you need their votes. What’s more, establishing and strengthening relationships in such a feel-good environment will pay dividends the next time you have to deal with a tenant crisis!

I’m interested in hearing other examples of what property managers are doing to create a strong sense of community at their buildings, so if you have an example, please leave a reply below.

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

Do You Have a Service Recovery Strategy?

Recovery Just Ahead sign with sky backgroundWe all know how important it is to have a clearly defined tenant service strategy … everyone’s heard that the happier your tenants are, the more likely they’ll renew their leases. One way to turbo-charge your tenant service strategy – and help create lifelong tenant loyalty – is to implement a service recovery strategy. The trick to an effective service recovery strategy is to proactively identify tenants with service issues and address those issues to the tenant’s satisfaction. Sounds easy, right? The truth is that an effective service recovery strategy is a detailed process that must be planned, organized and implemented with the support of the management team and communicated throughout the organization.

It’s inevitable that something’s going to go wrong at your property and tenants are going to get upset, so that’s why a recovery strategy is so important. Companies with a service recovery strategy certainly don’t welcome mistakes at their buildings, but they are likely inspired by that fact that customers who’ve had a negative service experience that is resolved quickly are significantly more loyal than customers who have never had a negative experience. The key, of course, is that the issue is resolved quickly. Not only will you create more loyal tenants, but you’ll likely generate positive word of mouth as a result of the quick resolution.

A specific example of service recovery in action is how a property manager at Marathon Realty, a company I used to work for, handled elevator entrapments. The property manager used to have stacks of gift certificates to local restaurants at the ready. Upon hearing that there was an elevator entrapment – an unnerving experience for tenants at the best of times – he would wait in the lobby with a fistful of gift certificates, which he would then offer (along with a personal apology, of course) to the recently unentrapped occupants of the elevator. What do you think those tenants were talking about afterwards? Not the entrapment but the gift certificate! (I often wondered if that property manager scheduled elevator entrapments just so that he could recover from them!)

A great way to proactively identify tenants with service issues is to conduct regular tenant satisfaction surveys (you can check out my blog post on tenant surveys here) but the lag time between the issue and the identification of the issue can be significant, so consider using real-time feedback collection tools like Net Promoter Score or even social media to create more immediate communication channels with your tenants. No matter how you connect with your tenants, know that effective service recovery can result in lifelong loyalty to an extent that “mere” good customer service can never match.

Do you have a service recovery tactic that you’ve used to WOW your tenants and build loyalty? If 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.

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.