I recently connected with Justin Harley, Regional Director at Yardi, to talk about the importance of member services in a coworking space.
The conversation, however, quickly took a turn.
“Can we do something clever here,” Harley asked. “Can we just take the S off of member services?”
The change is subtle but profound. It speaks to the need for shared workspace operators to put the member experience above all else.
What is member service? For Harley, who was speaking from the perspective of a workspace customer and member, service is the support that the space and team give members to enable them to be the best they can be—to “get on and do my work the most productively I can,” as he puts it.
Harley cringes at what he calls the cheesiness of the phrase “be the best they can be,” but we agree that it’s absolutely true. From a member perspective, service that helps us streamline our days and work is a truly valuable thing.
Harley explains that space he currently works out of has a “whole service wrap that supports [him].” He describes the member hosts as incredibly helpful—even as members put a lot of demands on them—and relays a story from the previous day. He was in the middle of a busy stretch, interviewing people for various roles, and he hadn’t organised all his meeting room needs.
“They sorted me out at the last minute,” he says. “They were fantastic and they supported me. Nothing was too much of a problem for them.”
In contrast, he shares a story of being in a large, very well known space three weeks ago. A member of the space was in a similar meeting position, with some issues around booking a meeting room. When this member approached the staff, he was told, “You’re supposed to use the app.”
“To me,” Harley says, “that is the difference.”
The story ends with the member turning around and saying, “These guys are idiots.”
“That’s customer perception, isn’t it,” says Harley. “He was not being supported by his space or his operator.”
As the workspace sector continues to grow, outshining the competition with design and amenities is oftentimes a matter of spending more. Member service, however, enables spaces to shine on a personal and very human level. If a space has a reputation for going above and beyond with their member service—wrapping layers of service and support around members as they launch and grow businesses, that is a differentiator that can’t be created with a bigger budget. That takes a company-wide commitment to excellence and truly serving the member community.
“The key to outshining your competitors,” says Harley, “is that personal, unique experience. It has to come down to training, it has to come down to recruitment, it has to come down from the CEO, in terms of culture. And that cascades down to the people that really do the work in the spaces.”
To illustrate his point, Harley shares another story of bumping into the CEO of his regular workspace early one morning. The two recognised each other and started chatting. The CEO asked how Harley was finding the space. Harley said he loved it, but there were two things he would change: he would enable all the meeting rooms with Zoom, as the A/V was “a bit clunky,” and he would get automatic coffee machines because the existing ones were frustrating and high maintenance.
Within two weeks, the meeting rooms were Zoom enabled and the coffee machines were replaced with automatic ones.
“That is service,” Harley says.
Having the foundational workspace pieces in-place is essential for any operator. Harley shares three things that—for him—operators must get right: good toilets, a kitchen that’s functional and large enough to handle traffic, and good wifi.
Wifi that is unreliable, or requires members to reconnect as they move to different areas in the space, is “boring and irritating.” Harley explains that the Yardi team works hard to ensure that once a member is connected to their private network, they can go anywhere in the building, and even to another center of the same workspace group, without having to log-in again.
“You don’t even notice it,” he says. “The experience is so seamless, there’s no friction whatsoever.”
Add to the foundational workspace pieces a level of member service that exceeds expectation, and a space is nicely positioned to shine.
Doing so also creates an air of positivity and support to help members be the best they can be in a space.
“This is about service,” says Harley, “not services.”
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