Bouwinvest endeavours to optimise long-term alliances with our stakeholders. We have put methods and means in place to understand, meet and respond to our stakeholders needs and to take to heart the issues that our stakeholders find important. In addition to this, we take an active approach to raising environmental, social and governance awareness throughout the real estate industry.
Engaging with stakeholders
At Bouwinvest, we believe that the best way to engage our stakeholders is through open and transparent dialogue and positive collaboration that cements long-term returns on investment and maximises our positive impact.
In 2018, we once again conducted a tenant satisfaction survey to identify our tenants’ concerns and priorities. The survey covered topics such as the service level of the property managers, complaints and repair procedures, the quality of the properties and the living environment. Last year, 2,074 tenants (39% of those asked to participate) responded to the survey. However, the method used to calculate the score of the IVBN benchmark was adjusted in 2018. This resulted in an overall score from our tenants of 7.1, which put us slightly above the benchmark. However, this score is not really comparable to the previous year's score, as the component complaint handling was then part of the benchmark. As in previous years, the handling of complaints was the biggest ‘dissatisfier’ for tenants. We will continue to devote particular attention to this point and we will launch a tenant portal (see below) to streamline and simplify complaints procedures. The tenants said they were most satisfied with the quality of their homes and the immediate living environment. Bouwinvest’s scores on virtually all points were equal to the IVBN benchmark.
We use the result of the surveys to draw up improvement plans. These plans may be specific action plans for a single property or aimed at improving overall satisfaction. In addition, we send our tenants a letter with information on the outcome of the survey and the specific actions the property manager and our financial service department plan to take to improve service levels. Tenant satisfaction is an integral part of the service level agreements with our property managers.
Testing the boundaries
One of the biggest dilemmas the Fund shares with other real estate investors on the sustainability front is deciding how to invest, how much to invest and what technologies or innovations to invest in to create the most sustainable portfolio possible, both in terms of positive environmental and social impact and in terms of sustainable long-term returns on our investments. This dilemma, which translates into a constant stream of choices and decisions, informs virtually everything we do to make the Fund and the residential portfolio more sustainable. Every decision related to investments in energy-saving, GHG emissions reduction or positive social impact has to be balanced against our primary goal, which is to generate healthy long-term returns for our shareholders and their stakeholders. We want the Fund and our assets to be as sustainable as they can be, but how much we can invest is always limited by the potential impact on returns. On top of this is the question of how to invest, which can be about finding the best ways to reduce environmental impact and have a positive social impact both effectively and cost-efficiently. For instance, do we install solar panels on all of our homes? This in turn raises the question of whether tenants will be willing to co-invest in the form of slightly higher rents in exchange for lower energy bills. Another question is what is the best way to work with developers to maximise the sustainability of our new-build projects? Or with construction firms when we upgrade existing homes? We firmly believe that cooperation with our stakeholders will be the key to our success on this front.
Community and tenant engagement management
What do our tenants want? Are they happy to live in our homes? If they are happy now, will they continue to be happy in the future? A home is more than bricks and mortar. We are more than happy to listen to our tenants, to learn about their needs and requirements, for now and in the future. One of the ways we do this is by conducting surveys via our regular tenants’ panel, a panel of 1,700 residents who rent from Bouwinvest. The aim of these annual surveys is to gain insight into what is on their minds right now, but also what our (potential) tenants’ wishes are.
Surveys conducted in 2018:
Mobility: parking wishes for cars, bikes, electric vehicles and car sharing.
Sustainability: what is the sentiment of our tenants on the energy, climate and health fronts? In other words, “how green is their blood”? This research gives us insights into the opinions of our tenants on how we can make our homes more sustainable as an owner, but also as a tenant. Bouwinvest wants to work with the tenants to achieve these goals.
Research into current social issues. In these surveys, we ask our tenants to indicate the importance of relevant social developments, such as the discussion on climate change. This helps us to determine which societal issues Bouwinvest should give the highest priority.
We share the results of each survey with our panel, and show them how we integrate their opinions in our policy. Last year, we developed a vision on how we can integrate research tools during the milestones (moments of truth) in our (digital) customer journey: from orientation to completion and the period afterwards. These tools are linked to our CRM system (in which we follow our leads) and enables us to receive quick, comparable and up-to-date feedback on the likes of residential concepts, communications during the rental process, satisfaction with the home, and current themes such as mobility, community building and sustainability.
