Executive office companies have flourished as enterprises have looked to their services when expanding into new geographies, or when downsizing their office footprint in a particular region. However, the market is a crowded one, and the service being offered – four walls, a roof and a desk – is a commoditized one.
In this crowded marketplace, it can be difficult for a company to differentiate its products and services. However, one executive office company is working feverishly to do just that.
Carr Workplaces, an executive office provider headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 35 locations across the country, has recently launched new service offerings to better compete with its large competitors and to differentiate itself in the market. They’re simultaneously working on a new digital marketing strategy and web presence to better communicate these new service offerings and differentiators to their members and prospects.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Angie O’Grady, the President of Carr Workplaces. During our discussion, Angie discussed the new services the company is offering, why they developed these new offerings and the role that community and experience play in differentiating Carr Workplaces from its competitors.
Here is what Angie had to say:
RS: I understand that Carr Workplaces has recently launched some new products and service offerings. What was the driver for launching these new offerings?
Ms. O’Grady: We’ve certainly recognized that the way that people work is changing. We’re innovating to help companies of various sizes and stages grow and thrive. Part of that innovation is the release of a couple of new offerings.
We have members that grow and need more space, or maybe need their own space with a look and a feel that reflects their brand. Many times those members don’t want to leave us because of the support that we offer to them and the community that we’ve been providing. One of our new offerings is WorkReady Suites, which offers a solution for that.
WorkReady Suites allow our members to move into a larger suite, where we can help them get set up, provide them with furniture, a phone system, IT infrastructure and anything else they need. And then we can continue to help them with administrative assistance and other business services they require. And more importantly, they can still continue to use our community café, attend networking events and be a part of our community. It’s a win-win since it allows business owners to not have to worry about the details of managing their office and allows us to keep our client relationships.
Then, we also found that many of our members find value in flexibility. Today’s workforce is mobile, so we developed a product offering that we call WorkAccess, which addresses the need of a client that wants to be able to drop into offices, whether in different neighborhoods or even different states. So, members can touch down in our community areas for up to three hours a day or get a desk all day, every day. And, any services they need can be purchased at a discounted rate. These individuals can also network in our community, take part in events and engage other Carr members.
Then, to tie this all together is our Carr Workplaces community. We’ve always had a strong community of business-minded professionals. But, we’re now really actively developing opportunities for our members to share ideas, business opportunities and best practices. And, they can do that through events and online networking. The member portal and online app will enable our members to offer member-to-member discounts, host and promote events and even find other people in the community with similar business and social interests. We believe these relationships will become increasingly valuable as the way people work continues to change.
RS: What considerations were taken and what challenges were faced in the branding of these new services?
Ms. O’Grady: Carr Workplaces has always been a service-focused brand, and these new products are in line with that. Our biggest challenge was educating the marketplace and our members and prospects about (these new services).
Although we come from the executive space industry, we’ve looked at the mobility and flexibility that is inherent in the coworking and incubator spaces. And, although we’re not going to add ping-pong tables to our centers, we really want to encourage the networking and relationships among our members that you see in those spaces.
So, we needed to develop and market a flexible, community-driven product to those members that also wanted to keep a professional image. This is challenge, but we see a lot of potential in it. It’s all about the service and community.
RS: A new Carr Workplaces Website is under development that will better position and market these new product offerings to your existing members and prospects. What considerations went into the creation of the new brand presence?
Ms. O’Grady: We work really hard to listen to our members. Understanding what’s important to them is going to help us identify the products and services that work best for them and help us beat the market.
What we’ve heard from our members is that their most important commodity and precious resource is time. Anything we can do to save them time makes what we offer even more valuable.
So, we kept this in mind when we designed the new Website. We kept our focus on customer service and hospitality. But, we also wanted to make it as easy as possible for our members to get the information that they need in a way that they want to get it. So, we’re introducing some new e-commerce products on the Website which will allow people that know what they want to find it, and make a quick, simple purchase.
We’re also giving people the option to schedule a tour right from the Website, or simply request more information. And, as we continue to innovate, we’re always thinking of giving people options based on their personal preference, but that’s going to take some time to develop.
For our existing members, we’re also developing an online portal and an app that makes it easier for them to connect with others in the community. People will be able to check-in to our centers, book meeting rooms, build a profile and search for other community members with similar interests or necessary skills. Through this portal, they can even promote their business, and host and promote events.
RS: I heard you say that you listened to members to determine what was important to them. How did you engage with your members and what channels did you use to get their feedback?
Ms. O’Grady: In years past, we’ve done surveys and polled our members to gather information. However, in 2014, we changed our strategy slightly to get a deeper dive. It’s easy to survey someone and get an answer, but you often don’t know what that answer meant. We wanted a richer dialogue.
So, earlier this year we developed a client advisory board with a handful of members to figure out what was most important to them. And, what we heard was that the most precious thing to them was saving time. Anything we can do to help them save time could make our relationship with them more valuable.
We plan to continue holding client advisory board meetings to get in-depth information on specific topics. And, since we are trying to be respectful of our members’ time and allow them to communicate with us in the manner they prefer, we’re also adding a feedback capability on our new Workplace+ member portal. We’re trying to make it easy for members to share their ideas.
RS: Carr Workplaces has embraced multiple social media channels in which to engage with members and prospects – including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. What kind of challenges has this created for the company? What benefits do the company and its audiences receive from being able to engage via these social channels?
Ms. O’Grady: Social media is a huge part of our strategy. We’ve focused on connecting with our community, along with our members. That’s what social media truly is all about. We’ve given our employees in each of our locations ownership over their center’s social media presence. That’s been a challenge, since it requires a lot of mentoring, training and – most importantly – trust.
But on the flip side, it’s allowed each center to basically develop its own social personality and connections. And, we’ve found that it’s been really worth the effort. So, when you’re tweeting with someone in the Carr Workplaces location in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) that’s really someone sitting in that location that’s tweeting back at you.
For additional information about Carr Workplaces and the company’s new service offerings, check out their Website at www.carrworkplaces.com. The new site and member portal are coming soon.