GLOBAL - The real estate industry still has "a long way to go" to catch up the rest of business in its approach to customers, according to Howard Morgan, managing director of real estate customer service consultants RealService.

In an article that forms part of the digital supplement on risk management that accompanies the November/December print edition of IP Real Estate, Morgan noted the findings of the UK Occupier Satisfaction Survey 2010, published recently by Property Industry Alliance and CoreNet Global UK, which reveals that occupiers rate their level of satisfaction at below 50%.

He said: "Just imagine the outcry if our big supermarkets offered such poor service. A simple way for investment managers to boost retention is to develop direct relationships with their occupiers.

"Our research shows occupiers aspire to have a similar quality of relationship with an investor-owner as they would with a listed property company. 

"Occupiers are too often frustrated by the use of intermediaries such as property managers, who often do not have clear delegated authority to make decisions and represent the client effectively."

Morgan suggested landlords and investment managers should maximise retention by assessing the risk profile of every occupier ahead of lease break or expiry, identifying those that are most at risk of defection before it is too late.

"We are working with a small but growing group of investment managers who do care how they are perceived by their occupier customers," Morgan said.

"However, we also regularly hear from occupiers of their frustration with invisible landlords and poorly directed asset managers."

David Rendall, European chief executive of Cushman & Wakefield Investors, said: "You need to know the occupier market, what's driving demand. Skilful managers work with the tenant in a proactive way - if you lose your tenant, it's an expensive business.

"The balance of power has shifted in favour of the tenant. The skill is to be able to harness that, to be able to do something positive with it rather than being hit by it."

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