coworking member experience hospitality

[Interview] Improving Member Experience in Your Coworking Space: Why Hospitality Matters

7 min read

Interview with Miryana Stancheva,
Community, Sales & Partnerships Manager at Ahoy Berlin

Remember the last time you felt delighted as a customer of a coworking space?

Probably it won’t take you long to recall the experience and tell exactly what made you feel happy.

And certainly, it wasn’t only about the great office space and amenities but also about the fact that you were treated amazingly well.

And would that be a reason to visit the space again? Most probably – yes!

As any business related to people, coworking and flexible spaces, embrace hospitality as an important building block for success. And even though hospitality is most often associated with the hotel industry, it has a lot to do with coworking as well.

Ahoy Berlin, a client of ours, has nailed the top-notch customer experience by adopting hospitality practices that add on top of their excellent workspace service.

We sat down to interview Miryana Stancheva, Community, Sales & Partnerships Manager at Ahoy Berlin, on the importance of hospitality. This role places her at the heart of the most essential processes in the company.

 


 

Ahoy Berlin

 

Ahoy Berlin is a space for coworking and innovation, where individuals and companies can rent fully equipped work stations, quiet offices and organize events under flexible terms in a playful and cozy environment. The company’s mission is to help budding startups and freelancers grow by connecting them to a wider community of possible collaborators and investors via its sister companies Openers and Tech Open Air.

The space was founded in 2012 by Nikita Roshkow and Nikolas Woischnik and currently has two locations: Berlin, Germany and Sao Paulo, Brazil. In June 2018, Ahoy was acquired by US agile office provider Knotel as part of its plan to launch further locations across Germany.

Hey, Miryana! Before we get into the hospitality topic, tell us a bit about yourself!

 

I became part of the coworking world in 2013 when I was about to start my PhD studies in Organisational Psychology and I was searching for an inspiring, unexplored topic that is really worth researching.

I accidentally came across betahaus|Sofia, which was the first and, at that time, the only coworking space in Bulgaria.

It was a sudden realization for me that coworking spaces have a very specific structure, organization, processes, and culture. I knew this is something unique which no one in Bulgaria had ever researched.

I eventually ended up with defending a PhD thesis on ‘Shared (co)working spaces and interaction models within the enterprise’ in 2017.

This is how my deep dive into the coworking world began. Over the years I had the chance to visit around 100 coworking spaces across Europe, to meet amazing inspiring people, to work in great spaces and since 2017 I’m part of the Ahoy Berlin Team.

What’s your role in the space and what are the skills needed to make it successful?

I’m responsible for the community, sales and partnerships processes at Ahoy Berlin.

Being a successful Community Manager requires a diverse mix of social skills, deep understanding of the group dynamics, ability to observe and analyze the community processes, and creativity to tackle every situation with a hands-on attitude.

On the other hand, it requires organizational skills and event management knowledge – at Ahoy Berlin we organize regularly different community events (networking and professionally oriented), we host numerous meetups and support our members in organizing their own events.

The other face of my role shows in Sales & Partnerships – I’m responsible for keeping the space fully booked – close sales deals, onboard new members, make sure they feel comfortable in their new “home”. I also do invoicing, track payments, etc.

Together with that, I’m also in charge of building a wide network of partners with diverse backgrounds who can offer interesting products and services to our community and coworking business.

What do you like most about coworking and about your job?

What I like most about coworking is the opportunity to belong to a diverse community; to be surrounded by like-minded, motivated, hardworking people in a healthy inspiring working environment which helps you to increase your productivity and effectiveness and gives you the freedom to be yourself and explore different creative ways to approach your daily tasks.

I really cherish the openness of the people, who have chosen to work in coworking spaces – they are always ready to share knowledge and experience, to give you free advice, feedback and help.

And what I like about my job is that I’m lucky to work with an amazing team with strong, transparent and supportive culture, and to have a complex and dynamic role, which combines and balances two, on a first glance, opposing concepts – the social and the financial wellbeing of the space.

What do you think is the role of hospitality in coworking?

