You have apps for banking, ordering food, and managing your health records, so why not an app for your office building? Enter tenant engagement apps. This software, which started gaining traction before the COVID-19 pandemic, has exploded in popularity as a way to directly link building managers to office building occupants.
Apps in action
Philadelphia-based Rubenstein Partners utilizes a few different tenant engagement apps. Tired of giving a message to a tenant’s contact person and hoping it got relayed to the employees, Rubenstein began implementing the software to communicate more directly with the employees. Then COVID-19 hit, and the app became a way to communicate building events, create a sense of (virtual) office community, and, when the time was right, promote the building’s amenities to incentivize employees to come back.
“Communicating directly with tenant employees is still the number one goal, but we quickly realized that it was also a great tool for access control, amenity scheduling, ordering food at the cafes, and putting in a service order. And it just continues to grow from there,” says Salvatore Dragone, CPM®, senior vice president and director of property management for Rubenstein Partners.
One of the apps Rubenstein has deployed is from HqO, a tenant engagement software company founded in 2015. Rubenstein uses HqO for about 8 million square feet of primarily suburban office space. Used by several hundred properties in more than 20 different countries, HqO’s app, like other tenant engagement apps, aims to simplify every step of the employee journey and boost engagement with the physical property. Highly customizable, it can interface with public transit data, parking technology, building access, and plenty of other amenities, as well as provide alerts on upcoming events and programming.
“With tenant experience software, the idea is to give building users a remote control, as we like to say, for the building,” says Chase Garbarino, CEO and co-founder of HqO. “It bundles the building tasks into one app, automating the more traditional pen-and-paper tasks such as submitting work orders or visitor sign-ins.”
Because of the connectivity, the tenants get a much smoother and more customizable customer experience. When signing up for the app, users can provide information on their commute or interests, like fitness or socializing. The app also provides a place for them to give actionable feedback, Garbarino says.
In terms of feedback, Dragone reports praise from tenant employees and employers, saying that even employees who don’t go to the office every day will come in for events promoted in the app, such as beer tastings.
Tenant experience apps also offer a trove of insight into the tenant employees, giving property managers hard data on occupant preferences.
“If you were to ask me, ‘What do you think about doing a cupcake tower event or an ugly sweater contest?’ my response would have been, ‘Really?’ But I’ve come to find out they’re two of the most popular events we’ve held,” he says.
This data can allow companies to spread popular programming and amenities to other properties and strategically focus dollars.
Dragone has also used the data to cleverly promote amenities. For example, he can see who frequents or never uses the building’s café. With this info, he can recommend the café to those who never use it and find ways to reward the tenants who do.
“This is the stuff I never had access to before the app and where it really becomes valuable,” he says.
Dragone predicts that analytics will become another valuable amenity property managers promote to tenants, as they could share a year’s worth of insight to office employers to help them improve their individual office environment.
“We could sit down with the tenant contact and say, ‘I wanted to share with you some information about your employees and what they like and don’t like,’” Dragone says.
Adopting an app
For the smoothest integration, property managers should keep some tips in mind when choosing and implementing an app.
- Vet the provider. There are multiple companies to choose from.
- Do your research and get testimonials. “Today, I think managers have the advantage of talking to other managers who have experience with the apps,” Dragone says.
- Make sure the company you choose is responsive and nimble to make changes and enhancements.
- Confirm that the app already integrates with your building systems, such as your work order or access control systems. “This way, when somebody clicks on a work order, they’re not brought to another website,” he says. “It’s almost like they’re in the same environment. It’s seamless.”
- Test it. Try the app out yourself to ensure it’s intuitive and easy to use. Ask to see examples of what other properties are using. Once you choose an app and implement it, continue testing at that one property before you deploy it to others. Dragone tested the app at one property for almost a year before rolling it out to another property.
- Customize for the user. Once you’ve made a choice, build it out with the user in mind. From their journey leaving their house and commuting, using the building, and commuting home, think of all the points that could make their day easier. Garbarino says this could mean offering public transit data, on-premise parking technologies, and alerts to building-sponsored events. “Find ways to cater to them, create ‘happy moments,’ and remove friction throughout their day,” Garbarino says.
- Value the analytics and data. “Without that data, it can just be window dressing,” Dragone says.
- Stay engaged. “It does take work,” Dragone says. “Make sure that when someone sends a message in the app, you respond immediately. They’re called tenant engagement apps, right? So if you’re not engaging with your tenants, it’s a waste of money.”