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Space as a service and social media (II)

Andrew Barber

Why a real time, social response will be essential for on demand office service providers

I was lucky enough to attend the recent SPD PropTech Insights event in London where “Space as a Service” was the topic and the panel, chaired by Michael Marciano, provided their views on the growing trend in the commercial property market (principally the office sector) of providing accommodation and services to occupiers, of all sizes, ‘on demand.’

The audience heard the speakers; Jacob Loftus (CEO of General Projects); Josh Artus (Director of Real Estate & the Built Environment at The Centric Lab); Paul Gold (BDG Sparkes Porter) and digital strategist Antony Slumbers (owner of Estates Today) debate the topic at length. The discussion covered many areas from the future of the corporate HQ, new working patterns and remote working to how the seismic shifts in the way we work will impact the design of office buildings and the way in which they are valued.

The valuation topic, in particular, raised lots of questions, principally: “How do you value a property which has no permanent occupier or long-term income?”

Antony’s view was (is) that the ‘Space As A Service’ approach will require building owners, operators and managers to focus on the user’s experience. His argument is that the brand of the service provider will be a reflection of the user experience and, in turn, the value that users place on the brand will determine the value of the asset. Which asset has the greatest value? A popular workplace destination that runs at capacity and attracts growing businesses or the identical, but rather sad, building next door run by an operator that doesn’t understand customer care and, as a result, has lots of vacant space?

As Josh Artus said at the event: “Space as a service means moving away from a 'location, location, location' mindset and moving towards an 'experience, experience, experience' approach.”

User experience
In a marketplace where office space is provided on demand, as a service, it is the user experience that becomes all important.

So how should the office market create a great experience for users? Obviously there is much that can be learnt from the hotel and hospitality sector about providing great customer service. At the same time there is also much to be learnt from the sector about using technology. Increasingly hoteliers and leisure operators are analysing and trying to understand how users connect with their brands at a personal level.

This analysis is not just about which adverts or marketing initiatives work, it is also understanding how the increasing use of mobile devices, and the shift from traditional search tools to the reliance on social media as a source of information and recommendation, can enable them to offer the individual customer the service they are looking for.

Real time
I previously wrote about the importance that social media will have for space as a service providers in terms of managing a brand’s reputation. However, social media will play a major part in the marketing of space as a service facilities for another reason, due to its ability to enable real time interaction with a target audience.

Imagine a scenario where you are a small business, or individual, looking for some short-term office space with conferencing facilities suitable for a project team at short notice because you have just landed an unexpected contract. You might have somewhere in mind already, but you find it is already booked or maybe it's in a location that doesn't suit the project.

What do you do? Turn to Google? Trawl through any number of websites? Have you got the time to do this? The client needs confirmation by tomorrow. Do you go to your network on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and ask: “Urgent! Can anyone recommend somewhere suitable for....?”

At this point, the brand that monitors social media, which publishes shareable, interesting and relevant content, and which can respond in real time, will have a massive advantage over its competitors.

There is no question about it, in a market where service is required “on demand”, brands that are able to interact with customers and respond to enquiries and requests in real time will provide a better experience than those that don’t. And those brands that provide a better service will be the most successful.

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