Hospitality plays a huge role in the coworking movement and it’s not only about renting out desks – in coworking the concept of hospitality is not a compulsory service which community managers should deliver to the members, but a personal attitude and a personal relationship which evolves over time.

This is one of the reasons why all independent coworking spaces are so different from one another, and why the role of the Community Manager is an important one – he/she is the person who transforms this concept of hospitality into a unique community culture and is responsible to preserve, develop and enrich it constantly.

Only when you have this personal approach, you’ll be able to call your space a coworking space and not a shared office space.

Moreover, I do believe that exactly this culture, based on hospitality and personal approach, is the reason why a coworking space would attract and retain a specific type of members.

Also, this is how a space develops its own distinctive identity.

What are the good practices at Ahoy Berlin for improving member experience?

We like to make small gestures for our members and want to make sure they have a great experience being part of our community.

We bring them gifts on various occasions, make announcements on Slack for their success, organize regular community events. We support members and their business development by connecting them with other members and external partners.

But what I think is vital in order for your members to feel good, is to know well your community, to be able to identify their profile and based on that, to tailor the initiatives in your space and not just to organise events which might sound “cool” but are absolutely not relevant to them.

Some of the events we regularly organize and work very well for our community are breakfasts and lunches, meetups, skills exchange, ping-pong tournaments, karaokes, gatherings outside the space over a drink, etc.

It’s a very interesting and dynamic process of trying new things and constantly adapting to the community which is also changing very fast.

What’s important when meeting a new member? Do you have any special “rituals”?

We have a well-structured system when welcoming our new members. First of all, we make sure that we already know each other, that we have exchanged enough information before the on-boarding day, so we know what they do and what they are looking for, that they are informed what to expect and what the community is like.

When the day to move in comes, we give them a welcome package with some goodies, sometimes we grab a coffee together, we spend as much time as needed with them to explain everything important and to introduce them to the community.

Moreover, we always send a welcome email which contains the most important information about the space, the services, and the facilities, but also, information about the team who runs Ahoy Berlin.

And here is the crucial part in the community building process – you have to keep taking care of your members and talk to them after the on-boarding 🙂

How do you proceed when members have feedback or suggest ideas about the space?

We always encourage our members to give us regular feedback, to openly share suggestions and ideas with us and to contribute to the community’s well-being with activities and initiatives they want to organize.

We’re actually planning to conduct a satisfaction survey soon and give the freedom to every member out of these 400 people in our space, to share their opinion and suggestions – because only when you listen to your members you’ll be able to grow and do better in the future.

What advice would you give to fellow coworking operators and community managers who want to provide a top-notch customer experience?

In my opinion, coworking is as much about the service you provide, as it is about the way you approach your members. Listen to them, be open and accept their feedback. Act on it and improve.

 


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improve coworking community engagement online tools

How to Improve Engagement in Your Coworking Community With Online Tools

8 min read

Your community is a fact.

You’re successfully attracting like-minded members and companies that help each other grow. You’ve established processes that bring value to members in each stage of their journey with you. You’ve learned how and why to extend your community beyond the borders of your space.

In other words, you’ve covered the 3 essentials of every successful coworking community. However, building an outstanding community is not a one-time project. Although nailing the essentials is key, they only provide you with the foundation on which to build, not the whole building. Achieving high engagement that leads to knowledge share, business opportunities and improved well being is the true goal, and it requires constant effort.

In this post, we’ll focus on how technology can help you with 2 main aspects of community engagement:

  • Strengthening connections between current (and hopefully former) members by increasing members’ visibility and nurturing collaboration.
  • Adding additional communication channels that can help you keep members informed about news, events, maintenance or any other relevant info in a consistent but not a pushy way.

community engagement

But before we jump into specific tools and platforms, let’s take a look at the 3 most important engagement aspects you’ll want to cover when building a coworking community:

  • Visibility of members and companies
  • Available forms/types of interaction
  • Types of notifications for new activity

Why those 3 exactly? In coworking, the real magic (and engagement) happens offline. Often you’ll meet a coworker during an event, have a talk and discover you have the same interests, and/or can help each other by sharing skills and knowledge.

