Coworking spaces have members come and go every day. The daily drop-in members provide a pool of potential monthly members but their commitment to the community is limited. The monthly members in a coworking space are what keep occupancy rates high and the balance sheet in the green. Increase your monthly member retention by combating these top five reasons why people leaving coworking spaces.
Key Member Retention Strategies for Coworking Space Operators
Reason 1: The company outgrows the space
This is one of those “good problems” to have. Shared workspaces are designed to have companies grow up, and then out. It’s the risk you take as a workspace owner, but lucky for you, the flexible office market is in high demand right now so you’re probably not going to have trouble filling the space behind them. If a member company hires new team members and you have space for them to expand, help lessen their growing pains by providing comfortable and productive add-on workplace options that allow them to grow their physical footprint along with their team and help them increase their employee retention.
Eventually, moderate to high-growth companies are going to outgrow a coworking space and they will need to find a new home. Their days of capitalizing on your coworking offering of month-to-month leases, all utilities paid, an office that works and common amenities, is behind them and they are likely going to be pushed into the world of commercial real estate. Be their champion and help connect them to any spaces you know of. Ideally, your former members will implant in your neighborhood so they can still access the coworking community at your workspace, increase the local collision density and create an innovation cluster.
Reason 2: Something about the facility bothers them
If your members continue to tell you that your bathrooms are dirty and smelly, change janitors and buy air fresheners. If your printer keeps jamming, get it fixed for real (or change it out all together). If your old building keeps spewing dust from overhead onto your members and their devices, then do something about it! These are all real incidents that Think Big has dealt within our buildings. It’s certainly important to fix things that are broken but those lingering, non-urgent requests can be the death of a valued membership.
Combat this by giving your members a chance to speak up. As a rule, it is important to routinely ask your community: “What can we do to make your membership better?” across all your member communication channels. This open-ended question makes them feel included and while they “keep forgetting to tell you,” it is important to give them continual opportunities to speak up so you can fix your problems before it’s too late. And when they do speak up, listen first, and then address the issue — ideally, appoint a manager to step in and handle the issue personally until it’s resolved. Lastly, follow up with that member to let them know that it’s fixed so they can know you’re taking care of their membership.
Additionally, when you make unsolicited improvements, broadcast those to the coworking community in your communications: “In an effort to continue to make your membership more valuable here at Think Big, we recently launched…” A perception of gradual and continual facility progress will contribute to your members feeling appreciated.
Reason 3: Unreliable internet
While this could be considered a part of the facility, it deserves its own attention. Internet is the backbone for almost all modern companies working in a coworking space. If you don’t get internet right, you will watch members abandon their memberships faster than a speeding bullet. It’s the quickest way to empty out your workspace. Unfortunately, providing fast and reliable internet to multiple companies easier said than done. Good wireless is equivalent to excellent wired these days, but great or excellent wireless is superb. Find a high quality vendor to be your network engineer who can focus on making sure your network is secure, reliable and, hopefully, fast. Educate yourself (or a team member) on networking and talk to multiple vendors and/or experts when making decisions on expansion or new hardware as the networking world is not all black and white. Opinions and best practices will differ based on brand, training, experience, etc.
When you do have an unplanned internet outage in your coworking space, make it a fire-level emergency for your team to drop everything and do whatever you can to fix the situation. Communicate via email, established member communication channels and in person with the members in your building that day. If it’s a planned outage, be sure to give at least a 48-hour warning and remind the community prior to the outage. If you can provide members a quality connection to the internet and be a thorough communicator, then not only will you prevent them from leaving, but it could become an attraction for new members.
Reason 4: Poorly handled customer service incident
Coworking is a hospitality industry. Your members are paying customers that could easily choose somewhere else to be. The nature of a hospitality business includes an occasional upset customer. The difference between good and excellent customer service is how those incidents are handled by staff. An upset customer could easily mean a lost membership and reputation damage in the marketplace.
Make time to train your team on not only creating a pleasant customer experience, but also how to respond to a complaint and give them some boundaries on some discounts to giveaway. Also make sure your shared workspace team knows when to escalate an issue to a manager. There is a perception of special treatment when a manager gets involved and that alone can make a happy customer. Some common coworking customer service issues are unexpected billing overages, unwelcome distractions by other members/events, slow response times, and general under-delivered expectations (coffee not made in the morning, meeting rooms are not clean, space is not open, etc.).
Most workspace customer service incidents are easy to handle. With quick and appropriate attention, your space can gain a favorable reputation in providing high-level customer service.
Reason 5: They can’t afford it anymore
A very common reason people leave is a lack of funding. Whether the company is in a temporary slump, strapped for cash between funding rounds or the business is failing, coworking is one of the first things to get cut from the expense budget since a comfortable workspace often considered more of a “nice to have.” You might think there is nothing you can do about this, but you would be mistaken.
First, change the perception that coworking is a “nice to have.” This is about value of membership. They should feel like they are getting more than what they are paying for. Educational programming, networking opportunities, social community and professional amenities are all a good start. But even further, they should see business value created – increased revenue, easier talent acquisition, expanded partner network, etc. A strong, connected community should foster this sort of growth for its companies. Make their coworking membership one of the last things to cut because turning down that sort of value would be like cutting a business line.
Second, bring in your partner network to provide office hours for mentorship. Good mentors giving strong advice and connections, can help your companies stay in business, grow and thrive.
Third, support the businesses of your member companies by providing opportunities for them to broadcast their services and products. For example, a shared workspace might offer a complimentary 2-hour meeting room booking once a month plus marketing support to give its members a chance to hold a lunch and learn or focus group to increase their business. Create a member directory that gives members a chance to search within the community when they need services. Post your members’ logos (with a link) on the web so the public can find them. Promote grant programs and award money opportunities to the coworking community. All of these and more are ways to help make sure your members get paid, so you can get paid.
Sometimes members are going to leave the coworking space because of reasons you can’t control. They may have the opportunity to work out of an office of one of their partners for free where they can have access to other resources specific to their industry that you can’t provide. They might be relocated by their company, spouse’s career or due to family reasons. They might decide to make a career move to go work for someone else. These other reasons are hard to predict but are natural so just plan on them happening when you’re putting together your business and marketing plan. Keeping your member pipeline (wait list) full and getting your sales close rates up is great, but retaining your current members is your most efficient use of time and resources. Combat these reasons why people leave coworking spaces and watch your occupancy rise.