Operations Director, ATLAS Workbase
Coworking is here to stay of course, that’s pretty obvious just looking around Seattle with so many different types of spaces to choose from. Walk into almost any downtown area from Queen Anne to the International District and you’ll probably find a coworking space just steps away.
In general, as the coworking space matures and folks get smarter about the type of space that fits their needs best, the attitude of hospitality and how that can permeate a space and ultimately the experience, becomes a critical component that goes a long way toward differentiating one space from another.
Hospitality, as understood by those who come from a hotel industry background know, has been been missing from the cowork equation.
l’ll go one step further and posit that the marriage of hospitality and coworking is an opportunity to create something different.
When I traveled around looking at other vendors in our space I was struck by their simplicity. By that I mean they didn’t walk me through an orientation or greet me as if my use of their space was going to be “special.” That’s a lot different when I think back to my hotel days and how we might handle a new customer.
From food and beverage, to equipment and services like IT, every component has to shine, it has to appear dust free! In this perfect environment, everything is working in lockstep to deliver a seamless and worry-free customer experience. Hospitality is all about the relationships and personalization of that experience.
This means that not only does Hospitality meet and greet the new member, it also means that our IT staff is available to answer questions and configure their technology; sales and marketing may drop by and ask to have a cup of coffee and talk about networking opportunities, and so on. We make it a point to have multiple team members show the new member that we as an entire organization has their back, and that we are laser-focused on their experience.
But how do you deliver on a consistent basis a four-star concierge experience? You may think that anybody can build four walls and stock it with furniture, then say “now go work.” Not so simple. It’s a wholly different thing to deliver personalized service inside one’s daily work routine, no matter how varied or different those individual routines may be. Here is the approach we took at ATLAS Workbase:
It all starts with “Customer First.” For starters you must have, to borrow a little bit from baseball, “5-tool players” at key personnel positions. Within our hospitality team, our mantra is “everybody does everything.” That means that anyone on the floor should be able to assist a customer no matter what their need or desire may be. Our staff has multiple skills. This iterates off The Nordstrom Way, where we are all empowered to make decisions while we’re on the floor. To do this you must hire independent people who are flexible, customer service savvy and adaptable. Get to know your customer. If you know what line of work they do, type of amenities they appreciate, equipment they use, you can anticipate their requirement or interest day to day.
The traditional rule in the hotel industry is the 10/5 greeting. At ATLAS Workbase our rule is the 20/10/5 greeting. This means that guests approaching at 20 feet are acknowledged through eye contact. At 10 feet is the verbal greeting and then 5 feet is the personal welcome. Guests and visitors feel welcome before they even step through our door.
Ensure Consistency of Services
Keeping what works and what is successful is obviously important. While there is trial and error with any new endeavor, we are taking what works in other industries and adapting those methodologies to basically a brand new environment. Having processes we can plug in right away gives us a leg up in some respects, but there are definite challenges when looking to create new processes or adaptations that work better.
Let’s take our new member orientation process: while we borrowed some tried and true methodologies from my hotel background, at ATLAS Workbase we added a one-one-one session for each member to educate them on the array of services and amenities we offer. We personalize member orientation through a walk-through. We ensure that the walk-through will be consistent for each member no matter which ATLAS team member actually performs it, by creating a checklist that was incorporated into our New Hire Manual. This gives us a consistent baseline. Our training is not just paper-based, we also use video to show the right way and the wrong way to conduct a walk-through. Then we follow this up with a Monthly Check-In where we review with each member what their experience was like, and also whether they have concerns, questions, or just want to reaffirm we are doing a great job!
To further drive and ensure consistency we send out reminders to our staff on the Right Way; we meet as a group to update or even streamline processes; and always reaffirm that proper preparation is half the battle toward getting it right.
We encourage open communication and we set the tone to our members that we are transparent. As illustrated by our walk-through process, communication is an integral part of building relationships with our members. We communicate through multiple outlets, however we always prefer the personal interaction. Listening first helps us understand clearly what the customer is relaying. The customer deserves our undivided attention!
Strive for Yes
Anytime a customer says ‘No” to our suggestion, or is unhappy with a particular service or outcome we offer options that either meet or exceed expectations. It’s not the power of persuasion that helps deliver the YES, it’s the idea that though we may not have the exact service or product, we will find suitable options to meet the demand. It’s important to point out if we don’t have the customer’s intention as the forefront of our business we don’t have a business. A great example of this in play is our One Stop Concierge, where we look to provide as many “catered services” as possible (think: pet sitting, dry cleaning, shared cars, special food orders etc.).
Our members are our number one priority, but in coworking not all of our customers play the same instrument, or even at the same beat for that matter. Our role is to create a harmonious environment. Much like a musical orchestra each member plays a critical role in the creation of the composition. Like a great conductor, Hospitality guides the orchestra! That’s a perfect start for a perfect marriage between Hospitality and Coworking.