The coworking space revolution has also meant an explosion in coworking space software. Which is great. Having tools specifically designed for the shared workspace industry facilitates the two primary goals for most operators:
Historically, the coworking space software toolkit was limited: Microsoft Excel or Google Docs to manage members, email for communication and a Wordpress website. While inexpensive, those tools have their limitations, especially in an industry known for lean staffing models.
The right software can save time, focus your staff on building relationships, provide real-time insights, reduce errors and be more secure. Ultimately, this guide to coworking software is designed to help you find the tools to help grow your business.
Visitor Management Systems
Let's start at the beginning... of the coworkers' and visitors' experience that is. Visitor registration is one of the most important elements of coworking software. A digital receptionist will impress visitors. An electronic visitor sign in app will be one of the first interactions your prospective tenants and visitors have. Just like at the airport and gas stations, it may surprise you that most visitors prefer to interact with technology over a live person. This is especially true for coworking millennials.
Back to your primary coworking goal, an iReceptionist frees up your limited staff to focus on the community. Instead of meeting the pizza delivery person, a community manager can now learn more about tenants, their businesses and their needs. And for the other goal, you get a digital visitor logbook - each tour you give and every event attendee can become a prospect in your CRM database. Of course, we recommend using Greetly.
Space Management Software
This is a broad software category with many providers offering different sets of modules. At the core though, coworking space management software is your member database. This one central app is your one-stop-shop for adding prospects as they become tenants or removing them when you move elsewhere. These products may also help you manage member rental rates and discounts, billing and access to technologies such as printers and Wifi.
Below is a sampling of leading coworking space management options. We will cover this segment of coworking software in more depth in the coming weeks.
- essensys Operate
- Office R&D
- KUBE by WUN Systems
- Satellite Deskworks
- Habu (read about how coworking + Habu revitalized a community)
- Optix by Sharedesk
- Nexudus Spaces
Room Scheduling Software
Directly or indirectly, conference and other meeting rooms are a major revenue generator for coworking spaces. Access to conference rooms for client, partner, investor or company internal meetings is a primary reason for leaving the home office or coffee shop. And outside organizations are always looking for places for offsite meetings.
Greetly works directly with countless community managers and they always agree that the most common question they are asked is “Which conference room is available?”. Better than the manual approach, room scheduling is important because it tracks usage by individual member or company. It helps people find the conference room with the right assets and size for their meeting. It also helps avoid double-bookings where one party needs to scramble for an alternative.
Some room scheduling software was built with coworking in mind. A few coworking space management products have a conference room module. And Roomzilla was designed by multi-location coworking provider Cambridge Innovation Center.
There are literally dozens of providers focused solely on room scheduling which might be perfect for your budget and needs.
You have an event tonight. Or there is scheduled IT maintenance at 10 pm. How do you make sure all members get the message? This is why effective communication applications are important for coworking space community managers.
At the birth of the shared workspace industry, most spaces built message boards and forums within their Intranet. These tools tend to have limited member usage though so the industry has evolved.
Some of the commonly used coworking space communication tools:
- Creating a Slack channel for your coworking space. While Slack can be pretty pricey, this helps you share important messages and also opens up communication options between members
- Launching a Facebook page for your coworking space. While Facebook can be conversational, only the admins’ posts will rise to the top, making it effectively a message board. You can create closed groups which only members will see or open, which are visible to the public and potential future members.
- GroupBuzz which is an updated take on the classic Internet message board.
Customer Relationship Management
Filling your space with paying members, and having a constant stream of prospects is vital to your revenue and sense of community. So you put on events, use a reception sign in app, ask members for referrals, leverage social media and even advertise in local publications. Some may become tenants straight away but others may join months or years later as the companies and employees change. Customer relationship management software makes it easy to build and stay in touch with your future customers.
As with conference room scheduling software, some space management providers have a CRM module. That said, this may be one of the most important elements in your ability to survive and grow. So it is worth considering software that specializes in CRM. Rather than being limited in features, find the ideal CRM system and figure out how to integrate it with your member management system.
In this software category, prices vary widely. For small databases, there are several free options. Feature sets and ease-of-use will also vary across providers. Take advantage of vendor demos and free trials to make sure these tools increase productivity and do not take away from community building.
Events play a dual role in building your coworking space. They bring prospects to your space. Not only do attendees become aware of your business's name, but also your location and what happens inside the space - often showcased in its best light. Coworking events are also a key tool in helping members connect creating loyalty and retention.
Use event software as a place to easily post events and create visibility for them. Built-in social and viral features can be worth their price alone. While event management software allows attendees to pre-register, you will often get a lot of no-shows and walk-up attendees. So make sure everyone checks in at the entrance. Another consideration is when you host events with entrance fees and whether you want an event app to accept payment.
Mailroom Management and Package Log
Sure, most snail mail is junk. But it still comes in droves. The United States Postal Services reported carrying 154.3 billion pieces in 2016. Yet having your shared workspace handle mail and package service is a major convenience for startups. The executive suites industry has known this for decades. A primary selling point was giving customers a prime street address. They would monetize their staff in downtime, having them open, scan and email physical mail to virtual office clients who didn't work out of the office space. In addition to that, with the continual rise of eCommerce, coworkers want their packages delivered to a safe place.
Thus the need for digital mailroom management and package tracking software. Not only is a virtual mailbox a valuable convenience to your members but it can also be used to increase revenue without taking up valuable square footage.
- Greetly's Digital Maillroom and Package Log is currently in beta (and free for Digital Receptionist clients). Download it to your iOS or Android smartphone.
- Anytime Mailbox
Ultimately, revenue is the life/blood of your coworking space. Most of your revenue will come from paying members. Additional profit can come from conference room rentals and virtual memberships. Several web-based platforms focus on generating interest for your shared workspace. It is important to review costs and how they promote your space to determine which platforms will bring the right people to you.
- Croissant (bet you weren't expecting coworking software to make you hungry)
- Deskpass which works a bit differently from the others. It is MoviePass for coworking, but you most users are really using the product to try to find the right space for their business.
Over time more and more coworking space community managers have asked us for recommendations on access control systems. These "Internet of Things" locks give members 24/7 access to your coworking space from their smart phones. They have some advantages versus traditional lock-and-keys too. Since rights are stored in the cloud, access can be revoked at any moment, for example when they move out or if they are considered a danger. They also allow for analytics on space utilization and the ability to see who is onsite in case of emergency.
While there are many access control vendors, our serviced office partners tend to prefer these vendors:
Note: Before you spend too much time comparing vendors, features and benefits, speak with your landlord to see what possibilities and restrictions exist.
Virtual Reception Services
While technically not software, a virtual receptionist can also help your serviced office hum.
Wait, didn't we already cover this? No, while a visitor management system handles people in your reception area, a virtual receptionist will answer your phone calls. There are countless options in this marketplace, with popular options including Ruby if you want a human to a answer your calls and Grasshopper as an automated alternative.
Some offerings are tailored to the unique needs of the shared workspace industry:
- Office Evolution live phone answering service
- CloudAnswering by CloudVO. This service is integrated with WUN Systems.
- Davinci live receptionists
- For more traditional executive suites with a live receptionist that answers phones, consider Evo's HostedSuite software to ensure the right greeting every time
As a whole, the coworking industry is booming. Yet we still see our fair share of shared workspaces close too. So if your goal is to operate a successful coworking space, we recommend scrapping the Excel spreadsheet and taking advantage of the specialized coworking software categories listed above. These tools will help you operate efficiently. Personnel will be freed up from their laptops to focus on building a cohesive and loyal coworking community.