When networking with operators from within the Co-working community we often hear a similar message: “we don’t charge our members for their meeting room usage”. There are a variety of reasons as to why many Co-working spaces offer free meeting room use. Some of which include wanting to value-add to the membership fee, wanting to ensure they are in line with their competitors and simply just wanting to please their members. On the other hand, there are a multitude of reasons as to why charging for meeting room usage is beneficial not just for your bottom line, but also for the overall member experience. We have put together a list of our top 5!
- It increases your revenue
Let’s not overlook the most important part of running a business. Even with the best intentions a business has to be profitable or it will fail. Meeting rooms are the most valuable space per square metre as they can be sold multiple times a day; unlike an office which can only be sold once. By charging for meeting room bookings, especially from external customers, a steady stream of income can be generated without increasing your overheads. The space is already there!
- It increases the booker’s accountability within the space
When clients are given free hours it can take away accountability for the booking. Your members may be booking but not showing up or booking a time frame and then running overtime but with no cancellation fees there is no incentive to do the right thing. This makes it very hard to facilitate bookings between multiple members and can lead to disharmony within the workspace. However, when the process of charging is introduced it adds accountability to the bookings, provides a smoother booking process and increase the respect your members have for the space and their fellow members. There is nothing worse than waiting outside a meeting room with your clients while the previous booker goes overtime.
- It maximises your occupancy
The notion that a meeting room must always be available for members results in valuable meeting space sitting vacant. Your members will know in advance when an important meeting is coming up and will be able to book in advance. Why not repurpose a corner of your space for phonecalls and last-minute meetings leaving the meeting rooms for paying members and external bookers. If the meeting room is still available your members can use it for a heavily discounted last-minute room hire cost.
- It allows you to take external bookings
When a process is put in place that facilitates the booking and charging for meeting rooms by existing members, often this same process can allow for external bookings to be accepted. External bookers provide a stream of fresh faces and fresh ideas to coming through your space. They could be looking for a Co-working space from which to work permanently or they may offer a service that benefits your members; essentially you are charging them to come and view your space! On top of this the extra revenue generated by external bookings can be passed back to the members through lower costs in the form of office or membership subsidy. This means that your external bookers are actually helping your members!
- It helps manage expectations
They say that first impressions count; but if a member’s first impression is that the meeting rooms are free then it sets a precedent; suddenly everything should be free! Offering discounts and free inclusions from the get-go can have detrimental effects on the relationship between the operator and the member. Not only does this undervalue your product, it can also lead to unrealistic expectations and a lack of respect for the brand, product, facilities and staff. Your members may start to rely on the logic that their membership covers all auxiliary services within your space. When booking a hotel room, you don’t expect a free dinner, do you?
It may be daunting to move from a manual reservation process to a booking and payment system. However, there are affordable meeting room booking systems such as Meeting Hub which allow operators to set their rates, provide custom discounts to their members, process credit card payments to external bookers and allow for voucher codes to be distributed. Surprisingly often the monthly cost of the software is less than the revenue earned from just one paid booking per month!
More and more we are seeing our clients move away from the ‘free hours’ model and with the technology out there to facilitate all aspects of the booking process we predict that Co-working spaces of the future will have succinct pricing structures and well-managed booking processes.
If the operator undervalues the space then so will the booker.