Shifting business models, technology and digital tenant experiences – An interview with Eric Schaffer, essensys

Now more than ever property companies are striving to better understand their customers’ needs instead of taking a “build it and they will come” approach.

SPACE+ caught up with Eric Schaffer, CEO, APAC, essensys who talks about shifting business models, technology and digital tenant experiences.

1 – New business models have fundamentally changed the property industry. How are property companies shifting from landlords to service providers?

ES: The traditional commercial real estate model – where landlords offer only the physical space and tenants reinstate it when their leases are completed – is changing. That’s because the primary utility of and distribution models for commercial real estate have shifted (think changes to working, shopping, traveling), and buildings now need to be adaptive to capture market share. Property companies are doing everything they can to better understand and listen to their customers, instead of taking a “build it and they will come” approach.

Many stakeholders are also now looking to have OpCo and brand strategies in addition to their historical asset-heavy PropCos. This means an eventual shift towards asset-light global operators that focus on experience and services. The hospitality sector has already adopted this model, and office is set to resemble it. Forward-looking players are starting to focus on owning the customer and delivering consistency in service and product quality across every building in their portfolio.

2 – Why is technology fundamental to landlords remaining competitive and attracting and retaining tenants?

ES: Take office for example. With a myriad of workplace choices, including home offices, cafes and flexible workspaces, landlords today face increased competition in attracting and retaining customers – the employees of their tenants that actually use their product.

The office product is a place to work, and work today is almost entirely done with and based on technology. If the offering is similar to what customers have at home, such as a laptop and consumer-grade WiFi, it is not competitive, especially when modern workers are increasingly going paperless and deskless. Landlords today need to provide a superior and comprehensive technology offering to tenants.

As an example, enterprise-grade secure connectivity is the number one utility required to do modern work, yet most landlords do not view it as part of their base building offering. This represents a disconnect from the product that’s actually being provided and what customers use it for.

With tenants now more willing to pay for technology, digitalisation and the infrastructure to support it should be fundamental to a landlord’s asset and portfolio strategy.

3 – Why is tenant experience so important and what key trends will affect demand for tenant experience in the next few years?

ES: Tenant experience is the difference between working from home and going to the office. It’s what the office has to offer from an individual end user’s perspective, including space design, functionality, and social engagement with colleagues.

One key trend is extreme personalisation, where each person’s experience can and should be different and customisable, and the building should be able to respond accordingly. This means tenant experience needs to be relevant to the individual, which is built on better data capture and aggregation.

A second key trend is portfolio-wide and portable digital tenant experiences, where people want the ability to work from anywhere, but maintain that same level of frictionless connectivity and seamless access to their laptop, communities and workspaces. This keeps office customers in a captive environment even when they’re not in the building.

These trends were also evident in our latest report, Next, Flex | Technology for the next generation Australian office, which surveyed 1,000 Australian office workers to find out what mattered most to them.

4 – Tell us a bit more about essensys and your tenant experience initiatives.

ES: essensys has over 16 years of specialised industry experience globally, with customers such as Tishman Speyer, JLL, Industrious and Hines.

As the intelligent digital backbone for commercial real estate, our technology connects, controls and automates the provisioning of digital services, helping commercial landlords and flexible workspace operators  deliver a simple, secure and scalable proposition.

Our tenant experience initiatives focus on integrating the digital with the physical and making a building touchless, seamless, and easy to manage with less people.

The essensys platform enables the deployment and scale-up of portfolio-wide digital experiences, including secured and segregated connectivity options, a white label mobile application, booking capabilities and real-time on-demand network availability and control.

Suzan Dixon, Head of Workplace Europe & Americas, Standard Chartered

Lamia Zaky, Global Head of CRE, Inmarsat

Gabriela Hersham, CEO Huckletree

David O’Sullivan, Head of Property & Occupier Services, GPE

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