How wired is your block?

by: Mary-Anne Bowring

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Mary-Anne Bowring explains the latest innovation in block porterage WITH RESIDENTS BECOMING MORE DEMANDING these days and innovation being key to keeping them happy, a new Virtual Concierge product aims to add value to blocks. In essence, it's a plasma screen installed at the entrance of a block, displaying useful information for visitors and residents alike. Only about 23% of apartment blocks in Central London boast a concierge, so at the moment there are pretty much just two types of blocks of flats, those that have concierge, and those that don't. Well that's about to change! The concept is similar to the way a hotel treats its guests. The experience of being a resident is more than just arriving and leaving.

It's about creating a community spirit. If a hotel reminds guests of their fine dining options and any relevant news, there's no reason why a block can't either. Taking all of these into consideration, any managing agent knows that every penny of the service charge is scrutinised by discerning leaseholders and has to be believed to be value for money. The product allows people to see: Photos of contractors authorised to be on site (security). Day books of all visitors (service).

Real time updates on key issues such as lift failure, major works tenders in, next meeting (service). Shift patterns, holiday records. Building manuals. Meeting, tender results and other news posted from the managing agent onto the newsboard. The plasma screen installed usually hangs by the ceiling and information is provided using a broadband line. The first 32" plasma can be installed for free with clients paying for just the broadband connection. Directors can post news onto the TV but this also provides networking features to increase the sense of community spirit. Neighbours can let each other know if they are happy to lend tea or coffee to other residents, if they can help with the plumbing, or even if they teach yoga! Due to the development specification enhancements, installing the product could increase asking prices and differentiate a block with no desk Concierge, as a virtual concierge is the next best thing.

The HR module includes HR Management and learning materials. When installed, a webcam is added to the concierge PC enabling photos of contractors working on-site to be captured for security reasons and viewers to see who the contractor is, on-site. The product also enables leaseholders and directors to access a finance desk, so they can search for financial records, legal casework and owners can access the Concierge desk, daybooks and building manuals all from one place. The pilot was installed in Docklands in Nov 2010 with a 32" plasma screen, (so every visitor was in touch) a webcam for the Concierge to photograph contractors and training for all. It brings Block Porterage into the 21st Century and is a welcome addition to those blocks which don't have an on-site concierge. ___________________________________________________________ Mary-Anne Bowring is the Managing Director of The Ringley Group, sponsors of the Porter of the Year Award at the Property Management Awards. See page 38


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