My thanks to James Foice, Chief Executive at The Association for Serviced Accommodation Providers (ASAP) for allowing me time to reflect and share my thoughts on these extraordinary times we find ourselves working and living through.
Pressing the pause button and coming up for air has been almost impossible over the past months, as we have learnt to adapt, cope and manage in the new world of COVID-19, but with James offering the option to “press pause”, it seemed like a great opportunity to draw a line in the sand and look forward to the new new.
It is fair to say that the huge tsunami wave of shock and fear as a result of COVID and lockdown has somewhat subsided giving way to the new norm. A new norm we are finding ways to live with. However, the next wave building and about to hit is that of a global economic recession and mass unemployment caused by COVID-19 (never mind the final throwing of the dice on Brexit as the UK finally separates from the rest of the EU by year-end). This perfect storm of uncertainty is already and will continue to cause huge challenges for the business travel and serviced accommodation industry. With significantly fewer people on the move, customer expectations and concerns elevated, more evidence and proof of safety protocols in practice (rather than just marketing words) and current government funding initiatives coming to an end. It’s not looking pretty at all.
Now more than ever is the need and urgency to adapt to change. Many of you will have heard me quote Charles Darwin – “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Well Mr Darwin, right on the button again. Adapting to change will be critical as we navigate the forthcoming months and years.
Adapting may not even be a strong enough adjective! Perhaps “ripping up the rule book” is a better approach and certainly one we are taking at Synergy. As the rule book is abandoned and new challenges present every day, we are aiming to remain open and innovative to what we can do differently. Below are a few of the measures we have implemented, which have come about from the questions we continually ask ourselves:
- “What do our customers want and need from us?”
- “What opportunities can we identify from every situation that is hitting us?”
- “What creative partnerships can we develop?”
- “How do we ensure the best support for our supply partners and vice versa”
- ….and perhaps most importantly …“How do we build trust and confidence in our offerings, service and product to keep our guests and staff safe?”
Our Synergy Cares Nine Point programme which was initially developed to focus on delivering enhanced sanitisation and cleaning standards is now being further developed to deliver a full wrap-around of care, from the moment a customer leaves their home to start a business travel journey – to the moment they get back. We are factoring in, not only their specific needs and requirements but those of their business (think duty of care) and their loved ones waiting anxiously at home for them. It’s a big ask – but it’s the only way forward and essential that we deliver.
We are looking at new models of serviced accommodation that will easily facilitate our customer’s needs in terms of work, rest, comfort and safety, whilst of course delivering the needs of our buyers – who naturally want agile and flexible t&c’s, competitive pricing and outstanding service.
We are aligning behind industry bodies such as Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) and Corporate Housing Partners Association (CHPA), “united we stand” and “better together” should be our chants. The Synergy voice is getting louder as we expand around the globe, but we are louder and better by lining up with these partners and global industry partners.
My final thought and one that I impress on our teams each day is “how we act and are seen to act now, will be a lasting lens that our customers will forever see us through.” That, of course, applies to the wider serviced accommodation and corporate housing industry – never has the time been so right and apt for the industry to shine and do what it does best of all – offer private, safe spaces for people working away from home with amazing customer care. A good opportunity to make Mr Darwin proud.
The full interview can be seen here.