But what comes next? You would need to have a simple way to find more information about this person or his company (visibility of members and companies) and continue the communication. Being able to keep in touch with him/her online organically eases further interactions (available forms/types of interaction).

Also, you’d like to stay informed about similar events that obviously bring value to you. So you’ll want to be notified somehow with different types of notifications for new activity.

How coworking can benefit from technology and online communities

To identify the best suggestions for a technology that can help with the above, we had to better understand those 3 aspects (we call them engagement mechanisms).

So, we did a bit of historical research on how online communities developed over time (you won’t believe it, online communities have their roots in the 70s!). We also came up with a few criteria to help us narrow down our research based on what’s important for coworking communities.

Long-story-short, we ended up with 3 “types” of online communities that developed the most important engagement aspects for coworking communities.

Here’s the gist of it:

coworking communities engagement aspects

We outlined 2 important notes as a conclusion from our research:

  1. Social Media is most superior as expected because it supports the highest amount of engagement mechanisms. It’s the latest evolution of online community and is clearly a must-have if you’re developing one.
  2. It’s still a good idea to use a chat tool so you can enable chat channels. They are super useful when it comes to connecting people from your community who have similar interests (sports, technology, music, etc…)

The tools a coworking space can use to engage its community

To successfully engage your coworking community, you’ll need to use multiple tools.

Below we’ve listed the 3 online engagement tools that are essential. Also, we’ve pointed out some things to have in mind when choosing a specific vendor platform.

*We’re not mentioning email anywhere, as we assume it’s a channel that every business nowadays uses to contact, nurture and notify its customer and prospect base.

Step 1: Using Social Media as a base to gather and engage your community

social media engage community

You’ll probably want to use a single social media platform, so you don’t spend tons of time managing multiple.

How to choose the one that will work best for you and your coworking community?

There’s one single fundamental requirement that can help – you should be able to create Groups. Groups allow you to gather people together in one online place, where they can see other members and interact with each other.

This basically narrows down the list to Facebook and LinkedIn. Both score high in members visibility, messaging and notification options. However, each of them has some specifics that should be considered:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows you to find professionals easily. You can search by name, job title or company (which is probably something you know since you’re coworkers), which comes handy when you have a group with 100+ community members. However, have in mind that LinkedIn is primarily used by people in the B2B sector. If the bigger part of your audience is not B2B, there’s a high chance they’re not using it very often (or may not have a profile at all).

Messaging is restricted by connections: LinkedIn allows members to exchange personal messages. Also, even though they’ve switched to real-time messages as well, people still regard a LinkedIn message as something more official (i.e. an “InMail”), which is very helpful when you’re messaging someone at (co)work. But if you don’t have a “1st connection” with a person, you’ll have to connect with them first to be able to exchange messages (for free).

Notifications are in-app, push and email. Have in mind that people spend less time on LinkedIn than on Facebook. There’s a higher chance they won’t have the LinkedIn app to receive messages from coworkers and push notifications. Also, most LinkedIn users are sensitive about the type of notifications they receive. They don’t tolerate notifications that are not related to professional topics and don’t bring value.

social media engage community

Facebook

Member visibility might be limited by profile privacy (some people choose to expose only their names and profile picture). This might make it hard to find someone you’ve had a talk within the hallways if you don’t remember their name. But on the other hand, there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to add more people from your community in the group, as (almost) everybody has a Facebook profile.

You can message anybody, which makes connecting with people easy and fast. Something to have in mind though is that if you’re not friends, your messages might end up in the “Other” inbox, which people rarely (or never) check. Although Facebook sends notifications when someone wants to connect with you that way, it’s still possible to miss them.

