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Mobile amenities help occupants get back to office

Kelly S. Cervantes, with Cushman & Wakefield, says tenants enjoy having mobile amenities and community services at their place of work. “With COVID, we feel these will have even more value to our tenants so they won’t have to drive to pick up food or services,” Cervantes said. “Our management office will be providing additional services as the coronavirus threat diminishes. This would include things such as blood drives, book fairs, food trucks and other possible events.”

Becky Hanner
Principal, Hanner Commercial
Asset Services

We all know how important it is that building occupants re-enter the office environment. Working from home was great for a few months, but the reality is that workers collaborate more and have less distractions when physically in the office. Employers know they need employees to return to focus for productivity and rebuild work culture.

Property managers have been very busy getting their buildings ready for the great re-occupancy. Cleaning products and processes have been enhanced, signage has been installed and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems tweaked – all to ensure the building occupant feels that it is safe to rejoin the office.

When workers return to this safer and healthier building, they are going to expect the same type of amenities that they enjoyed prior to COVID-19. The fact is that they will want these services even more than before because their mindset has shifted to a focus on wellness, convenience and sanitization. Leaving the office to pick up food or do errands has become a frustration. The hassle of opening doors, elevators and standing in line with other people for food or services is now a risk – not a social activity – in the minds of many.

Frontline property managers are struggling with what amenities they might offer tenants upon their return that will be safe and “feel” safe to the building occupants. Indoor gyms were popular prepandemic, but this poses challenges such as how to clean equipment when it is used, how to handle showers and changing areas and reserve times to utilize the space.

On-site cafés can provide occupants with a safe and healthy environment, but even pre-COVID-19 building occupants preferred additional food selections. Enter mobile amenities. With proper protocol, these may be the easy solution to meeting many of your tenants’ desires.

We all have seen how the food truck industry’s popularity has exploded over the past decade, and they are here to stay. They provide a variety of food and many properties have created an event-like atmosphere to pick up food or eat outside.

The number of other services was growing before the coronavirus, and franchise sales for these services are now skyrocketing. Virtually anything that was traditionally brick-and-mortar has become a mobile service. Services offered vary from market to market. Here are a few ideas you may wish to implement:

  • Beauty: barber, nail salon, beauty supply, hair supplement.
  • Retail: jeweler, flowers, clothing, fruit, soap, gifts, groceries.
  • Hobby: bicycle repair, golf club repair and clinic, fishing lessons.
  • Services: mobile device accessories and repair, shoe shine and repair, dry cleaner, full laundry services, concierge.
  • Vehicle: oil change, dent repair, windshield repair, fuel up, car wash.
  • Pets: veterinary, pet supplies, barkeries, pet grooming.
  • Health: mammogram, blood test, massage, chiropractic, yoga, boot camp.
  • Outdoor events: karaoke, ax throwing, lawn games.

COVID-related services currently include antibody testing, vehicle sanitization and disinfect, face masks and disinfectant sales with mobile vaccination stations likely to follow.

Property managers should provide vendors with rules and regulations to follow while working on their property, such as chocking wheels and no truck allowed that is leaking oil. With COVID-19 you will want to add requirements like no operator may provide service who has a temperature or is sick, preorders are encouraged to reduce customer exposure and wait time, masks required, use chip reader or radio frequency identification for orders that are not prepaid and do not accept cash, unless there is no other option. If an iPad is used, do not have customer touch to add tip or signature, keep hand sanitizer at each location, develop a location layout plan to space trucks for social distancing, and have day porter wash down eating areas.

Which brings us back to the property management staff responsible for coordinating these things, along with planning a schedule; communicating with tenants and providers; obtaining updated and accurate certificates of insurance, business license or indemnification agreement (if required); determining event location; setting up and cleaning up of event location; securing alternate providers; knowing when a mobile amenity is on the property; coordination of rain dates; policing trash; handling requests and complaints; and the list goes on. Research shows that one food truck event per week can take more than 25% of a staff member’s time to coordinate and manage on an ongoing basis. More properties or more food truck days increases this cost even more. Can you envision how much time it will take to add these other amenities to the property calendar? Pause, and take a deep breath!

Now imagine a time when there was no electronic work order system. Tenant requests were written down on a notepad, coordinated and followed through manually. With technology, work orders are implemented electronically, with fewer people having to be involved in the solution. The property manager can utilize the analytics to help prevent future issues. Electronic work order systems have raised the level of the bar on services provided to tenants.

Like the evolution of the work order system, technologies are emerging that provide solutions for managing mobile amenities at properties. The best of these technologies will:

  • Streamline processes with self-service sign-up by vendors and alternates with final approval by managers. Sign up should include upload of current certificate of insurance. Establish automatic vendor notification of event rules and regulations and set up location.
  • Communicate with occupants directly to notify which vendors will be on property, menus, specials and discounts via the individuals preferred method of communication.
  • Social media management with auto-generated notification of events.
  • Expand amenity base with open enrollment to schedule for all services and food trucks. Auto-notify all vendors in your market of property events so they can sign up for certain days with the final approval of the property manager.
  • Measure success with analytics such as sales reports, reviews, number of attendees and increased number of direct building occupant contacts.
  • Minimize potential liability exposure with best practices, notification of expiring certificates of insurance and those that do not meet requirements.
  • Offset staff cost with efficiencies so that upfront cost should pay for itself within a year.

Technology platforms serving this market are emerging, including companies like MOBLZ with its Red Alertz feature that allows the property manager to also utilize the employee contacts base for emergency notifications. Keep your eye out for new market competitors in this area.

Embrace this change and become its master. You can control the traffic that comes in and out of your property, give the service providers rules and guidelines to follow and have fully engaged tenants. Amenity technology is becoming the norm just as electronic work order systems are. The information that can be generated from these events can positively raise the level of the bar on services you provide to your properties.

Featured in CREJ’s October 2020 issue of Property Management Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.