Coworking and flexible workspaces are similar to any other operation in the sense that a brand creates intrinsic value. In developing a brand, workspace operators are investing in the future of the business and member satisfaction.
Vulnerability of workspace brands
One of the easiest ways to negatively affect the reputation of a flexible workspace is with inferior or unsatisfactory networking and internet connection and reliability.
As hard as it is to build up value and brand reputation, it can be easily damaged. Social media spreads like wildfire, more commonly negative than positive. “Don’t expect your members to be rational about inconveniences they think are forced on them,” said Tony Freeth, director of coworking for Yardi in Europe.
Freeth explained that reputation and stability are two of the biggest keys to developing a positive brand value. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is the biggest detriment. If the first impression a visitor has inside a coworking space is poor, with an intermittent internet connection, that’s as damaging as anything to their likelihood of returning.
Customers carry strong memories of poor experiences, which is why first impressions are so vital. “As a coworking operator, you cannot let infrastructure be the problem,” Freeth added. “Because it is just too tough to overcome the loss of reputation.”
How users perceive unreliability
“Unreliability leads to a perception of institutional incompetence,” he explained. In a place where people come to work, make connections and network with like-minded professionals, connectivity is the most essential tool. If you are going to ensure one thing is top-flight in your space, it would be a high-level user experience over anything aesthetic. This applies to someone opening a first location or expanding their brand into new markets. While the experienced operator with many locations may receive the benefit of the doubt, and brand recognition is strong and positive, it is still hard to overcome a poor first impression when it comes to connectivity.
Resilience results from planning
“You can control these factors,” Freeth added. “All hardware fails, but have you planned for when it does fail? Will service continue because it is resilient?” A resilient circuit is very valuable in the coworking industry. If one connection were to fail, the second connection is on standby waiting to take over automatically to restore connection. Planning ahead for the adoption of 5G connectivity is also becoming more critical for operators. It may require infrastructure enhancements, but the impact of incredible new connection speeds will enhance coworking as we know it. Yardi recently analyzed its impact and the steps needed to prepare for mass 5G usage.
Above all, resilience comes from eliminating single points of failure.
In the same way one would research buying a new car or a new home, a major consideration when researching software to power coworking operations is whether the platform has a resilient mindset. “Is there a plan for when things fail and does everyone know what happens at that point?” Freeth said. “Yardi works on the idea that the customer should have three years of uninterrupted service and we design around that principle.”
Freeth recently went to visit a space outside of Denver, Colorado and was struck by a comment from the operator who told him that as he’s pulling into the building he looks at the Starbucks across the street, “because if it’s full, I know that my internet is down,” he said. While funny, it is an awful feeling knowing that is a possibility on any given day. Due to the pandemic, many workers are struggling with the idea of whether it’s best to work from home, from the office if it’s allowed or from a remote location like a coworking space. With bandwidth limitations and potential distractions at home, a shared workspace with reliable connectivity provides a safe and productive environment for a wide scope of work.
Another operator was interested in a new infrastructure solution because they were repeatedly having to discount meeting room charges due to the amount of time it took to connect to the Wi-Fi. Situations like these not only damage brand reputation, but hurt member retention as well.
“Above all, investing in reputation means investing for the long term,” Freeth said. Control what you can control and have backup plans for when systems don’t work as intended.