WeWork and Regus both have good front-line salespeople, but the digital customer experience was vastly different…
This past spring, I had to find new office space in San Francisco. My starkly different encounters with two large competitors in the temporary office market – WeWork and Regus – highlighted some important lessons about how not to do lead nurturing.
Some of these valuable lessons on lead nurturing ring even louder now, in light of revelations about WeWork’s operational laxity and “growth at any cost” mindset, which have resulted in an aborted IPO and the departure of its CEO. This article is about lead nurturing and operational execution – not WeWork’s implosion – but it is useful to remember that small details can often be revealing of larger truths. In this case, sloppy customer-facing processes belied much bigger operational and strategic problems behind the unicorn’s facade.
There were good and bad aspects to my encounters with both Regus and WeWork – but let’s start with the horrendous.
Regus have a new co-working product called “Spaces,” which is obviously a response to WeWork. The Spaces facility in San Francisco has a big common area, brightly colored tables, a bike locker, and a barrista with a nose ring. You get the picture: not your grandfather’s Regus.
On the Spaces website I filled out a lead form and requested a tour at 9am the next morning. I was told I would receive an email confirming my visit.
Within an hour, I did receive an email. But it wasn’t from Spaces and it wasn’t to confirm my visit. It was from “Sandra” at Regus’ central sales office in Dallas (the mother ship) asking if she could help me find some Regus (note: Regus, not Spaces) offices to visit. Over the next few hours, I received two more emails from two other Regus reps, offering me the same thing. What I did not get was an email from Spaces confirming my tour.
Nonetheless, the next morning I found myself a few blocks from the Spaces facility, so I dropped in. The receptionist did have me on her list of visitors and apologized that no one had confirmed my visit. She introduced me to a Regus salesperson I’ll call Isaac, who showed me around. The Spaces site turned out not to suit me, but over the next week, Isaac showed me three other Regus facilities. He was a good salesperson: attentive, professional, and he worked hard to get me the best price.
But the good in-person experience I was having with Isaac contrasted starkly with the online experience I was having with the rest of Regus. As Isaac showed me offices, I continued to receive emails from desperate Regus inside sales reps who – wittingly or not – were trying to steal Isaac’s lead. It was the end of March, and the frequency of emails and calls reached a frenzy as month- and quarter-end approached.
Isaac’s protectiveness of me as his client was also notable. At each Regus site, he introduced me loudly to any Regus employees as “MY CLIENT.” I sensed that Regus is a cut-throat, quota-driven, and unpleasant place to work. (A scan of Glassdoor confirmed this.)
Don’t get me wrong: internal competition is good – but only to a point. In a sensible system the lead is assigned to one sales rep and then blocked out in the CRM. Instead, I felt like chum thrown into the shark tank – everyone took a bite. In a week, I received 10-15 emails from eight different Regus reps, plus several robocalls – none of them in any way coordinated. Even after I declined to take a Regus office, I continued to receive spam: “Deloitte Toronto chooses Spaces!”
Like I care!
Overall, the Regus system has the hallmarks of a poorly designed, poorly run, and under-invested sales organization. The lack of coordination makes customers feel simultaneously unheard and bombarded. The organization works on its timeline (quarterly sales targets) not the customers’. The Darwinian sales ethos kills employee morale. And customers sense this, which sends a bad vibe at a crucial point in the customer journey.
My experience with WeWork was better – but not perfect.
Let’s start by recognizing that WeWork has a huge starting advantage over Regus: it is working with a new product, brand experience, and business process designed entirely from scratch. It was flush with cash. And at the time it was still a sexy unicorn, so it was able to attract good talent.
Indeed, this led to a better consumption experience:
- No spam! The only emails I received from WeWork during my search were from people I actually met in person.
- WeWork salespeople were surprisingly collaborative. After I visited three WeWork sites, a sales manager sent me an email summarizing all three offers, and she ccd the salespeople from the other two sites. Nice!
But there were yellow flags that made me question how mature WeWork’s processes are:
- WeWork’s interactions with me seemed to be entirely manual. For instance, the email I mentioned was clearly written by a real person as a one-off effort. This hints at a lack of systems and automation.
- At two WeWorks I was encouraged to (and did) put my name on the wait list, even though I clarified that I was unlikely to take an office. This suggests that the sales reps might be compensated on “waitlist additions” – a dangerous and potentially misleading sales metric.
- There was zero follow-up from WeWork. I left my contact information at five offices, signed up on two wait lists, and after a month had not received a single email or call. This was a relief after my Regus experience; on the other hand, it is not good lead nurturing.
In sum, WeWork came across as a product-driven company that was growing so fast it hadn’t bothered to invest in CRM or lead reactivation systems, and (perhaps) did not even appreciate the importance of doing so. And because it was “a cool place to work” and could hire bright young staff willing to work long hours for low pay, there was little pressure to invest in automation. It made for a pleasing customer experience – but obviously WeWork was leaving a lot of leads (and dollars) on the table.
Although both companies had good “front of house” salespeople, the human element turned out not to be the decisive factor in my experience. Instead, it was the grinding of behind-the-scenes machinery, and the way each company treated its customers and employees that defined my consumer journey.
Ultimately, in sales it’s not enough to have just good product, good people, or good systems – you need all three working in concert to drive great lead nurturing and sales execution.