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The Most Important People Your CRE Tech May Be Leaving Behind in 2020

In 2019, more commercial real estate (CRE) firms than ever invested in technology for their properties. In the 20 years our organization has been embedded in the world of CRE technology, we’ve never seen such momentum (and such large opportunity ahead) in this field. But many firms are experiencing slow uptake and low use of that technology — risking tenant satisfaction, operational efficiency, revenue and threatening recent industry growth.

One of the largest questions looming in the minds of building management for 2020 is: “How can we increase adoption of our technology investment?”

Daniel Cozza

In 2020, the CRE technology you choose must focus on three kinds of user experience (UX): tenant UX, engineer UX, and property manager/ asset owner UX.

Tenant UX

There are many mobile apps available to help tenants make the most of their time in buildings — and tenants are clamoring for it! Research from Building Engines and the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA) found a majority (66%) of building management teams communicate with tenants by phone today, but only 4% of tenants want to use this method in the future.

If tenants want technology, why is so much of it unused?

Tenants, like all humans, default to what they know and what is easiest — emailing or calling building management directly, rather than using a system or dedicated app to submit a work order, for example. Because of this, they should look for technology with a great tenant user experience.

Tenant User Experience (TUX) is the overall experience a tenant has while using a piece of CRE technology. If TUX is slow, clunky or confusing, tenants simply won’t use it, leading to high abandonment and wasting the investment made.

Building Engines’ top-performing customers see tenant technology adoption rates of 88% or higher. Anything below 74% indicates an investment in technology is being squandered.

We recently introduced Bengie, the industry’s first chatbot — a technology program designed to participate in conversations with human users. Similar to Alexa or Siri, it communicates via text messages that help tenants register visitors or submit work orders automatically.

Research has found chatbots to be the easiest way for building occupants to access property information, request service and otherwise stay connected to their buildings. Why? It caters to what they already know.

A tenant doesn’t have to download a new mobile app they only use occasionally. Rather, they can text, have a conversation in a browser window, or use Slack to communicate directly with their building’s operations platform. It matches the experiences a tenant is already having on tools like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger while creating a smooth, frictionless experience — improving adoption and creating better return on the investment made in the underlying technology.

Engineer UX

Just as tenants will opt to ignore clunky, awkward, inconvenient technology (no matter how powerful it may be), so too will your engineering team.

Engineers are the least appreciated with respect to software, though they serve as the heartbeat of property operations (and are proven to affect overall asset value). They’ve been given tools that are functional, but very little software has been tailored for them.

Great tech for engineers meets them where they are, lets them connect on-the-go through their mobile device, giving instant access to information about tenants and schedules. We make it a priority to ensure offline access in our engineering mobile app, for example, when engineers are doing work in areas of low connectivity. A great engineer experience means a great tenant experience; the better an engineer can stay on top of their workload, managing tasks, the fewer tenant problems arise down the line.

Emerging tech is helping engineers solve a common problem for CRE organizations: staying on top of preventive maintenance. Because there’s a financial motivation to keep equipment running smoothly, operations teams set up ambitious schedules. But, when engineers can’t follow through due to bandwidth and high-priority tenant requests, it leaves many critical tasks unfinished.

AI and big data are being applied here to tune schedules to the scope of the preventive maintenance tasks at hand, making it easy for engineers to manage their workload. That’s an experience designed for the engineer.

CRE technology can deliver exactly what engineers need, if owners and management choose tools that serve their UX needs. Doing so decreases training time, increases adoption and helps to improve tenant satisfaction by enabling engineers to provide great service.

Property Manager & Asset Owner UX

More CRE technology means more data available about a portfolio or property. But only 4% of asset owners and PMs consider themselves highly effective technology users. Most of the tools available to asset owners are simply not designed with their needs in mind. They need instant access to the most critical information about all properties in their portfolios, on-demand.

Tenant sentiment: Is a property team meeting the service level agreement (SLA) committed to on the lease? Many managers can’t know, as they only ask tenants about satisfaction once a year. Rather than reactively handle issues as they arise, tech-enabled building managers should read trends in sentiment data collected over time. This visibility makes them more proactive, making better use of time and improving the lifetime value of each tenant.

Account health score: Each tenant account has a “score” — a sum of all parts of their tenant experience (including satisfaction, complaints, work orders, lease renewal and payments). Building management needs access to an account’s score at a glance, especially ahead of a conversation. The more that is known about a tenant’s situation, the more equipped management is to handle it well.

Benchmarks: Know how a team stacks up to property management peers at similar buildings (e.g. the same size in a similar urban area). More managers will seek benchmark data in 2020 as a measure of effectiveness and a chance to optimize their operations.

Visibility into square footage: Maximizing square footage per building is the fastest path to increasing asset value. Technology designed for an asset owner like Real Data Management (a company Building Engines recently acquired) provides space visibility with real-time property floor plans and tenant lease information. It’s built with the asset owner in mind, enabling planning scenarios for better, data-driven decisions about leasing and management.

Clearly, technology built explicitly for an asset owner and property manager user delivers unsurpassed advantages.

I predict that 2020 will be the turning point where tech-enabled CRE firms out-perform their peers who still rely on manual processes. It’s been a long time coming. But for this to truly be the year CRE technology reaches mass adoption, it’s critical for both technology vendors and CRE firms to make decisions with the user in mind. Whe

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