Last year, we conducted five pilots among the residents of delivered projects. These covered the likes of satisfaction with rental process, delivery, home and living environment, services and facilities offered. In addition to a high response rate (on average 65%), these surveys generated about 100 new members for our tenants panel, a figure that increased further in the subsequent months. All these surveys provided us with greater insight. We use the results to optimise our processes and products and this in turn helps us to create added value for home-seekers and tenants, and all our stakeholders.
In response to the results from previous tenants satisfaction surveys, in 2018 Bouwinvest unveiled plans to set up a tenants’ portal, which will go live in 2019. This will provide tenants with a digital channel for repair requests, complaints, questions about homes and the living environment and information for existing tenants. We will be able to follow complaints procedures – and other procedures - much more closely, while tenants themselves will be able to monitor the status of their complaints.
These are all developments that make communications with our tenants more efficient and more effective, which we expect to improve tenant satisfaction. Of course, tenants will still be able to communicate with our property managers via traditional channels, as there is still a need for these channels, especially among our target group of elderly people.
The tenants’ portal is part of our overall drive to meet the evolving needs of existing and future tenants. After all, one of the major trends in society is the ever-increasing demands people are putting on the service levels they expect. The standards for customer service are now being set by companies that provide their services via digital channels. This so-called ‘Cool Blue’ effect (named after a Dutch online retailer that has built its success on previously unparalleled levels of service) has now also made its entry in the real estate market in general and the residential rental sector in particular. The effect has been amplified by the higher rents being charged for rental homes and increased tenant expectations even further.
Following a survey conducted into the customer journey of our tenants, Bouwinvest has a much clearer picture of how our customer journeys run and, very importantly, where we can make improvements. For one, we have now fully digitalised this journey for all new-build projects, simplifying the entire process and making it fully transparent, both for us and for our customers. This has resulted in the optimisation of the initial rental process, but also provides a solid starting point for providing our existing tenants with a higher level of ease and convenience.
At the same time, we also believe that the human factor deserves more attention in rental and operational processes. When you manage something as personal as people’s homes, how tenants are addressed, how we respond to requests in writing and the general attitude to customer service are all vitally important. Customer care deserves even more attention than we give it now, and we will do our utmost to optimise and safeguard the quality of the care we and our property managers provide for the long term. Our ambition is to ensure that in the future our tenants feel as if they are treated more like guests than as tenants.
Target on engage with stakeholders
Conduct satisfaction survey for clients and tenants every two years. Satisfaction target > 7
2018 tenant survey conducted. Satisfaction score 2018: 7.1
We take an active approach to raising environmental, social and governance awareness throughout the real estate industry. We encourage our partners to enhance their sustainability performance. We focus on: health & safety at construction sites, active participation (memberships) in industry associations and community programmes. To further improve the climate for real estate investments, we are an active member of boards and committees of sector, industry and cross-disciplinary networks such as Neprom, IVBN, Holland Metropole, DGBC, INREV and ULI.
The Residential Fund applies the Dutch Considerate Constructors Scheme (Bewuste Bouwer) to almost one-third of new-build projects and redevelopments. This ensures that the contractors deal with the concerns of local residents and address safety and environmental issues during the construction phase.
The Fund’s involvement in social and sustainability initiatives sometimes goes further than asset level. For instance, in November 2018, Bouwinvest unveiled plans to install around 300 heart defibrillators in and around properties in its residential investment portfolio in a new partnership with City AED - the organisation driving a nationwide campaign to increase rapid access to the equipment that can double survival chances in the event of cardiac arrest. Bouwinvest sees this as a clear opportunity to save lives among its own tenants and in local neighbourhoods.
Bouwinvest was the first company in the Dutch real estate investment sector to contribute to the establishment of a national AED (automatic external defibrillator) network, which it is estimated could save up to 2,500 lives every year in the Netherlands. The use of an AED offers the highest probability of survival within the first six minutes after a heart attack.
City AED will handle the placement of the defibrillators in suitable locations and the subsequent maintenance programme to ensure the equipment is always operable. Installation of the AEDs across Bouwinvest’s portfolio started in late 2018 and will be completed in 2019.
Target on sustainable stewardship
In 2020, 75% of construction sites (€) registered under Considerate Constructors Scheme (‘Bewuste Bouwer’)
30.1% of construction sites are registered. Five out of 12 acquisitions in 2018 have contractually agreed to register.
Too many options?
