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How the Real Estate Industry Can Take a Page From Healthcare

There was a time in March 2020, possibly even before the announcement of the global pandemic, when real estate leaders across the globe asked themselves, how are we going to keep our operations functioning? What will our tenants need? What are the short-term and long-term options? Now, business leaders should look to the success of virtual care — an industry which always had the resources available and was able to pivot quickly to adapt to the needs of their customers and future customers. Here are a few lessons learned from the healthcare space that real estate leaders can apply to their new normal.

Lesson #1: Tenant (aka customer) engagement – It’s not everything, it’s the only thing.   

The pandemic has altered our society, economy and industries, and more importantly, it has impacted how businesses engage and serve customers.  How has healthcare thrived during this black swan event? They have kept the customer’s needs, challenges and future-facing opportunities at the center of their operations, technology and decision making.  It may not be perfect; it may not be as profitable; but supporting customers, keeping them engaged, and adapting to how they want to engage is how a business will continue to thrive.  What we can take from the acceleration of virtual care: The conversation with the customer is consistent, ongoing and always available on the customer’s terms.

Lesson #2: Make the most of what you have and add what is needed, not just wanted.  

Conversations have centered around the speed and success of virtual care during this historic period.  But virtual care has been around since 2002 when Medicare established telehealth standards and service. Virtual care has always been available to the US population, but it was not until March 2020 when the value of virtual care was recognized.  Make an assessment — What has been in place that customers did not recognize the value of until March 2020? Has a tenant accessibility plan always been in place? What are tenants demanding? What did they demand last year that is still relevant in today’s world?

Let this experience be a lesson to management companies and landlords. Use technology.  Assess customer needs.  Determine the value the technology has in meeting those needs. What are tenants buying? What is needed to stay connected to tenants? Is there opportunity to drive tenant engagement with customers?

The pandemic-present tenant wants their experience to be easy, immediate, safe and with a connection based on their personal preferences, just like with telehealth. The new normal needs to be considered when planning and budgeting for technology needs.  For example: Some real estate management companies have embraced, and in some ways gotten ahead of the curve, relative to safe facility access and it has become an amenity far above lounge areas and green spaces. Rules/regulations/laws for what is and is not allowed are seemingly in a constant state of change, and vary from location to location. Can a management company/landlord stay on top of what is needed, and at a minimum provide solutions that not only meet the requirements of regulations, but also allow easier access to space for tenants and their customers? What technology is available to make this happen? Having an amenity such as this would allow tenants to feel confident and hopefully somewhat comfortable coming to their space, without having to sort through and update procedures on their own. Granted, they may install additional safety protocols within their space, however basic access to the building and space would be solved.

Lesson #3: Let your mission be your North Star.

It was never anticipated that in 2020 so many businesses would be operating remotely, or that tenants would not be in their spaces. Not many organizations thought they would be conducting daily tasks over Zoom calls. And that leads us to our final lesson learned from virtual care services: Remember your mission.

Telehealth services have been established for years now, and telehealth’s mission is to provide care when and where needed, albeit on a smaller scale. But in many cases, virtual care services and technology have been tested, validated for safety, marketed to customers and accounted for in budgets and operating statements. These efforts have been exponentially ramped up in 2020, of course, but at the end of the day there was planning and consideration of how to make it happen. All of this planning allowed for care to be delivered — one of the missions of healthcare.

When it comes to your business, remember your mission. Let your mission be the guiding star when it comes to your business technology needs and adapting to the new normal. Virtual care services have taught us during these dark days that those who focus on their customer, technology and mission will be guided to solutions and to long-term success.

Author: William Kinney, CPA | wkinney@withum.com

Real Estate Services

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