urbanbubble’s Away Day: Catalyst for Change
Great change is afoot at urbanbubble. 2018 marks our 9thyear in the property management business. When we began life, BTR (Build to Rent) schemes were yet to be conceived in the market, now, they’re defining its direction. This last near-decade has given us time to refine our service and establish ourselves as leading managing agents in the North West, making us ideally placed to pioneer the operation of numerous BTR schemes.
Our leaders, office staff and site teams have had the privilege of seeing the industry grow up around them. Yet with several high-profile investments due to be realised before 2020, we are committed to building on our key strength – the customer experience.
It is a critical factor in what we want to accomplish. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. Without care and transparency, managing agents erode trust in those they serve which includes occupants, owners, developers and more. Such care is the principal on which our business was built, and our dedicated people work hard to maintain this in a fast-paced market.
That’s why we went to great lengths to plan a training Away Day that would ensure everyone at urbanbubble was involved in charting our future development. It was held on the 30thJanuary, at the gorgeous Midland Hotel in Manchester, where the whole team came together to develop a customer charter that will set the standards for our customers’ experience.
Keep reading for a summary of the event…
A high-spirited start
The last urbanbubble Away Day was 18 months ago. Many familiar faces were in the audience as we took our chairs at 9am. More, however, were joining in for the first time – our team has expanded considerably since summer 2016.
A slew of new opinions is vital to keeping urbanbubble responsive and competitive in the customer service arena. We intended to throw the question of ‘How do we measure excellence?’ back to the people who make our organisation tick.
HR & OD Manager Carolyn Preston took the mic with business magnate Lily Newman, to define who our customers are. The residents? Yes. Our investment partners? Definitely. But in fact, it’s everyone who interacts with us regardless of whether it’s our managers, building assistants or office staff they are all stakeholders in our vision.
Appropriately enough, the session began by assigning delegates to a table – we placed them deliberately with people whom they may never have worked with before. Our sites are spread across much of the North West; often, it means that employees don’t get to mix as a large group. The initial part of our Away Day remedied that, with a ‘Getting To Know You’ quiz and word game to loosen everyone up.
Honing in on our core values
The key takeaway from our 2016 Away Day was a list of Core Values i.e. six traits that we wanted to exhibit through the entirety of urbanbubble. They are Professional, Hard-Working, Effective, Engaging, Passionate and Innovative.
Founder Michael Howard spoke about how these characteristics were born from the offer he made, nine years ago, to take over a subpar management service himself, in the Manchester flat he inhabited with his young family. However, we wanted to drill down into the practical nature of hitting such targets… Values are useful, but they don’t pave a route to how we track and measure their accomplishment.
That’s why we gave each table – ringed with eight or so people – a copy of our draft Customer Service Charter. This is a document Carolyn drew up from the urbanbubble philosophy as an example for discussion and constructive feedback. We want to publish this to our customers as well as make it discoverable on our website.
Steadily, the teams tucked into what we represent. Examples from the Charter include ‘transparency’, the ‘quick resolution of concerns’ and ‘treating customers with respect.’ As they read, we gave every table an A3 sheet of paper. Staff had a chance to note down their responses, building the groundwork for a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) system that can empirically state how actions lead to great results.
Making tangible steps forward
After lunch, Lily Newman gave a brief but inspiring talk just before 2pm, when the room was asked to feedback on what they felt our key measures and standards of customer service should be. It was about making the customer experience more than a circled noun on a piece of paper…
Carolyn offered a few thoughts on how this might be done. One of them is bringing events to sites like The Slate Yard in Spinningfields: a complex that enjoys top-quality, hotel-style concierge and amenity privileges. In the future we will liaise with events teams so they can give residents a higher level of customer experience, such as fun social events through the year.
The KPI’s will be used as an internal tracking network, there to verify whether a maintenance or admin task has been done on time. By coaching employees through the system, we can then measure the results during performance reviews, eliminating any doubt as to how well someone is delivering that customer excellence we want to be renowned for.
But the highlights of the day came from the mouths of our staff. Here are some choice cuts from the evaluation survey:
- “I really enjoyed the day. It was my first Away Day so wasn’t sure what to expect – but I found the speakers really engaging, and the presentations interesting and insightful. I think the job role swap is a brilliant idea!”
- “A very worthwhile day overall, and the feedback from my table was the same. There were comments about how they remembered setting the values and mission statement in a previous session, and that they felt their views were being considered.”
- “The element of fun, as well as the seriousness, was kept alive throughout the day. It was also nice to spend time getting to know more of the wider urbanbubble family.
Together, we can now update the value proposition at the heart of urbanbubble. Joining known qualities and functional, innovative means to achieve them will bolster our position in the market. Our workforce left with plenty of smiles between them; a fine sign of our trust in what they have to say.
We will be publishing the Customer Charter later in the year – keep an eye out for more news as this develops.