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Learning to Say Yes: Hospitality in Property Management

The days of “service” are gone. “Service was great 10 years ago,” said Tamas Vago, hotel manager at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Fla. “Now that’s really nothing. That’s average.”

The days of “service” are gone. “Service was great 10 years ago,” said Tamas Vago, hotel manager at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Fla. “Now that’s really nothing. That’s average.”

Vago was being purposefully provocative with this statement during an education session at the 2018 IREM Global Summit, but he quickly followed up: “Now we need to provide personalized service, call guests by their names, do something for their anniversary.”

Vago wasn’t the only member of the panel who made a comment along these lines. In the age of Uber and the immediate assessment of services, the role hospitality plays in commercial and residential real estate is crucial and one that property managers cannot ignore.

The panel, titled “Hospitality Best Practices for Property Management,” featured three different speakers who work with different types of properties. Tamas represented the hotel side of commercial real estate.

Cathy Kleve, CPM, vice president at Wildamere Properties in Minneapolis, has found a number of ways to bring the personalized service typical of hotels and large residential buildings to the office spaces at the Oracle and International Center in Minneapolis.

She began by holding weekly brainstorming meetings where “no idea was too dumb.” This led to a variety of different events for tenants. The large, open atrium in the building presented unique opportunities such as a weekly farmer’s market, yoga during lunch hours and a “Skol” chant similar to the one performed at the U.S. Bank Stadium during the Minnesota Vikings’ 2018 playoff run.

However, Kleve and Vago agreed that personalized service doesn’t always require anything extravagant.

At the Oracle, Kleve holds doughnut meet-and-greet events in the management office and notifies tenants to drop by to say hello, which she said are “perfect for building relationships.”

Vago also emphasized that it’s important not only to know your guests but also to let them know you and what makes you an individual. “Be genuine,” he said. “This creates a human level of interaction.”

Kleve delivers this interaction digitally as well, through “meet the staff” emails that may include a favorite recipe in addition to more typical background information about the staff member.

Vago has observed that a quick solution is critical to guest satisfaction. When an issue arises with guests, solving that issue with the first staff contact leads to a loyalty rate of 70 percent. Pass the issue to a second staff member, however, and that rate drops to 40 percent. Involving a third staff member drops the rate even further. Vago noted that this impact makes it essential for supervisors and bosses to empower their workers to make decisions and solve problems on their own.

Seok Heon Moon, CPM, joined the panel from South Korea and added his experience with hospitality in residential real estate. Moon serves as general manager of the overseas marketing division at DOWOO Global Networks and helps manage the Signiel Residences in the Lotte World Tower, the tallest building in South Korea.

Moon finds that amenities are a key part of the Signiel Residences. “The value of your property will naturally rise with the clients’ perception towards your services and property,” he said.

Depending on the situation, a top-down approach has been necessary to either deliver the personalized service required or, somewhat ironically, improve satisfaction with a less personalized approach.

Rapid porter delivery services are well developed in South Korea, but unfortunately they were the lowest ranked amenity at the Signiel Residences with a satisfaction rate of 81 percent. In order to deliver on this amenity, Moon said the building had to develop a Signiel-only shipping bay. Prior to this change, there was one shipping bay for the entire building, which added days to delivery time.

The private theater in the building also had a low satisfaction rate of 82 percent due to scheduling difficulties. Concierges fielded reservations from residents but were unable to efficiently and fairly monitor several communication channels (phones, text messaging) while still performing other duties, which led to resident complaints. The solution was to take reservation requests and then decide the reservations by lottery each Monday.

In all of these cases, it’s vital not to fear running into issues with a guest, resident or tenant. Vago noted that 70 percent of “lifetime connections” started with a problem that was resolved by effective hospitality.

As illustrated in nearly all of the examples from this panel, effective hospitality often means going above and beyond, actively seeking out improvements even when customers are relatively satisfied with amenities.

“I treat every one of my residents as a celebrity,” said Kleve. “[Property managers] love saying ‘no’ because the lease says we don’t have to. Maybe we can learn to say yes, even if the lease is a little bit gray.”

About the Author:
Daniel Morales is international programs liaison at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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