The South Place Hotel might currently be enjoying its moment in the spotlight as one of the key locations in the hit BBC1 drama Bodyguard.
But at the beginning of September it was the setting for a dinner and discussion event attended by played some of the biggest names in block management, co-hosted by News on the Block and Fixflo.
David Goldberg, of Pod Management, skilfully moderated a lively discussion that was supposed to pause for dinner but carried right the way through to post-dessert coffees. The result of this was that instead of the planned 90-minute discussion there was a three-hour debate that took in a huge range of topics, including those listed below.
Regulation and the perception of simplicity
One of the general topics of discussion revolved around the challenges currently facing the industry, and an early talking point brought up the idea that from outside the industry, there is a perception that block and property management in general is easy. This, then, frustratingly leads to unqualified operators flooding the market whose lack of knowledge (or care) serves to drag the overall reputation of the industry down.
It was suggested that the only way to resolve this issue was via regulation of the industry, which has been high on ARMA’s agenda for several years now, though it was acknowledged during the discussion that it might not come in until 2021 or 2022. Additionally, there was speculation that regulation would also see consolidation of the bottom end of the market with smaller players, who are likely to be those unregulated operators, dropping out because they cannot continue in a more regulated marketplace.
The point was made that in the past ten or 15 years, the expectations of the customer have changed significantly and, while some people at the debate now saw transparency as a key selling point, others did not, citing customers’ demands for fast responses to their problems or communications as a block in terms of allowing for full transparency.
However, the need for a speedy answer or action presents its own problems in terms of crafting the right response and actually resolving an issue in the correct way. In this way, the need to respond quickly can mean that the result is ineffective and the result can be far more damaging than if the property manager takes their time and ensures it is sorted out properly.
The use of technology
The evolution of technology was also a talking point. From phones and emails to live chats, there was a general consensus that while technology had undoubtedly improved many aspects of the industry, it had also complicated things in terms of different customers wanting and expecting problems resolved in different ways, some of which has been mentioned above.
As far as the future is concerned, though, there was speculation that aspects like self-service and repairs performed via apps would become more prevalent and that this new usage of technology along with regulation might drive real change.