What is the current status of customer experience in real estate? Although the property industry has a direct impact on people’s lives, CX hasn’t traditionally been in its focus. In recent years, however, we have seen a noticeable development of customer experience in real estate.

We have with us Charlotte Crawley, Culture and Experience Director at Navana Property Group, to comment on the situation in the property industry. Thanks to her vast experience in the field, Charlotte was able to give us invaluable insights.

Charlotte, as someone who spent almost three decades in the CX industry, could you tell us what are your main professional interests? What drives you to be the leader of CX change in your company?

My professional interest is really in changing people’s lives for the better. That’s why I chose a career in property, the thread that runs through all lives, industries, and communities.

I’ve previously worked in sectors such as retail and hospitality, and that experience helped me to see the power of good customer experience first-hand. I saw how CX can drive commercial success for companies, but also what happens when industries don’t get it right.

Ever since it’s been my mission to bring those lessons to the property sector. I believe a better understanding of CX can drive financial growth for property developers and investors but also help us create better places.

What is your opinion on the maturity of customer experience in real estate?

Customer experience is still a relatively undeveloped area in the property industry, especially compared to other more advanced sectors like leisure. Until 2014, there were very few people in property with a CX role like mine.

CX wasn’t traditionally seen as important for the planning and designing of developments. Property leaders used to view it as a ‘nice to have’ feature – something you bolt on to projects. That view is slowly changing now. Accordingly, property developers are learning more about the role CX can play in unlocking long-term financial value. They are recognising the importance of delivering a better experience for the people who use the buildings and places they create.

An illustration shows people in front of buildings who talk and work.

What steps would you recommend to the leaders wanting to improve customer service in the property industry?

The property industry can sometimes lazily try to import CX techniques and practices from fields such as hospitality and leisure. In my opinion, that won’t automatically deliver good service. While we can learn from other industries, I think it is important for the property to develop its own approach to CX. As we design, build, and manage developments for a truly diverse customer base, only a unique and comprehensive strategy can meet the needs of all our users.

This year, you were a judge at the UK Employee Experience Awards, an event designed to spotlight good practices and increase CX standards. Are there any impressions or insights from the event that you would like to share with our readers?

I was impressed by the number of digital innovations and the speed of their implementation throughout the past year. I now hope these are balanced with in-person activity and that businesses don’t view technology as a way to trim training budgets. Not everything can be done online.  

But the thing that stood out to me was the level of commitment companies showed towards training and empowering staff. I have always said that empowering teams to spend time with customers and teaching them about the business is vital to delivering on experience. I’ll keep a close eye on which businesses recognise the benefits of this and continue to deliver outstanding practices as we return to normal.

You often emphasize the organizations should have experience-focused culture. Could you share with us why having an aligned and empowered team is essential for a successful CX change?

The best CX strategies in the world won’t make an impact if the teams responsible for delivering them aren’t inspired. Every single employee needs to feel empowered and ready to put the strategy into action. We have to give customer-facing teams the tools, confidence, and motivation to put customer insight into motion. It’s a truism but one worth repeating – happy employees care about customers and are invested in delivering a better service.

An illustration of a hand holding the green earth.

Sustainable production is extremely important for the future of our planet and humanity. Where do you see sustainability in the real estate industry?

That’s a big question! Sustainability goes way beyond just the materials we use in our supply chains. It should be about putting the well-being of the planet, people, and places at the heart of meaningful long-term strategies.

From my experience, sustainability is becoming more and more important to customers. People prefer to live and spend time in places they believe are delivering on sustainability issues. They want to get involved and expect authenticity.

Therefore, window dressing won’t cut it, and property developers are waking up to that. The work needs to start internally, and property companies will have to get their own houses in order. 

Now that we tackled socially responsible CX interventions, could you comment on the issue of accessibility in real estate?

It’s not considered nearly enough in real estate and often doesn’t go beyond a DDA checklist. We’re still too focused on physical access – where to put ramps and doors. Companies need to think more about how to be culturally and socially inclusive.

Property has to shift attention to the experience of people with varying abilities and the ways all customers are feeling and using spaces. If we are going to create truly inclusive places that people want to access, these things need to be considered in the early planning and design stage. We need to create spaces and services that everyone can experience equally.  

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