Case Study

How a National Real Estate Corporation Decreased Customer Turnover and Improved Work-Time Efficiencies by 30%

Situation:  A national commercial real estate corporation was losing multi-million-dollar lease deals and property acquisitions. Their methods of information sharing, and overall procedures around these efforts, caused redundancies in their work. These resulted in critical errors in their deliverables to customers, leading to loss of trust and business and to internal tension between business units.

The Catch: When Third Angle took a closer look at their data and interviewed employees, we discovered that in addition to larger procedural errors, there were over a hundred disconnected mini-processes. These processes were further fragmented by employees who, lacking trust in the system’s data, engineered their own workarounds.

Innovative Actions: With the blessing of upper management, Third Angle formed a cross-functional, cross-level project team to identify and build consensus around the corporation’s primary processes. 

As we were constructing team membership, we encouraged the leaders of these teams to identify “unusual suspect” employees to be part of the team.  For instance, the person in question may not have a high position or title, but was respected as being “in-the-know”, as well as liked, respected, and connected to customers and employees. 

A key example of this selection was a man named Vinny, a leader in the maintenance department, who had inside customer information through daily interactions with them. Vinny provided the voice of the customer, giving candid feedback around what he heard them discuss regarding the company, often complaints of the disjointed and delayed service. Yet Vinny inspired the team, and the departments they represented, to believe they could do better together.  

After doing NEWCO(™) mapping around the company’s operations and service, the team chose four processes that accounted for 80% of the business. Working across business units, and with the technology function, we structured and executed a knowledge management system around those four processes, with an eye towards improving them through knowledge sharing. 

We led workshops and appointed sub-teams to identify the sources of accurate data and information already in their system (but invisible to other functions and customers).  Notice, we did not simply engineer new processes and hand it over to the teams. Since we recognized a gap in their trust, we implemented the Third Angle's Way of Thriving Model™, which enabled these teams to co-create their own revitalized processes and information flows, with Third Angle’s hands-on assistance in design and execution. 

Partnering with this team and the IT department, Third Angle co-designed an enterprise-wide information tool that made the key processes (and underlying information) visible, accessible, easy-to-use, and traceable by anyone using them.  Building on commercial real estate imagery, the tool was named “The Lobby.” The visual representation of entryways and exits into the processes, represented in the tool, were familiar to anyone who traveled through the office building lobbies. 

Growth and Value: The results of Third Angle’s work included a 30% improvement in work-time efficiencies (e.g.,  service delivery, reduction of labor hours per task).  The process also improved employee engagement by having them voluntary redesign processes that improved overall company consistency, speed and service. These improvements resulted in decreased customer turnover and higher customer and employee satisfaction. 

The Lobby’s success around internal operations gave rise to it becoming the corporate portal for all sources of employee, operations, and customer information. This portal and these processes continue to be utilized by customers, vendors and employees alike. 

Mini-Lessons: Much of what companies need to improve is embedded in information “hidden” across its systems. Linking that information to everyday processes, in easily accessible ways, is stronger than storing information in the abstract. Engaging users in the design of the system is key to improved systems and better engagement, for many reasons. One reason is that they understand context, “hidden conditions” that need to be factored into the solution. Designing solutions around a common metaphor is an easy way to help users learn the system fast and use it.