The outbreak of COVID-19 clearly took the business community by surprise, and it soon became clear that those who had robust business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place were going to be able to adapt to tough circumstances much quicker.
However, being prepared for a worst-case scenario is not enough – what matters is an organisation’s ability to think on its feet and bring a creative approach to the table, while working under pressure. Allsop’s Letting and Management team was instructed to manage Barings residential BTR assets, including The Keel in Liverpool, comprising 240 units. The handover process, which normally takes up to three months and involves considerable scoping, planning and transition, was condensed into just over one month because of the lockdown that started at the end of March. Those who are familiar with the management of residential buildings know that it can be a challenging task in the most stable of times due to the multitude of stakeholders and requirements involved.
However, the pandemic presented us with a whole new raft of considerations, including building a relationship with residents and employing a new property management team remotely. We created a designated residents’ portal in under a week, post lockdown, which allowed us to keep residents up to date with our activities and inform them about the measures taken to guarantee their safety and compliance with Government advice. This new channel has also enabled us to reach out to those shielding, should they need additional help from the management team. Communication around new safety measures was just the first step in building a relationship with residents and earning their trust. Once the portal was up and running, we used it as a means to offer occupiers a variety of activities to keep them entertained and create a fully-functioning community at a time when many were struggling from isolation, uncertainty and boredom, often cut off from family, friends and colleagues. As part of our virtual engagement plan, we rolled out a programme which has grown to include online yoga and PT sessions, activities for pets, an online book club and even spoon painting.
The next step was adapting the building to residents’ needs, which changed rapidly following the outbreak of the pandemic. Knowing that many of our residents would continue working remotely for at least a proportion of the week, we appointed an interior specialist to help us transform the foyer areas to create a bespoke lounge with co-working areas. As a result, we are creating a vital distinction between home and work for our residents, and a much-needed space for many after months of working from their dining tables. We’ve also installed a bespoke parcel locker system, allowing residents 24/7 self-serve parcel pickup and drop off with integrated notification of delivery confirmation. The past six months have provided us with an opportunity to think about the ways we can optimise the operational aspects of the building. After assessing energy usage and costs of replacement bulbs, the cost benefit analysis showed that we could both lower the carbon footprint and generate significant long-term cost savings for our client Barings. Throughout lockdown, we held regular meetings with our team via Zoom, creating a return to the office/site plan for the staff which ensured they could resume work in a safe environment, whilst trying to anticipate the future needs of the residents.
Another key focus for us has been helping The Keel remain front of mind amongst potential occupiers. To achieve that, we developed a new brand proposition, with a keen focus on customer service, a strong community and enhanced benefits of living in a waterside iconic development with 24/7 staff, state of the art gym, co-working space and resident breakout areas. We also furnished three new show apartments and commissioned new photography and video tours. Finally, we built a bespoke leasing site for virtual tours and remote lettings and, when permitted by government, resumed physical viewings with safety precautions in mind. The health crisis is far from over, and no one knows when it will be, but we know our agile approach paying off when we receive words of gratitude from the residents and see our client’s bills shrink at a time when every penny matters.
If you would like to get in touch with Kelly Smith, please feel free to contact her:
firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7344 2622