We are all accustomed to using our smartphone apps providing us with instant gratification at the touch of screen. Customer Experience (CX) has taken centerstage like never before. Service providers, such as Uber and Airbnb, have brought instant convenience into our lives to such an extent that our expectations around the services we use have been redefined. Naturally, Facilities Management (FM) is also shifting its focus from physical building assets to addressing occupant experiences. This is hardly surprising, from a Return on Investment (ROI) perspective. Ultimately, better customer experiences translate into higher occupancy, rise in perceived value of properties and enhanced brand value for CREs.
Traditionally FM was looked at as a passive cost center, but is this true any longer? The simple answer to that question is, no. Value-added services that address the occupant expectations are now the primary differentiating factor in commercial real estate. Over 70% of millennial respondents in developed economies already express the desire to work in smart offices within the next five years and this should surprise no one. Every CX centered metric, such as air quality, temperature control or lighting, plays a significant role in occupant wellbeing and productivity. Given the long durations that workforces spend in offices, such concerns and priorities are obvious. While once FM concerned itself primarily with maintenance and related operations, customers are now driving an emphasis on comfort, sustainability and seamless experiences.
Responding to a new generation of customers
So what is the industry doing, to respond to these new customer expectations? Well, for one thing, the increased investment in Proptech can be linked directly to these new customer demands. An estimated $4 Billion were invested in the smart buildings sector, in 2018. This included one of the most significant chunks of the $100 billion dollar SoftBank Vision Fund, the world’s largest venture capital initiative. Clearly, the evolution in customer expectations has been identified by the real estate industry as a driver of commercial value. It’s interesting to note that customized, service-led, experience- driven and future-ready facilities are not being looked at as premium offerings to be presented to a select market. Rather, such services have been reframed by a new generation of customers as the preferred baseline.
How does the real estate industry best respond to this new customer focused reality? A clear candidate to get the job done are enterprise-wide data-driven platforms. Real-time data-driven decision-making and cognitive technologies such as AI, IoT and Machine Learning, are central to the next generation of commercial real estate. What’s more, building owners stand to gain in operational efficiencies and monetary returns by using these solutions as well. By recruiting digital technology to drive delightful customer experiences and resource efficient operations, CRE owners can lower their running costs as well as increase the value of their portfolio through the means of a single solution. The argument in favour of actively embracing this change is not just compelling, it is commonsensical.
A more connected future in FM for CRE owners?
So why are enterprise-wide software platforms the best solution for CRE owners seeking to satisfy customers while also increasing the efficiency of their assets? The answer is quite straight-forward. Using IoT and AI driven platforms identifies a CRE brand as the providers of state of the art facilities and occupant experiences. With the emergence of IoT, the smart devices that we are adopting to address every need in our lives can be part of a holistic experience, with their possibilities expanding further with time. For CRE owners, such systems are an opportunity to create integrated and smart facilities that deliver personalized experiences and optimal operations.
An enterprise-wide O&M platform can help CREs and FMs manage assets in a centralized manner, adding value to their operations. By making the asset portfolio responsive, the real-time and data-driven nature of these solutions help commercial real estate operations proactively predict issues and resolve them faster. Not only do such buildings generate ROI through operational efficiencies, they also enhance brand value and marketshare, by enabling empowered and seamless customer experiences. Summed up in terms of their cumulative effect, these enhancements are the basis for better ROI for CRE owners.
Driving value and growth, by addressing CX
Given contemporary customer behaviour and the breakdown of longstanding brand loyalties, how does a commercial real estate business ensure that customers choose its services on a preferential basis? The answer lies in combining best practices in operations with a keen customer focus. The real estate industry is entering a phase in which user specific and personalized experiences are the key differentiator. Digitally optimized smart buildings are no longer some sort of premium offering that targets the upper crust of the market. These are technologies that are already being anticipated by customers as standard facilities. For CREs to upgrade their assets into true compatibility with their market, a focus on Customer Experience and technology, as drivers of ROI and commercial success, will be a key transition to make.