Outsourced Shared Workspace Technology Part III: Choosing your Technology Partner
By Steve Eveleigh, Chief Marketing Officer, essensys
Part I and II of this series prove a valid business case around partnering with technology experts to deliver workspace software and infrastructure. However, how do you decide who is the best partner? Vetting and selecting a shared workspace technology partner is a taxing responsibility for any flexible or shared workspace CEO, IT Manager or center director. Like any business partnership, decision-makers must evaluate the specific needs of the business, long-term goals within their marketplace, and the value of services against their budget.
Be ready to assess the contenders based on their experience and knowledgeability within the industry sector, their capabilities today and their vision for the future. Service, stability and customer testimonials are also key factors to consider when determining which vendor will best suit your needs.
Service should be an operator’s main concern when shopping for the best shared workspace technology solution and here’s why.
Managing a shared workspace or Coworking space is akin to running a business in the hospitality industry – it is serviced-based and customer-focused. The providers you partner with should prove the same passion to customer service as you and your business do.
Know what to expect when switching to a new service provider. If you are opening a new location, speak with experts who have tried-and-true hands-on experience with new location fit outs, cabling, and WAP placement. Real industry experts can consult on how the migration will impact and improve every part of your business, from sales to cash collection. Botched implementations can lead to negative customer reviews, loss of clients and even loss of staff members. We see many operators choose the wrong partner and ultimately lose customers due to the negative experience.
Ask before you sign. What level of support will you and your center staff have during and after implementation? With technology, issues do arise, but the way your partner reacts is the key to ongoing success. Be sure that your partner has a support capability available, whether live chat, e-mail, online knowledge base or phone support. If you are just speaking to a salesperson or CEO/Founder ask yourself if that business has a scalable support model to help you through the life of the contract.
Quality of Hardware and Service Delivery
As a workspace provider, the technology you extend to your customers is only as good as the services provided by your partner. Workspace operators are essentially reselling data, unified comms and software from a vendor to their clients. In this way, it is of utmost importance to partner with a supplier that delivers only quality services and hardware to power the workspace – your customers will demand it.
When it comes to hardware, ensure WAPS and network switches are new, not refurbished, reutilized, outdated or just plain old. Don’t compromise the quality of connections and speed in your workspace for a cheap investment. Technology can be a prominent figure on your P&L, but it translates to much more than an Internet connection or online booking system. It has a direct impact on customer satisfaction, customer retention, and increasing revenues.
Your end users will notice the level of service provided by your technology partner. In fact, according to Deskmag, a faulty Internet connection makes up 30% of all complaints reported by members between 2015 and 2016. As we all well know, without optimal Internet access, we just can’t do our jobs in today’s always-on, always-connected workplace.
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Stability of Service
Workspaces mature and change with the changing trends of the modern worker, the digital nomad and the SMBs using shared space. A technology provider must deliver services that are consistent and secure and can meet the changing needs of your target market and existing customers.
When choosing your service provider, be sure to consider the market’s growth and constant evolution. Select a solution that is scalable enough to handle the growth of your membership and real estate footprint. A cloud-based platform designed for flexibility over a proprietary network is your best bet for optimal security and uninterrupted service. Not to mention the ability to quickly scale as you grow. Limiting onsite hardware means you can avoid pinch points that result in downtime – always take a cloud-first policy.
Billing, invoicing, online bookings and other services integral to space management are must-haves when evaluating service features. However, what other capabilities are the contenders able to extend to you and your customers? To stay competitive, operators are seeking to extend member services beyond the standard Internet or telephony access.
The likes of a community platform that connects members across locations; 24/7 access control, self-service bandwidth and event promotion are just a few revenue-driving services that can prevent churn and keep your space growing and your customers happy. Partner with a shared workspace technology provider who thinks about the growth of your business just as much as their own.
Before partnering with any vendor, do your due diligence and vet each of the contenders by speaking with industry peers who use their services. Any provider confident in their products and services will provide you with a list of their current customers and their contact information for you to hear their first-hand experiences. Be sure to ask specific questions about the services contracted, the implementation and follow-up processes and the overall experience of working with that vendor.
Get to know the vendor contenders – not simply on a feature or pricing level – but rather their evolution, how are they are structured, and their methods for developing and maintaining their services and product. Ask the right questions:
• How long have they been in business?
• What experience do they have in the industry? In your sector?
• What is their customer retention rate?
• What resources are dedicated to software development?
• How secure are their connections?
• What does their future roadmap look like?
Vision for the Future
Making a purchasing decision is not like buying a box. It’s more like selecting a friend or partner. It has to be right today – but it has to involve longevity.
Does the service provider have a clear view of the future? Where is the market going? Where are their customers going? Where are their services going? If these things do not match – it’s irrelevant. Just because something is relevant today – doesn’t mean it will be relevant to your future. More importantly, if it holds back your ambition you should consider your investment.
There is a common political polling question ‘Would you like to have a beer with the candidate?’. It’s a pretty simple barometer of whether you like them and could work with them. It’s a real factor when selecting a shared workspace technology partner as well. It’s going to be a long-term relationship – do you get along with them on a personal level, do you like them, would you have a beer with them? It’s not the be all and end all – but it is important.
You get the idea. A vendor is not just delivering a service; they are offering a partnership and strategic guidance. There is an inevitable social and personal aspect to the relationship. The more you know about them and their services, the better for your business and your customers.