How well do you know your building’s tenants?

If there aren’t any on-site common area amenities, take advantage of the surrounding neighborhood. For example, the Union Station Plaza offers a variety of activities to do all year round. Courtesy Frank Ooms Photography

Jessica Cole
Partner, ColeTaylor

In the competition to attract and keep great tenants for your office building, it’s easy to believe that all you need to do is outfit your common areas with top-notch amenities and cool collaborative spaces. Everyone knows that’s what people want right now, right? The answer to that question is actually more complicated.

To be clear, there’s absolutely a place for quality amenities and tenants increasingly look for that in their office space, but even the best-designed spaces are a waste of precious real estate and resources if they go unused, which is all too often the case. In this respect, if you build it, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee they will come.

Liz Taylor
Partner, ColeTaylor

The real question you should be asking yourself, as a building owner or manager, is how well do you know your tenants? We’ve seen firsthand how shifting the perspective and thinking of the tenant as a customer of the building rather than simply an occupant can influence everything from tenant retention to how tenants value and use various spaces in a building.

Start thinking of tenants as customers. Several factors at play in modern society have shifted the expectations of tenants.

First, smartphones have created an expectation of immediacy. If Amazon can get you a TV by tomorrow, your property management team better be able to respond to an email in half that time. At the same time, trends from hospitality and residential design are finding their way into offices, so expectations for the experience of being at work have shifted. All that means that the relationship between property management and tenants needs to look more like that of concierge and customer.

Creating that personal relationship starts the moment tenants walk through the door by creating face-to-face connections. This service culture approach starts with the management team and continues through the building vendors, who should be viewed as an extension of the management team. This can manifest in a number of ways in the tenant experience. For example, a building ambassador who knows and greets each tenant in the lobby may be preferable over the security guard option.

When you have that foundation, tenants often will give you the benefit of the doubt if something goes wrong because they have a basic comfort level and confidence that you’re going to take care of them. It’s obviously important to live up to those expectations, but you’re in a better position to successfully resolve issues faster when you have earned their trust and built a strong relationship.

Listen. It’s the work of the management team to ensure the building and all its spaces are meeting the needs of tenants. And that starts with listening. By deliberately maintaining a dialogue with tenants – and not just when something needs to be fixed – property management can create more relevant programming, better activate common areas and build a sense of community among tenants.

In order to do this, you need to find ways to increase management’s interactions with tenants. Get out of the office or away from the desk throughout the day to create opportunities for organic conversation. We’ve all been in buildings where the common areas are empty or the lobby is a ghost town. The connection between the space and the people who use it just isn’t there. It’s the management’s job to find out why. Ask questions, welcome the feedback and then make deliberate improvements.

Be intentional and specific with community-building activities. The truth is, ice cream socials aren’t for everyone. What works for creating community in one building might not work in another because each tenant has different values and interests. Once your property management team has established relationships with your tenants, they should be able to glean insight about who they are and what they care about. What are their work schedules like? Are they always burning the midnight oil or do they appreciate a Friday happy hour? What charities do they support? How could an event in the building create community around one of their causes? Knowing this will allow the property management team to be more intentional in building programming that will actually appeal to tenants.

At that point, it’s important to allocate the right resources to the job of creating community. It’s ideal to have someone on site whose job includes managing events for the community. Depending on the size of the property and the number of tenants, this can practically become a full-time job as it requires tailoring multiple events on an ongoing basis. These events should be targeted specifically to your tenants – not generic events for any building – or else you won’t get the return of true tenant engagement on your investment.

Most importantly and often overlooked, the property management team should be present and engaged at these events. These are the ideal opportunities to build relationships with tenants and should be treated that way.

Look outside the building envelope. If the lobby or common areas aren’t conducive to hosting an event, it can be highly effective to look outside the building envelope and into the surrounding neighborhood. It reminds tenants why they love their neighborhood (the one in which your building is conveniently located).

Take a building near Union Station, for example. If there aren’t any on-site common area amenities, the management team can take advantage of the neighborhood. Being near the Union Station Plaza provides ample opportunities to plan tenant programming around events already happening there – from farmers markets to holiday fairs. Do you have a building near Larimer Square? You could arrange to have special spots reserved during Denver Restaurant Week on Larimer Square for your tenants. For buildings near hotels, partner with a neighboring operator to provide tenants with discounted room rates, spa and happy hour deals.

Regardless of where tenant events are hosted, whether you have a healthy budget to allocate to it or not, the most important thing you can do is find a property management team that understands the value of getting to know your tenants. In our experience, it’s one of the best ways to maximize your investment in your building.

Featured in CREJ’s January 2019 Property Management Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.