What role does hospitality play in coworking? How much overlap is there between shared workspaces, workspace as a service and community-focused coworking? What’s the future of hospitality in the workspace industry? These are all hot topics for workspace operators and will be part of the conversation at the upcoming GCUC UK in London.
We connected with Hector Kolonas, founder of Included.co, a company pooling the collective buying power of coworking spaces and communities, about customer service in coworking, what types of spaces will embrace hospitality, and current trends in workspace differentiation.
GCUC UK: What do you see happening with the connection between coworking and hospitality?
Hector Kolonas: Over the last few years, coworking spaces have been striving to really nail the fundamentals of what makes a coworking space good. Things like good WiFi, comfortable desks, interesting members and empathetic community managers lay the foundation for a great shared workspace community.
However, as the industry grows and knowledge is shared and improved upon, these fundamentals have gone from differentiators to prerequisites to being able to enter into—or even remain in—the coworking market.
The leaders of the industry have already begun exploring and implementing what comes next. And what comes next is tailored, valuable, personal and impactful support for businesses that call these communities home. They’re evolving the workspace business with an additional concierge and network-building aspect.
How do you define hospitality with regards to coworking?
Many think of hospitality in the sector as the notion that members are getting savvy to the fact that customer service is becoming a differentiator in which coworking spaces will survive or thrive in the next phase of the coworking wave.
I believe that merging superb customer service with seamless and impactful additional business services will be what defines hospitality in the next phase of our growing sector.
There also seems to be a bit of confusion that hospitality in coworking simply means that the hotel industry is increasingly activating their vast amount of under-utilised meeting room and conference space to enter the shared workspace market.
Do you think hospitality is, or should be, part of every coworking space or just one particular style of shared workspace?
This is where things get interesting. Just like every community doesn’t need beautiful meeting rooms, hotel lobby-like receptions and 100 after-hour events about machine learning each year, not every community will need to embrace 100 percent of what the hospitality phase of coworking will bring.
Having said that, it’s becoming increasingly easy and affordable to give members access to perks or a concierge-like procurement of business solutions thanks to companies like Included.co. Soon, being able to provide some level of additional business value will be on-par with making sure you have stable and steady broadband.
In your experience, how is the idea of coworking as a hospitality service received across the industry?
In many ways, community operators have accepted that nailing the three fundamentals (good wifi, desks and coffee) is no longer enough. But I believe that, as with every shift within an industry, the market leaders haven’t begun sharing their learnings and experiments. Because of this, we’re receiving feedback from our partners across the globe that the topic feels a bit dry at conferences and unconferences.
What else should we know about this topic? Any other key points, disagreements or predictions you’d like to make?
There is a big trend of space operators recognising this shift and going at it alone, trying to leverage exclusive perks, partnerships, deals and sponsorships as differentiators. Not only is this inefficient (as vendors can begin playing communities against each other), but it’s burning out the biggest asset that coworking spaces have: their community managers.
Coworking space operators don’t have their community managers lay the pipes for fiber optic internet lines roast the beans for perfect-tasting coffee, or design the furniture that enables members to ergonomically handle the long hours. Why are so many believing that procuring business solutions is any different? Finding, vetting, negotiating, chasing, maintaining quality control, and managing revenue shares from solutions is a full-time job. Or 30.
Instead, by leveraging technology, you can let your community managers nail the other half of the hospitality coin. By having the time (and mental space) to be empathetic, caring and resourceful, your members end up getting both superb customer service and unparalleled business support.
Learn more about hospitality, coworking and flexible workspace at GCUC UK in London on September 25 and 26.
by Cat Johnson