How Automation at a Coworking Space Helps to Save Costs & Add Value to Membership
Coworking business owners hear about automation every day. It has become a buzzword that hit the industry. However, for many operators automation is still associated with something sophisticated.
Are you one of them? The truth is that if you don’t follow this global trend, you are missing out on business opportunities. Once you implement automation in your coworking space, it just starts to quietly run in the background and save you and your managers hours every week.
Since time is money, with time you realize that you are saving costs. Also, you happily admit that you don’t have to push yourself to perform boring tasks and finally focus on higher-value activities, such as enhancing community, strengthening brand positions, improving your service, growing revenue, and more.
Sometimes it’s difficult for workspace operators to navigate through the complexities of automation. You don’t know what can be automated, how much will it cost, and how your business will benefit if you invest in automation.
Read on and we will find the answers to all questions related to workspace automation you might have at the moment.
You will be surprised to know that nearly 50% of coworking space management tasks can be automated with the help of current technology.
Here’s how to approach this. To identify what exactly can be automated at your coworking space, break down all management processes into parts. Then break down these parts into individual tasks. Each task is a potential opportunity for automation.
However, before starting to automate everything, you need to balance out the cost and difficulty of automating each specific task vs the possible productivity increase.
This way, you will get a list of tasks that require automation in the first turn.
You can rank your tasks on three levels according to the IBM Institute for Business Value.
- Basic. Repetitive tasks that follow simple rules with data coming from structured data sources. For example, desk and meeting room booking, visitor check-in, issuing invoices/billing and sending various notifications.
- Advanced. Recurring tasks that require variable actions with predefined outcomes. For example, managing members’ profiles and plans, new members onboarding, members support, events management, business performance analytics, upselling customers.
- Intelligent. Unpredictable tasks that don't follow simple rules and require complex thinking to be resolved. For example, growth/marketing strategy development, the invention of new plans and pricing, etc.
Speaking about cost-saving due to automation, there are four key points to consider.
Automation reduces your labor costs by replacing people. For instance, if you have an automated access control system, you don’t need to hire additional managers for night shifts while keeping the doors of your coworking space open for paying clients 24/7.
As a rule, coworking spaces have a separate manager to handle billing matters. They create membership plans, generate invoices, track payments, spot unpaid bills, and so on. If you introduce a hands-off billing system at your coworking space, it will do the job instead of the administrator. This will let you reassign your staff to higher-value work that can’t be automated, such as growth driving and money-making activities, sales, customer service, and relationship management.
How to calculate the cost of saved labor
This is really simple. Add all your expenses for the administrator position including salary, benefits, taxes, training, sick leave, holiday, whatever. Then divide that number by hours worked.
Here’s what Ron Yang, VP of MY WORKSPACE says about labor costs saving after automation of meeting room and desk booking:
If I were to estimate it roughly, I think we save at least $1,000 per month. Members and non-members just open the app and book, without having to talk to any manager. It's a great investment for us.
Let’s face it—people are not perfect. We can’t tirelessly work 24/7, we are not 100% accurate. We need regular breaks, vacations, sick days. Some days we are unproductive, sometimes we are easily distracted.
It’s quite the opposite with software. A quality solution works flawlessly and never breaks the deadlines.
To see the true benefit of automation in terms of time-saving, think how much time it takes for a billing system (for instance) to generate monthly invoices that include recurring and one-off fees for consumed services for all your members?
All those invoices will be ready for sending in a matter of minutes while it will take an entire workday to complete the same task for a human. What if an administrator makes a mistake in one of the invoices? How much time will it take to fix it? What about the brand reputation loss?
By no means this section is dedicated to diminishing the value of human employees. This is just about the best approach to productivity. Tedious repeated tasks don’t inspire enthusiasm in us, so why not delegate them to machines and leave only control functions to ourselves?
On average, I would say 20 hours per week is being saved by managers. I would also confirm that andcards affected Campfire’s ROI in general. We like money around here and your system is helping us make more of it!—**Michael Gorski, RevOps Pointman and Resource Specialist at Campfire CoWorks
If you take a critical look at your space workflows, you will surely find some bottlenecks and places for improvement.
