Headlines about staff shortages in UK hospitality should be a wake-up call for certain corners of the property industry and the way we approach customer experience (CX).
Property’s default has tended to be to try and import CX teams, techniques and practices from retail and leisure, without really dwelling on the specifics of what good CX means in a property context.
Mimicking these sectors doesn’t guarantee excellent service (a quick browse of customers’ negative experiences on TripAdvisor shows us that) and it’s going to become increasingly difficult to employ talent from them post-Brexit, as they struggle to maintain their own workforces. The time has come for property to take charge of its own CX training and development. Doing so will help us to create better places and ultimately, to unlock more value from them.
We should absolutely continue to learn from best practice in other industries, but customer experience is not one size fits all. Property’s diverse customer base is unique and it calls for bespoke skills and a tailored talent infrastructure. Mixed-use developments are a good example of this in action. The ‘customer’ in these cases could include residents, shoppers, tourists, employees of the office occupiers based on site and their clients in turn. Property needs a specialist model that can cater for this blend of B2B and B2C audiences.
If we want to get the best results, we should be aiming to train people from the ground up – attracting young people fresh out of school or college with the right attributes and personality traits to excel in a property setting. We want those students with good communication skills, attention to detail, organisation and team-work abilities who would have historically found their home in hospitality. Let’s champion a career in property. We can provide interesting and varied job roles, that offer the chance to impact people’s lives in a tangible way, with sociable hours, greater work-life balance and job stability than the entertainment and food and drink sectors.
Getting customer experience methods and skills recognised and accredited by RICS and other industry professional bodies would be a big step forward. There are one or two ‘customer experience in property’ courses starting to pop up, but we need to see many more that are accessible to the younger generation and stand alongside options like NVQs, BTECs and degrees. Ideally, brand marketing and placemaking higher education courses should be extended to span property customer and community experience.
Perhaps the greatest barrier to changing the conversation around CX careers in property currently is that we as an industry need to see CX as a more integral part of the process of shaping successful places – after all, a better experience is what keeps visitors coming back, helps to sell homes, and drives up retention rates for rental tenants. Once we recognise that, then we’ll be in a stronger position to sell ourselves and get the best and brightest into our industry.
Charlotte Crawley, culture & experience director at Navana Property Group