Notifications are in-app, push and email. People usually spend a lot of time on Facebook as it touches upon many aspects of their life (personal, social, professional), unlike LinkedIn which is focused only on the professional aspect. This generally means that chances of people seeing your notifications are higher. In addition, almost everybody has the Facebook and Messenger app installed, which means that your push notifications have a higher chance of notifying people about important updates, news, and events. Also, Facebook users tolerate any type of notifications, meaning you’ll be OK with sending notifications about anything.

Extra bonus: Facebook allows you to create events. It’s an awesome mechanism to inform your members about an upcoming workshop or a happy hour gathering in the space. It’s cool that only people who have marked themselves as interested or going will receive notifications and updates about it, so you can be sure you do not bother all other members who are not interested in the event.

Step 2: Using chat tools to gather coworkers around different interests

coworking chat tools

Although social media provides a lot of communication opportunities, introducing an additional chat app can boost engagement by offering one-to-many communication in real-time. You can create channels based on interests, where people can discuss and share information.

There are a number of chat tools that can do the job, but it’s best to choose the one that your coworkers are already using. Example: given that the biggest audience of coworking spaces is still IT/Technology and Freelancers, choosing Slack might be a good bet. It’s best to run a survey and double-check though.

Step 3: Using a coworking community management platform to boost engagement

coworking management platform

Once your community grows above a certain level, you can also think about introducing a community management platform that is tailored to the communication needs of coworking spaces.

Its purpose is NOT to replace the 2 tools above, but to enhance them by:

  1. Curating and visualizing important information (such as how-to guides, events and maintenance announcements) in a way that is not limited by the standard functionality and layout of social media and chat tools.
  2. Improve exposure of members and companies by providing coworkers with the ability to search the group (your community) as if they are using the general search of Social Media, or better yet – search for a particular skill-set and domain expertise.
  3. Integrating with solutions such as the Freckle Dashboard that allows you to distill and expose specific information via screens in prominent places in your space.
  4. Integrating natively with Slack or any other chat tool. This provides an easy and intuitive way for members to start a conversation just by clicking on an icon located in their coworkers’ profile.

If you’re curious about the nitty gritty details on how OfficeRnD help with the above you can check out our coworking community management page.

Conclusion

Even though the spark of a new coworking acquaintance (almost) always comes to life when people meet during an event or in the hallways, the interactions that follow are crucial to establishing a meaningful relationship.

If properly used, online tools and platform can provide the necessary channels and information to nurture interactions, helping you build a vibrant community that serves as a key differentiator of your business.

What is your first-hand experience with running an online community? Let us know in the comments!

successful-community

3 Essentials of Successful Coworking Communities

6 min read

A great location, spacious office area, high-quality fit-outs (and free coffee!) are all traits that successful coworking spaces share. However, there is another really noticeable trait that attracts people to shared spaces – a vibrant coworking community. The opportunity to be part of something bigger. Of something truly amazing. A reason to put on pants.

Research published by Harvard Bussiness Review states that the number one reason people move from a traditional office environment to shared spaces is to have access to a community that helps them grow and create connections.

In addition, The Global Entrepreneurship Report for 2017/2018 shows that it’s easier for entrepreneurs to grow their business when they are part of an environment with people that have similar values and interests. A place where networking and collaboration opportunities are countless.

So, if community can be positioned as one of the top differentiators for coworking spaces, and you’re looking to scale, how do you go about doing it? After working with hundreds of coworking spaces around the world, we’ve noticed some interesting differences in the approach to successfully scaling a community. Here’s what we’ve observed so far:

Know your mission. Define your audience.

Good communities are a well-balanced mixture of shared mindset (vision, values, interests, etc) and diverse skills. When a group of people has similar focus coupled with diverse expertise, they can complement each other by sharing good practices and exchanging know-how in a way that’s applicable.

For example, one of our clients, Alley, focus on growing the connectivity points between individuals and entrepreneurs and enhance the value they bring to the community. They position themselves as a “connected platform for entrepreneurs”, which directly speaks to what type of members they’ll welcome in the space. The result? When you walk into any of their spaces the entrepreneurial spirit is palpable!