For instance, if a manager should onboard each new member personally, this is a bottleneck. What if a few members come at the same time or a newbie comes when the administrator is busy? What if existing members require urgent support and some external customer wants to make a booking?
All these often happen simultaneously at a coworking space and if neither onboarding nor bookings are automated, you limit your business growth opportunities. An administrator can process only a fixed number of inquiries, which leads to slowdowns, money losses, and poor customer experience.
By opportunity cost, I mean that if you choose the old pen and paper approach, you lose potential gains, such as:
- Reduced costs. By automating operations at your coworking space, you can deliver services at a reduced cost as you don’t have to hire a lot of personnel and save on their salary. With reduced costs, you increase your profits and get the possibility to reinvest in new locations, new amenities, equipment, whatever.
- Reduced lead time. Automation helps you serve customers quicker, which leads to faster and healthier cash flow.
- Reduced number of errors. Automation guarantees that your data is error-free. With accurate up-to-date data, your chances to satisfy customers are much higher. Remember that you even don’t pay for this accuracy, your labor costs are reduced.
Flexible workspace automation can be implemented in two steps:
If your members rush to the help desk every time they need something (book a meeting room, invite a guest, order a service) and managers do things instead of them, you are neglecting a cool DIY aspect of coworking.
Nowadays, people are more comfortable with self-service apps than direct contacts. This means if your members can’t get your product or service without asking the manager, this can hardly be called the best user experience.
In case you acknowledge the problem, you are halfway to fixing it. All you need to do to introduce self-service as the best form of automation is give your residents a nice and simple platform that will make all your products immediately available for them.
When your members will have the entire workspace in their smartphones, you will just refer them to the app every time they need something. Forget about the words “What can I do for you”. From now on you will just help members get something done.
Customers are very positive about self-service apps. All Embassy services are at their fingertips, very little onboarding support is required, I believe it’s safe to say that everything on the app sells itself.—Anders Nilsson, the Founder of Embassy House.
Such training and education will make your members autonomous and seed DIY culture at your coworking space. New members will be inspired by the example of seasoned coworkers in your community and follow their behavior patterns.
By giving your members apps for booking, communication, and application for benefits and services, you already automate 80% of operations at your coworking space. Since members get what they need themselves, managers don’t have to manage anything there.
The best advice here is not to look for separate tools that cover one specific need at a time but search for a unified platform that offers an entire toolkit addressing each and every coworking space management issue and seamlessly integrates with third-party software such as cloud printing and door unlock.
Such a holistic approach to automation will help you avoid common mistakes most operators make. You won’t have to switch between different interfaces all the time and pay money to different vendors. You will keep your concentration and supervise all processes from a single place, which is really convenient and hassle-free.
Now, a few words about stuff you are buying often, such as paper, cleaning supplies, coffee, snacks, and more. I bet this is also a time sink for your administrators. I suggest you find a way to automate the delivery of these items as well. Many providers (such as Amazon) offer household items delivery services on a subscription basis. Such deals can be made for almost everything you need to run your workspace. You will just get them delivered to your door at a regular interval without any extra effort of thinking or going to the store from your side.
A huge amount of time saved through automating processes you are not happy about will free your energy for humanizing transactions with your members, people that matter the most for the success of your business.
There are many reasons why coworking space owners miss out on new technologies. Some think they are too small, some are pessimistic about technology, some are scared away by the cost of software adoption.
The truth is that if you procrastinate with automation, your dextrous competitors will outpace you just like it happened to Kodak and Nokia.
Furthermore, you can’t but agree that the people-first approach is what differentiates coworking spaces and traditional offices. You need time and energy to nurture and maintain that human touch, collaborative atmosphere, and cheerful vibe you members come and stay for.
I encourage you to analyze your daily tasks, detect the ones that don’t result in the interaction with tenants, and automate them because this is the sure-fire way of adding value to the services you provide.