Want To “Wow” Coworking Members? It All Starts With (The Right) Insights

Want To Wow Coworking Members
A Masterclass offered at GCUC Fundamentals of Flex last week in New York City taught coworking space operators best practices for conducting, optimizing, and utilizing customer insights.
  • During GCUC USA, Katrina Noelle, principal of San Francisco-based insight agency KNow Research, led a Masterclass on market research and how to better serve target audiences in the long run. 
  • Noelle shared 4 main ways insights can be used for market research: developing products and services, competitive intelligence, understanding customers, and improving products and services. 
  • Below are highlights from Noelle’s crash course in best practices for conducting, optimizing, and utilizing customer insights. 

In the world of owner-operated coworking, bootstrapping and being scrappy come with the territory.

Now, thanks to a new Masterclass offered at GCUC Fundamentals of Flex, held last week in New York City, market research is another tool operators can add to their DIY skill set.

Led by Katrina Noelle, principal of San Francisco-based insight agency KNow Research, the workshop allowed participants to try their hand at real-world problem-solving using tips and tricks presented in the two-hour session.

Billed as a realistic approach to insights gathering which any organization can implement, it was a crash course in best practices for conducting, optimizing, and utilizing customer insights in order to understand target audiences and better serve them in the long run.

How to use insights

Noelle described four ways insights can be used.

1.   Developing products and services
Insights can not only guide creation of new products and services but assist in refining current offerings and deciding whether to scale up or scale back and when.

2.   Competitive intelligence
Research can shed light on competitors and help operators understand who’s doing it better, how your space is differentiated and what you could be doing to stand out better.

3.   Understand customers
In addition to current members, audiences might include previous and/or lapsed members as well as potential and future prospects.

4.   How to wow
Research can help owners determine how to best meet customer needs, alleviate pain points and surprise and delight.

Gathering insights can provide the added bonus of functioning as a marketing touch point, Noelle related. Invitations to provide feedback can be an opportunity to connect with past, present, and future customers.

Setting your agenda

Before embarking on any research, first it’s important to clarify what you’re trying to learn and why, and what you will do with the information. Second, determine who you will ask and why their feedback is important. Third, plan your methodology, including what tools are needed and how outreach will be implemented. Finally, decide what you are going to do with the results and how you will close the feedback loop with customers once you’ve reached out to them.

Getting scrappy

Noelle, who focuses on qualitative research, explained that many tools exist to gather insights, and they don’t have to be expensive or complicated or require extensive resources. She encouraged flexible workspace operators to get scrappy by creatively leveraging tools and resources already in place, but using them in a different way.

For example, at a recent expo, her firm captured attendees already attending a small business expo and asked them about perceptions of coworking. Insights were captured on video, a favorite tool of KNow because “it’s hard to argue with footage”, she notes.

Additionally, social media, websites, and other platforms have built-in analytics that can be leveraged.

If additional support is needed, she suggested tapping into local resources, including people who work in your space. Interns and students are often looking for topics for capstone or other data-driven projects. One bonus: they will have a deadline, assuring the project is completed in a timely manner.

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    Doing dual duty: the beauty of bundling

    To avoid survey fatigue, Noelle suggested bundling questions into another process, such as lease or subscription renewals. 

    “Smaller, more frequent touch points can be done more often. It if makes sense in the customer journey, make it a part of the process.”

    Aim to do it regularly at the same point in the journey, she advised, say, 60 days in, rather than surveying all members at a particular month of the year. “Make sure they have enough time to give feedback, without forgetting any onboarding pain.”

    Don’t worry about one point in time, she advised. “You can see if things change by asking the same questions over time,” if it’s integrated into another process. For example, spaces that use an iPad at entry can build in a question into the registration process.

    Sometimes post-event feedback – formal or otherwise – can do dual duty as well. 

    For example, when a client says something nice about the meeting space, ask if they mind being quoted, Noelle advised. Not only does it become part of the feedback loop, but also provides an opportunity for the space to receive a valuable testimonial or review that can be further promoted across social media and other platforms.

    Consider an aggregate view rather than avatars

    As participants shared how they grappled with constructing avatars for a complicated membership, Noelle countered that when it comes to segments and personas, work with what you have. 

    “It’s okay to get scrappy. Look for the themes,” she emphasized, which entails stepping back, so you can see in aggregate rather than feeling compelled to take care of every problem.

    If two different personas emerge, she suggested asking, ”Are there things they both need that make both happy?”

    The Who

    Noelle advised to consider an audience composed of not just current members, but also past or lapsed members and future prospects, such as people who visited the website, made an inquiry, followed the space on social channels, or perhaps attended an event.

    Insights from aspirational customers can be particularly valuable. Finding them may entail casting a wider net than current members or subscribers. Once people are identified and located who fit a target profile (“people you want to duplicate”) consider giving more weight to their insights.

    The How

    Methodologies can be as simple as calling a space’s top 10 customers to get their opinions on a pending matter. However, while leveraging personal relationships can help with participation, honest feedback is often best obtained by adding a level of separation such as having an intern or community manager make the contact (be sure to brief and prep them).

    And while old school methods such as phone calls can work, other tools may be deployed when trying to gather insights from larger populations. Zoom calls are an option, as are surveys. Tools such as Typeform and Google Forms come across a bit friendlier than a survey, Noelle added. And questionnaires do not always have to be in-depth. “It can be 5 minutes, 5 questions with lots of open-ended options,” she said.

    Many platforms make it easy, so leverage technology when appropriate. “AI is getting better and can help you frame questions,” Noelle noted.

    Surveys can live on websites in some cases, which often makes for simpler tabulation than compiling email responses.

    Be sure to thank participants

    It’s important to show some appreciation, but it doesn’t have to be expensive, according to Noelle who has used coffee shop gift cards as well as handwritten notes from the CEO with a bottle of wine. One participant raffled off a gift card to the chocolate shop next door to her space; other suggestions were offering free services such as copies for a month, or running a raffle to get a free pass to a conference.

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