Ask any business center manager what the secret to success is and chances are they’ll talk about the importance of serving the customers. Ask Kathlene Buchanan, owner of Washington D.C.-based Metro Offices and she’ll demonstrate how Metro’s business literally revolves around their customers. That difference between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk” is undoubtedly part of what earned Metro Offices the INC 500/5000 Fastest Growing Companies distinction as well the SmartCEO 100 Best-Run Companies award.
Kathlene Buchanan knows something about business centers; she’s been in the industry for 30 years. She has also been honored by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners and recognized by Bank of America and the Washington Business Journal as one of the Top 25 Women Business Owners in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. I was able to spend some time chatting with this impressive woman last week and learn first-hand about her “customers first” approach and what Metro does to keep customers front and center to everything they do.
The distinction begins with Metro’s strong local presence, not only in the Washington D.C. centers but at their Maryland, and Virginia centers as well. “We are literally where our clients are. If a tenant has a question or needs help with a problem, they aren’t calling some call center in another city, they are calling someone right down the street,” says Buchanan, a long time Washingtonian, who personally knows every street and what’s around each corner. “We shop at the same stores as our clients, our kids go to the same schools, and we eat at the same corner coffee shop.”
Just as important as “being there” is getting inside the customer’s head and delivering to rapidly changing needs. And they are changing. Metro works with forward thinking companies such as Deloitte and Accenture, who want to attract a new, talented generation of workers seeking organizations that offer an optimum work/life balance. That means work spaces that conform to the individual, not the other way around. Metro meets the challenge with an unusually fluid assortment of workspace options such as flex desks, and On Demand Offices. Their Metro Office Access program allows card-accessible drop-in meeting spaces. Their nine centers reflect their focus on flexible workspaces throughout their portfolio.
Brokers are customers too, in Metro’s book. Metro has forged strong relationships with their local broker community, in many instances by mixing a little fun with business, such as their latest football themed contest. “Bring in a referral, you get points. Conduct a tour, get more points. Close a deal —- touchdown!” says Kelly Bedsole, VP of Marketing & Sales and in charge of Metro’s new product development, and, incidentally, Kathlene’s daughter.
Kelly Bedsole dials us into another key ingredient to Metro’s success; a killer infrastructure that includes an enterprise grade network, massive bandwidth and a state of the art data center for full system back-up and redundancy. “The great thing is that clients can take advantage of our cutting edge technology regardless of whether you are a start up or an established corporation,” says Kelly.
This genuine respect for clients of all sizes and a commitment to providing an environment that stimulates productivity and innovation is at the center of what differentiates Metro from other centers. Their advice to those other centers? Know your local terrain. Always hold your client’s needs above all else. Don’t skimp; re-invest in your centers. That means providing technology that not only supports, but anticipates future demands of a younger, mobile customer.
At Metro, putting customers first is clearly more than a strategy developed in a conference room. It’s personal, and is experienced every time a client drops into a Metro center — from a space and amenities tailored to their needs — to a network that keeps pace with their demands — to (depending on the time of day) the inside scoop on where to get the best power breakfast or the smoothest glass of cabernet. Now, that’s customer service!