Alright, so where do you start? Be clear on what your vision/mission is and make sure to communicate it properly. Define your target audience and make sure you understand what they care about and what you bring to the table. And if this sounds a bit too broad to you, start by asking yourself questions like:

  • ”What type of companies/individuals do I want to attract?”
  • “Why should they care about me and being part of this community?” (If your answer is because of the good location, interior design, price, etc, and doesn’t explain how you’ll help them succeed, then something is missing.)
  • “What values should they share that will increase the chance of success of each member in the space?”

Think about your member journey to see how to add value to your community

coworking member's experience

Consider your member’s journey from start to finish. What can you do in each stage to ensure that when the time comes, you’ll be able to point them in the right direction (or better yet – introduce them to the right person)?

The breakdown of the member journey will be different for each coworking space, but here’s an example that illustrates our point:

Pre-sales stage

You can start simple by asking potential members a question like “Why do you want to join our community?”. Alternatively, if there is a high demand for your space and you have the luxury to “source” the right candidates, you can go as detailed as sending qualification questionnaires or doing “entry interviews” with potential members. Ask them about their goals, interests, motivations to join your space or anything else that will help you come up with ideas on how to help them down the line.

Onboarding stage 

Usually, onboarding checklists come into play here. But it also might make sense to set aside some time with them to discuss all the info you gathered during the sales process. Just a casual conversation that helps you dig a bit deeper into the info they provided, so you can come up with ideas about people or events they might be interested in.

Active member stage

It’s a good practice to set up follow up tasks and check on how your recommendations/introductions turned out, but you’ll probably need to do more than that to keep your members engaged. 

It’s hard to recommend a specific set (or type) of activities that are the formula to success, as each community is unique. What we’ve noticed is that each coworking space that developed a vibrant and engaged community says that events are key.

Invest consistent effort in engaging people. In coworking, the real magic happens offline, but make sure you take advantage of online tools to engage your community as they encourage interactions and help to keep your members informed.

Eventually, if you’ve made sure your community consists of members with similar interests and you’ve done your best to keep them engaged, things should start developing on their own. Just give the initial push and then make sure to provide a good environment for things to happen!

The final bit that comes into play – someone left your coworking space, but does this mean that your community is 1 person (or team) short?

Best case scenario – it shouldn’t. So we want to give special emphasis on the final stage of the member’s journey:

Extending your community to the people that are not part of your space

expand-community

Community is not defined by time and space limitations, but by the value and the meaning of the interactions between people. Retaining former members in your community, or establishing connections with member’s friends that share similar values and interests can be useful. They might have the expertise to help your current members (and vise versa).

Think about the people you met at college or university – although you’re not going to classes anymore, you probably still keep in touch with the ones you’ve had meaningful interactions with by that time. It’s not a coincidence that the best universities like Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge have top-notch alumni associations, which are the communities that gave birth to numerous of the most successful companies (take Instagram for an example, whose co founders met through the Stanford alumni network).

However, once your community grows above a certain point, it will be impossible to rely only on your memory to make such meaningful introductions. So how do you keep up?

Maintain some kind of member’s database

Regardless if you’re using a coworking CRM, a spreadsheet or some kind of dedicated tool for the purpose, you’ll need a way to keep track of all member information and make it easily accessible. You can also come up with some sort of tagging mechanism to easily source the information you need to bring value.

Set up an online community

Think about how you can use technology to increase member visibility and allow people to connect with each other directly. Basically, an online community that can grow on its own and can be nurtured with less effort. We’ll cover this specific topic in a later post in more detail, so stay tuned.

Bonus tip

Being focused on hospitality is essential for the success of coworking spaces. But, be cautious to what extent you want to stretch your hospitality service, as too much of it can ‘steal’ the feeling of commitment to the community. Be caring, but let people manage themselves, too.

Here’s a simple example: if a member comes to you with an idea of an event that might be interesting to other people in the space, tell them “Sounds good. When would you like to do it?” and support them in organizing it.

Letting people be part of the process makes a lot of sense. Because, after all, a community is something active, not passive.

