Over the past few years, the race for space and customers has seen some operators increase their portfolio of centres but slip behind on the service offering and more importantly their relationships. 2020 should see providers refocus their operations to become more service centric. An increased competition and a growing agility from businesses will require differentiation in order to compete. We believe that ‘service’ can and should be that differentiator.

As with all new relationships, first impressions are important. This is true of when clients are viewing prospective offices. The serviced office centre has the potential to be the new home of this client and as such their first impressions must be satisfied. Whilst for some this could be the physical surroundings, for others it may be that initial interaction with the provider. Having a representative who can walk a group of people around a building and loosely touch on a pricing structure will not be enough for today’s tenants. If you are expected to make a deep commitment both financially and operationally, you want to have the comfort of dealing with someone who is also committed. Educating and upskilling teams, giving them the deep knowledge of the building, of the tenants, the local area and the transport networks, is vital. Whilst extolling a potential list of benefits, it would also be prudent to point out any downsides. Being open and upfront at the beginning will start the relationship on the best footing.

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It is often the case that when a business views a centre, it is someone else’s space, or you are shown similar. This is where technology and visuals could be deployed to better aid the client experience, and ultimately secure the business. We predict to see an increase in providers using virtual touring and/or mock-up office designs to better engage with a business, rather than having to rely on imagination. One space does not fit all and listening to prospective clients and their advisors on the list of requirements will go a long way to ensuring that expectations are met upon moving in. 

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Businesses also want transparency from their providers, whilst agreements are relatively comprehensive, subsequent charging for additional services or requests for upgrades do little to foster good will or even better relationships. Even the knowledge of where an initial deposit is kept can sometimes give a business that piece of mind. An occupier wants to feel protected and secure in their space. As such we believe that providers will increasingly introduce their own guidelines of conduct, beyond the normal terms and conditions.

Engagement with businesses who are already in-situ is probably the easiest service win a provider could have – being available to listen to client’s feedback and using it to improve not just the physical facilities, but the whole client experience from tea bags to rent payments. The sharing of good and bad practices amongst centres should be standard. When a business is put off by one experience, they are less likely to remain loyal. It is this loyalty that is currency for the serviced office operators, earning and retaining it in such a competitive market will be no mean feat.