BCA Partner essensys shares valuable advice on how to overcome the operational challenges of operating a coworking space.
Running a serviced office, shared workspace or coworking space has many moving pieces and challenges. Between operational systems, business strategies and dealing with a variety of personalities, the struggle can be very real.
Over the past sixteen years, essensys has spent a lot of time with operators of shared workspaces, serviced offices and coworking spaces. Here, they share their top challenges and provide some perspective on overcoming them.
The top points covered in this article are:
1. Attracting and Managing Members
First and foremost, to attract new members, you need to increase brand awareness and drive demand for your space. There is an array of marketing tactics operators can utilize, which we covered in this article. From an online perspective, investing time and effort on inbound marketing – optimizing the keywords on your website and generating content – will drive traffic to your site. Once there, give a visitor a compelling reason to peruse your site, explore your products and services offering, events and workspace photo gallery.
To seal the deal, integrate a web-to-lead widget that makes it easy for customers to book space and services from anywhere at any time. Making your workspace offering available on-demand and easy-to-consume will help attract new members to your shared workspace or serviced office.
Attracting members can be laborious, but mismanaging members can have even longer-term effects on your business. For both single-site and multisite operators, in-life customer management is vital. Overseeing customer accounts via a member portal is the most efficient way to have a global view of your community members and how they engage with your site. From facilitating member-to-member and operator-to-member communications to curating an online digital community, managing your workspace member-base is centralized and effortless with workspace management software.
2. Inventory Management
The same way managing members can be cumbersome for serviced office operators, overseeing the diverse product packages and general space inventory at your workspace is no easy feat. Managing your inventory should be simple and work in real-time so that at any time you know what’s available across your space portfolio. Start by thoroughly defining your membership packages and product plans. From day passes and flexible coworking memberships to private offices and dedicated desks, establish your price point within your market.
Looking to attract corporate clients to your coworking space? Consider the different range of corporations that may be interested in coworking and construct appropriate plans. For example, some corporations may need smaller space for a remote team, while others may be looking to implement shared workspace into their overall workplace strategy, which may require entire floors of flexible space.
Once you have your shared workspace offering down, input each membership plan and office product into your workspace management platform. Managing your inventory with smart workspace technology enables you to have a 360-degree view of your business at all times. Multisite workspace operators and their sales teams struggle to stay on the same page when selling space products. Working from a Google doc, or worst, an Excel spreadsheet to manually manage inventory is archaic and inefficient.
3. Complex Shared Workspace IT
The flexible nature of serviced offices and shared workspace creates added complexity for operators to implement efficient and streamlined IT. Multiple suppliers, from ISP, Internet and Wi-Fi installation and management to VoiP, means multiple contracts, disparate systems and more resourcesgetting everything to work efficiently together. For starters, using multiple disparate systems demands the need for an in-house dedicated resource to provision, deliver or decommission services. It also forces operators to rely on multiple IT partners with different SLAs and processes to keep their workspace running.
Operators find themselves accessing multiple systems for visibility into service charges, for example, bandwidth usage or call charges, support systems and generally spending more time trying to centralize information, rather than focusing on their customers and growing their businesses. Not to mention the confusion it creates for members if there is an outage or need for IT support, a decentralized approach to workspace technology can be frustrating for members. The best way to overcome complex technology issues is to implement a platform that covers all bases.
When it comes to quality of service, relying on a single experienced technology partner for your infrastructure needs gives you peace of mind that you’re delivering services that make members happy. Your members rely first and foremost on the Internet at your space to do their jobs. You can’t afford faulty Wi-Fi or Internet outages in a competitive and dynamic market. Especially when the top reason members tend to leave their workspace is due to poor Wi-Fi.
Flexible workspace technology built exclusively for multi-tenanted usage centralizes multiple systems into a single platform for seamless provisioning and management of services – for operators and their members. It enables operators with control and flexibility over their IT in such a way that they can bundle services and create tailored packages based on specific member needs. In this way, workspace operators can enhance and differentiate services, and grow their space.
4. Billing Shared Workspace Products and Services
When dealing with such a variety of flexible services and product offerings for shared workspaces, billing becomes complicated. Based on conversations we have with hundreds of serviced operators, we know that streamlining the billing process is a primary challenge for operators. From the moment a service package is purchased, or ancillary services are rendered it’s vital to track usage, capture the cost and allocate it to the customer account. When your inventory is managed, and services are consumed from within your workspace management platform, billing within the same platform streamlines the process.
Having all customer services consumption data within one platform enables you to provide straightforward information to your workspace members. Software automation allows operators to do monthly bill runs for all members and tenants in your shared workspace. Finally, invoicing your customers becomes painless for you and efficient for your customers. Workspace management software automation removes human error common when manually inputting service charges or using disparate, multi-step processes. Furthermore, sending accurate invoices with a click of a button alleviates customer dissatisfaction and ensures a positive member experience.
5. Growing a Shared Workspace
Increased demand for flexible space is driving new and unique types of partnerships, workspaces and development projects. At this moment in the market, many serviced office operators are contemplating or pursuing growth strategies. Some obstacles issues, however. Whether growing within the same building or expanding to new locations and markets, making your business scalable from day one is key. Implementing a reliable, redundant and scalable technology platform facilitates growth down the line.
Scalable technology allows you to open more sites with minimal impact on your existing business. Replicating location setups within your workspace software platform expedites the launch process of a second or third location. Opting for a trusted technology partner that is specialized in workspace technology affords a depth of knowledge and helps you to clear hurdles faster.
When you focus on growing your business, you don’t need to neglect your existing customer base. Rather, expanding your workspace brand will ultimately offer them more benefits. Growing your shared workspace or coworking business means creating a wider network for your customers, to utilize your space and services. Make it seamless for them to work across your locations with secure Wi-Fi that recognizes them across any and all of your locations.
While challenges are different for operators across the board, the overarching consensus is that technology alleviates the multiple burdens of running as complex a business as a serviced office. Robust workspace technology enables you to deliver more, higher quality services to your members and primes your business for growth. From an operational perspective, it saves you time, energy and resources unnecessarily spent on inefficient systems. Invest in your workspace infrastructure to deliver optimal services and maximize your business profits.