Conclusion

Whether it allows companies to meet their new big client without even leaving the office or helps young startups to grow, or simply gives an opportunity for knowledge sharing or wearing pants; a community is something that adds both human and business value.

Community is the core, the foundation, the inner spirit of a coworking space. It’s what attracts people. It’s an enigma that’s often difficult to explain, but yet, it’s why we’re all in Coworking, after all.

community

Freckle Dashboard – A Cool Tool to Bring Value To Your Community

4 min read

You know that feeling when you walk into a coworking space; a space that has a vibrant community? When the 3 essentials of every successful coworking community have been nailed you can feel the vibe in the air. The spirit of a true community. Hard to define, but easy to spot when done right.

Something we see a lot of success with is experimenting with new techniques and trying new tools that bring value to your community.

This leads to the main suspect that inspired this post – CoWork Me, a client of ours who’s sole purpose is to connect people – professionally and personally – for the greater good! One of their most recent (and most successful) experiments is introducing the Freckle Dashboard, which we’d like to spotlight for you, our lovely audience…

We sat down to interview Tim Sullivan, Business Specialist at Freckle Dashboards, with the hope that more spaces will benefit from this cool piece of technology that can make the idea of a real-time members dashboard a reality.

Here it is, read below:

community

How would you describe the value of the ‘Freckle Dashboards’ for both coworking members and coworking space operators?

The Freckle Dashboard strengthens member connections within coworking spaces.

As a Coworking space operator, not only do you want your space occupied at full capacity but you want everyone to feel part of something bigger. By putting important community info on display, members can engage with activities, events, and club news whilst also have a direct connection to the vibe of your space. With the easy visual display of Freckle dashboards, members can have their finger on the pulse of your community and be in sync with what other members in the building are all about, who does what and how you can contact them. The dashboard is fully customisable, so you can choose what your members should be informed about. There are many opportunities to add a bit of fun to it, including live updates of the Spotify track which is being played at that moment in the space or the option to ask engaging questions such as ‘Star Wars or Star Trek?’ and watch the live replies on the screen.

As a member, you can get a quick glance overview of the coworking space that gives you enough information to feel empowered within your community. You can also have your 5-minutes of fame on the screen showcasing and promoting your brand, which can be a great conversation starter if you’re the new kid on the block.

Whether it is a motivational quote, upcoming seminar or images of member’s dogs on a slideshow, it is a sure way to keep everyone engaged.

What is the technology behind it and how easy is it to install?

Freckle uses custom hardware which is accessible remotely. Once the software is deployed, you just have to plug it in, connect to your local wifi and set up remote access. Our solution allows remote access to turn on and off TV monitors and update the visuals and content from anywhere in the world.

community

Can you customise what content and information are being exposed? How easy is it to do so?

Yes, you can customise what is exposed either via OfficeRnD (through the integration we’ve developed) or the systems you currently use, depending on the needs of your space and our configuration that is based on them. Need to put up a promotion? Simply add an image to your promotion area. Need to add an event? Just add it to your Google calendar and it will show up. We’re also aware that companies change their priorities daily, so our whole team is ready to help with any upgrades or changes.

What does the integration with OfficeRnD entail and what are its capabilities? What can be exposed on the members’ dashboard?

Freckle has worked closely with OfficeRnD to make sure that anything you see on the OfficeRnD portal can be displayed on our screens. We custom design every plugin to look beautiful on every screen, whether it is a 100-inch TV, or your smartphone. Some examples of the Freckle Dashboard capabilities include displaying member’s profiles, upcoming events, business promotions, and perks.

What is the price?

Freckle plans start from $20 a week. Price depends on how many custom systems you’d like to plugin to your displays. Additional Freckle players can be purchased for $200, these will be displaying the same content on multiple screens. If you require a completely different screen for a different area we will bundle in packages to make it work for you.

Want to give it a try?

If you want to get more details on the Freckle Dashboards, go to www.getfreckle.com.au and check it out.

Bonus tip: There is a discount waiting for everybody that mentions they learned about Freckle from OfficeRnD.