Self-service coworking doesn’t exist.

These things don’t run themselves.

  • Coworking spaces are high touch businesses, so cannot be expected to run without a high level of attention to the customer experience.
  • Technology does not exist to replace human involvement, it exists to support it and better leverage how time is spent on human involvement.
  • To create a premier customer experience, great technology & personal interactions are both required.

About a year ago, I had a number of conversations with a building owner as they were preparing to open a new coworking space. 

Many of the discussions centered on basics like what furniture to buy, what memberships to offer, and what brand of coffee maker to get. 

But the rest were tough – this owner wanted to be completely disconnected from the space. He wanted the place to run itself and was assuming that electronic door access and independent members would make that happen. He had a true “build it and they will come” attitude, with no intention of investing in actually running the space. Nice ergonomic desk chairs, yes. Human time? No.

One year later and I happen to have connected with several of the people in his community that I’d spoken to because they had wanted a new coworking space. None of them work there. They all tried it out and quickly left. Why? The place feels dead, there is no sense of place, no experience, nothing to keep them there. They did not feel valued as customers.

The input they gave about what they needed to be productive was ignored.  

I have seen this so many times – a building owner that wants to monetize their space hears about coworking & thinks its an easy way to drop their vacancy rate. That 1200 sq ft office space on the 2nd floor that you’ve used for storage for the past 10 years? Of course it could be a coworking space! Slap on some paint, add a few desks & some motivational posters and open up the doors. People will show up in no time and you’ll be rolling in the extra revenue coworking can bring. Because its hip, its cool, and it look super easy. It’s just office space, right? Not true.

The thing is, these places don’t run themselves. 

Coworking is not just office space. It never has been. 

The key to building and running a thriving coworking community? The experience. Coworking is about providing the right flexibility to help members be supported & productive in their professional lives. That requires a heavy dose of customer service – heavy. 

Small coworking spaces in particular are competing not just with other commercial office space, they are competing with non-consumption. Why would a remote worker pay for office space outside of their home if it provides no added value? They won’t. They have a desk and chair at home. Coworking spaces must provide more than a place to put a laptop. 

Too many people believe that technology can be a substitute for that human touch. It can’t. What it can do is support, streamline, and improve the experience for both sides. But it absolutely does not serve as a replacement for human interaction. What it can do is free up time and remove inefficiencies that are preventing us from connecting to one another in the right ways.

My members use our mobile app to save them time & to interact with the physical space. Technology in this case makes it easy to get things done quickly. They can do things like see what meeting rooms are available and book one while walking down the hallway or waiting for their espresso. 

What does that give them in return? Time to do things technology cannot – talk to another member at the coffee pot, take a moment to pet the office dog, focus on their next call, the things that we need to continue to feel connected to other humans and to be productive. 

What can technology help me with as a manager? Keeping track of all the human things. Great technology does more than just enable payments and room scheduling. It helps me keep tabs on what my members are doing, what they need, what they don’t like, and what I can do with all of that information to help provide an even better customer experience and grow my business. 

If you’re going to run a business, focus on that business, because it’s not going to run itself.