Let’s take a stroll back to 1950s-60s America. A car turns into a gas station on a sweltering hot day. The driver gets out, stretches his legs, and goes inside to buy an ice cold soda. The man behind the counter greets this regular patron him by name as they banter and engage in small talk. The customer finishes his drink as the gas station attendant fills up his gas tank, checks his oil, cleans the windshield, and gives the hood a swipe to remove a smudge. Then, friendly goodbyes and the customer drives off.
Great service plus the personal touch equal a loyal patron.
This anecdote is a favorite of Karri Hautanen, Director, Marketing. He likes to use it to illustrate the corporate philosophy of Technopolis, where customer service is the foundation of the company’s business strategy.
Good Mood Workdays
All customers, including their customers, are met when they arrive at Technopolis with good service first thing when they are greeted by a Technopolis staff member personally.
“The lobby is an important entryway and the people are even more important to us,” says Hautanen.
After a good meal we feel sated and in good spirits. This is the yardstick used to measure all 40 restaurants on our campuses – did the customer leave feeling satisfied, in good spirits and with a desire to return. Quality and service are monitored and measured daily to maintain high standards, and all customer complaints are addressed immediately. That quality control extends to cleaning and property management. All operations work on a bonus program, where, for example, if a restaurant meets its customer targets, it could be rewarded with a reduction in rent.
This approach secures staff and customer confidence in the company’s ability to function and provide first rate service.
We’re not Resting on Our Laurels
Technopolis has created a corporate culture to measure customer satisfaction and explore how to improve it at each level of customer interaction.
“We continuously look at how our customers experience our services, at what stages, and what steps we need to take to improve it further,” says Hautanen.
Technopolis has designed a program to measure customer satisfaction in real time.
Example: If a restaurant has burned its food, it is known immediately. ICT glitches are detected instantly, and they can be fixed in no time.
Technopolis puts the results of its regular surveys of customer satisfaction into a cloud service where the alarm is automatically sounded if quality falls, and the problem is corrected ASAP.
Hautanen says that customers do respond to surveys and send feedback, which greatly pleases him. One reason for this is that they know the feedback is taken seriously and will be acted on. Their needs are prioritized.
“We get amazingly good feedback. Sometimes it makes one wonder if there is, in fact, any room for improvement,” he says.
This positive response is likely, at least in part, due to the fact that Technopolis has thought deeply about customer service and customer needs, and anticipates what those needs are – even before the customers themselves are aware of them.
Open to Criticism
Brickbats are sometimes as useful as bouquets. Hautanen subscribes to the philosophy that a ‘complaint is a gift’ as a factor in fixing problems. Criticism and negative feedback can open the road to improvement.
Example: A customer complains that the steak is cold. A new steak is brought promptly, courteously, with a smile, no questions asked, and a free dessert is offered by way of compensation. The result – a potential customer relations disaster is averted and the customer leaves with the memory of a good meal, good service, and with the sweet taste of dessert still lingering.
Hautanen says Technopolis is open to all feedback. The company’s credo is to respond quickly and with a smile. The customer comes first.
“Cultivating this corporate culture is a big leap forward from the old days when averages were calculated from anonymous customer feedback and used to calculate personnel bonuses.”
Customer Behavior Can Surprise
Customer experience is also driven by customer management.
Example: A large American company decided to offer free breakfasts as a perk to attract new talent. It was a new, untried idea at the time. However, it didn’t quite work out the way the company had anticipated. The breakfast menu required constant updating to keep up with demand. They even went so far as to have premium ice cream flown in from Switzerland.
The breakfast idea became impractical and got out of hand, so the company decided to scale back this daily perk, replacing it with breakfast offered on an irregular schedule. The result – employees were more satisfied with this arrangement than they had been with the daily breakfasts.
Hautanen points out that if you commit to always exceed expectations, at some point meeting that commitment becomes impossible. His view is that it is important to maintain a high level of service, and only occasionally strive to exceed customer expectations. Loyal customers come to expect a certain standard of service.
It’s the breakfasts occasionally, not daily concept.
Supporting Customer Change
One important factor in providing good customer experience is to support and help business partners make changes. If they need more space, everything is done to give them the extra space. If they need less space, that is also accommodated.
Technopolis can cite many examples where a fast growing company is relocated to meet its changing needs, quickly and smoothly. That is not an uncommon occurrence as businesses change and staff levels fluctuate.
Hautanen says that it can become too easy for people in the property business to wear the hat of an investor. They can become complacent and lose sight of the other dimensions of the business.
“We could have just stared at our Excel spread sheets, but instead we decided to take a different approach. Building a customer experience system like ours has been a huge undertaking requiring constant updating and renewal. And yes, it was long, strenuous, and fatiguing.”
That long, arduous road has been worth it. A visit to the Ruoholahti campus in Helsinki, Finland, to cite one example, bears this out. A new building is being constructed next to the existing Technopolis facility, and plans are in the pipeline for two more facilities in the neighborhood.
Technopolis is growing. There is substantial expansion under way in Tampere, Finland and the Aviapolis campus near the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport, and new premises will be opened in Tallinn, Estonia and Vilnius, Lithuania, while a new facility based on the UMA concept will soon open in Stockholm, Sweden.
Soon this quickly growing customer base all around the Baltic region will be asked, “How are we measuring up?”
How can we help you? Are you thinking of moving your office or would you just like to give us some feedback? We’re looking forward to hearing from you!