Service With a Small S

by | 23 April 2015

How to create excellent service for tenants by focusing on the details

Imagine going to work on a typical Thursday. You go through your usual morning routine with the efficiency found in repetition, walk the same path from the transit stop and have your stimulating beverage of choice in hand. As you get closer to your building, you realize there’s a red carpet leading the way and wonder who the special guest is — certainly not you. As you step onto the carpet, a doorman with white gloves says to you, “Good morning and welcome to the new 150 Bloor Street West.”

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This entrance, combined with a breakfast reception, was our way of making a splashy introduction as new property managers to our tenants. The event set a new expectation in terms of service. From that day forward, it was up to our property management team to live up to and exceed that expectation through their daily, small interactions with the tenants — the keyword being “small” as it is the accumulation of many experiences that inform tenants’ overall perception.

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When it comes to service, ask questions

An organization-wide commitment to service is only a starting point. In order to make service excellence pervasive and turn it into something our clients as well as tenants can touch and feel, we first have to define it for ourselves at a smaller scale. As a first step, this means interpreting service from an organization-wide level to a service-line level. This leads to questions like:

  • What does service excellence look like when our staff interact with one another?
  • What is service excellence for our clients?
  • What is service excellence for our tenants?
  • How can team members contribute to service excellence based on their roles?

Of course, each of these questions can be expanded into dozens more that we are still in the process of working through. But by scaling down our approach, we at least are able to interpret and define service in situational ways to make it real. More importantly for our staff, it has helped us begin to bridge the gap between the corporate concept of service and what they can do in their day-to-day roles to create the service experience as they interact with clients and tenants.

Be responsive

One service mantra that rises above the others and provides action-oriented direction to our staff is a commitment to be responsive. Through annual surveys with our entire tenant base of over 46 million square feet across Canada, we’ve discovered that the most satisfied tenants consistently mention the same thing: How service was quick, prompt and complete — without a need for follow-up by the tenant. As a result, we actively promote responsiveness, both internally and externally, as the one simple thing that every person can do to improve service.

Service that’s invisible 

A secondary element is “invisible” service — not in the sense that our staff are invisible but more so as a commitment to reduce the effort required of our tenants and clients as much as possible. This is a twist on the core concept of being proactive and anticipating the customer’s needs when providing service excellence. In a recently released study, “Blinded by Delight,” the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) underlined the importance of consistently good service. The study emphasized how much more there was to lose by providing a negative experience than to gain by providing exceptional service. Hence, ongoing service that requires minimal effort from the requestor drives more loyalty than the special experiences.

Service on a daily basis

Day-to-day property management is very much about problems:  minimizing the frequency of problems through good maintenance, replacing things before they become problems and responding as quickly as possible to problems that have already. When tenants call our service center, our aim is to resolve issues even before the tenant has an opportunity to be reminded of the problem again and therefore never has to follow up in order to make sure it is done.

This small-scale interpretation of service is an ongoing work in progress as we find the right balance between providing guidance to staff and leaving them with enough freedom to act independently.

Next up: What happens when you focus on service metrics too closely?

As Manager of Proposal Development & Communications for Colliers International in Canada, Amy leads new business response, marketing and communications for the Canadian property management service line. In the winter,  you can find her snowboarding; her summers are reserved for being a crew member on a racing sailboat.