New technologies and innovations are emerging at a breakneck pace, creating a whole new dilemma. What new technologies will prove successful in the long run, or which start-ups will evolve successfully into fully-fledged businesses? Because many start-ups disappear almost as quickly as they appear announcing their arrival as the next big thing. What is certain right now is that new technologies and innovative products will pave the way to greater sustainability. The question remains, which ones?
With this in mind and in line with the Fund’s strategy, Bouwinvest keeps a very close eye on innovative trends and developments, and is constantly on the look-out for innovations that can help us achieve the Fund’s main (sustainability) goals. Following several pilots in 2017, we rolled out a number of enhanced pilots and services in our Amsterdam portfolio. A number of these pilots were rolled out in residential complexes delivered in the course of last year. What we have found so far is that implementing these services can be both time consuming and challenging. Most of the companies developing these new services are start-ups, and this can require a good deal of additional attention from our own organisation and our property managers. Nevertheless, the initial results are promising and we believe in the future value of these services. They offer new perspectives and we are therefore willing to invest time and money in them.
ParkBee has developed smart technology that opens up private car parks to the public, thus making them part of the sharing economy. The service enables us to offer parking at a special rate for tenants' visitors and others, as well as to generate extra income by optimising the occupancy rate of our parking garages. Customers enter our garages using the leading smartphone apps Parkmobile and Parkline, which also take care of the billing for the service. Income is shared on a monthly basis between Parkbee and Bouwinvest. Parkbee offers a sustainable contribution by reducing the number of cars searching for parking spaces and through a more efficient use of the built environment. In 2018, we added two locations to the one used during the initial pilot project.
Urbee aims for a more sustainable city with lower CO2 emissions, by building an e-bike-sharing network. Especially in urban areas, 80% of car rides are shorter than 20 km. This makes the Urbee service the perfect alternative for the car or other forms of motorised transport. Urbee enables us to offer our tenants a means of transport at a reasonable price. Our tenants have so far been enthusiastic about Urbee and the use of the service has been in line with our expectations.
Hello Energy creates new ways to help believers and sceptics support a worldwide sustainable energy transition. It offers a narrow-casting solution, which we use as a tool to engage tenants in our sustainability goals. The interface shows the energy use of the building, the production of renewable energy via solar panels, news, public transport information and weather forecasts, but can also be used by our property managers to inform tenants of upcoming events. We have implemented the system at five locations and will monitor and enhance the service to our tenants throughout this year.
These providers offer a service that enables us to offer our tenants a full-service mailbox within our larger apartment buildings. Our tenants can now send or receive mail, online shopping orders, etc. at any time from their own building, without having to go to a post office. Tenants can access and use the service via smartphone apps. Following an initial roll-out in 2018, we will have four locations ready for further testing in 2019.
Athlon Car Lease is developing a new service aimed at shared mobility solutions, such as car and bike sharing in combination with public transport. In cooperation with Athlon, we have set up two pilot projects to give us get a better idea of which services are the most is useful for our tenants. The two pilots went live in early 2019.
Rooftop Revolution is an organisation that has set out to connect and engage people in the transformation of rooftops into green areas. The aim is to help reduce the negative impact of excess water and heating use within urban areas and improve the living environment. Together with Rooftop Revolution, in 2018 we selected various types of rooftops within our portfolio for pilot projects. Our goal is to engage our tenants in making our buildings more sustainable, but also to perhaps help create tenant communities within our buildings. Following the selection of three locations from a quick-scan of seven, we polled our tenants to get an idea of their wishes. We expect to complete planning and start building our revolutionary rooftops in 2019.
Service Platforms & Community Engagement
Both as an investor and as landlord, we take our tenants’ satisfaction very seriously. This is why we aim to deliver the best possible experience to our tenants at all times. To make sure we can do this now and in the future, we are approaching this subject as an integral part of our own goal of ‘Future-proof Renting’.
In this respect, we believe that, apart from living in an excellent building, the overall experience of our tenants is also determined by convenience and community services. We therefore value clear and simple communications with our tenants, just as much as good communications between our tenants. The market for these types of services is booming, so last year we held orientation talks with several providers.
Throughout the year we have learned that the implementation of these digital applications can sometimes conflict with our very strict approach to privacy laws. These innovative pilots sometimes require more principal choices, for instance related to the adjustment of current internal procedures, to enable implementation. We expect to take further steps on this front in 2019.