Through desktop research and a series of interviews we gained an understanding of the reasons behind the building owners' apparent lack of interest in sustainability initiatives. We discovered that sustainability isn't a priority for building owners as the process often appears financially unrewarding in the short term. Owners also felt that there was a lack of personalised support and information around existing sustainability programs. With this in mind, we collaborated with SMEs from the City of Melbourne to develop the concept of a Holistic Council Service - an offering that provides mid-tier commercial building owners with a relationship manager to act as their direct contact to the Council.
To test and strengthen the concept we prototyped hypothetical interactions with the relationship manager in three formats; email, mail and phone. Every building owner had their own unique communication preferences, so we developed a flexible testing plan which allowed us to test only the formats which were relevant to them. We carried out three rounds of testing with building owners, iterating the prototypes after each round. This process allowed us to uncover how building owners would prefer to interact with their relationship manager and what they would hope to gain from these interactions. It also highlighted key points at which the Council could introduce the conversation about sustainability.
While the pilot program is not yet in place, the service principles we delivered to the City of Melbourne will help them implement the service effectively and in line with the vision. The principles outline an approach which will transform interactions with council from task-based to relationship-based. The introduction of the relationship manager consolidates building owner's interactions with Council into a single channel, improving both the efficiency and the quality of the interactions. In addition to the service principles we also delivered a series of guidelines outlining the characteristics of the ideal relationship manager to assist the City of Melbourne in selecting people to fill the role.
We designed each touchpoint throughout the end-to-end experience. This involved prototyping communication tools including emails, phone scripts and letters. It was important that we delivered a holistic customer experience and common tone of voice, to ensure the service experience was simple and consistent for all building owners. We also outlined effective channels for the City of Melbourne to share and communicate council programs, educational tools and information. Each building owner has different interests and preferences, so we have designed the service to be easy for users to take control of, ensuring it meets their needs and matches up with their desired level of engagement.
Our research uncovered that there is a need for the Council to patch up their existing relationship with building owners before asking them to contribute to a goal which may not immediately align with their interests, current cash flow or plans for the future. The Holistic Council Service bridges the gap between Council and building owners, allowing them to engage owners in sustainability initiatives. The will help the Council to achieve their sustainability aims and deliver value to the wider community by reducing the impact of climate change. Building owners will also see a return on investments made in sustainability, increasing the efficiency of their buildings and reducing the cost of energy into the future.
The relationship manager will be an expert in transacting with Council, enabling them to complete tasks more efficiently than building owners, who require support and instruction with each new transaction. To improve both the efficiency and the nature of the offering the service is designed to be iterated continuously after implementation. Owners will be prompted to give feedback on the service, helping to uncover how it can be refined, expanded or positioned differently in future. The relationship managers will be given the authority to make adjustments based on their direct experiences, personally iterating their role on a day-to-day basis and sharing overarching insights with the Council.
Council has historically struggled to engage decision makers in the mid-tier commercial building sector. They have a range of sustainability initiatives and programs aimed at the audience but had had little success in engaging building owners. There was a clear need for a new and novel approach to get building owners on board. While relationship managers are common in sales industries, the idea is unique in a Council environment. By shifting from the traditional, task-based mode of interaction with Council to a relationship-based model, the Council will strengthen its relationship with building owners, ultimately allowing the two groups to work together to achieve common aims in the future.