Five-star Ambience in Business Centres: What is “Personalized Service”?

What can office real estate learn from the hospitality industry? Hotels have their own quality standards, because they need to convince guests to come again. But office workers spend much more time in business centres than guests spend in hotels, so why not take advantage of best practice in the hotel business?

All five-star hotels, especially those in the top-10 international hotel chains, offer the same level of service, wherever you are in the world. Interior design in Moscow, New York and Dubai may vary according to local tastes and cultural codes, but the service will be the same, always and everywhere. The hotel brand sets standards for corporate culture and guarantees high quality. But in other types of commercial real estate, notably offices, such a “gold standard” for quality is not available, or, at least, not yet.

People who work in business centres spend around 40 hours a week in the office, much more time than a normal guest spends in a hotel. They and their visitors are entitled to friendly and efficient service from front-desk staff (security and reception), matching what they would expect in a five-star hotel.

Reception services are the responsibility of the management company. So it is up to the management company to put in place and follow certain rules of service and corporate culture, and make sure that its staff understand their responsibility for how users and visitors perceive the building, even if they only spend half an hour there.

In Russia, such an approach sounds novel. Many of the people who work for management companies at business centres would be surprised to hear that they are in the hospitality business. Am I the only one who has seen a female receptionist doing her make-up or arranging her hair when on duty? Or to be asked, when a pass was being issued, if I could drop off some documents with the company I am visiting? Have you ever had to stand in a queue while a single receptionist deals with several guests?

This is a far cry from five-star hospitality. So why not design and apply a written set of rules for service standards that would be valid and compulsory for any company that assumes management functions in a particular building?

Clearly, that is a task for building owners. But O1 Standard, as one of the foremost Russian management companies, decided in 2020 to take steps in this direction by hiring someone with a background in the luxury hotel business as its director for standards and quality.

The standards that we have implemented at all our managed facilities are: personalized service, hospitality, friendliness, and staff who are well-trained, stress-resistant, and impeccable in their appearance. Security staff at all our facilities wear a formal suit over a white shirt. Female receptionists have standard uniforms, tidy hair, and follow a strict make-up code (right down to lipstick colour).

An individual approach to each and every user and visitor is important. We will do our best to answer any question and resolve any issue that is brought to us. Your passport, presented to our staff for ID purposes, will be returned to you with a smile, thanking you by name and wishing you a pleasant day. 

These rules are the same for all our facilities, whether in class A+, A, B+ or B. Staff of O1 Standard learn to observe the rules at special trainings held several times a year. Every four months the company carries out an internal inspection to check that service quality is being maintained: our “secret visitor” poses challenging questions to business centre staff and arranges an unusual situation (perhaps a disagreement with security or the receptionist). We rate the results using a points system to judge how well standards are being observed and whether additional training is needed. Positive feedback from tenants shows that the system is working.

For us the creation of an atmosphere where people feel happy is not about pretending to be friendly – it is our corporate philosophy and competitive advantage, of which we are proud. In a business centre, as much as in a hotel,  every regular customer has to be earned. We do everything we can to make the staff of tenant companies and their visitors keen to come back to us every day.