by Stacey Darden
In the multifamily industry, we rely on technology to increase productivity and strengthen our decision-making. We utilize it to increase efficiencies and improve the resident experience.
Technology allows information and data from various sources to be collected and organized in an understandable fashion. Rather than looking at different reports to form an educated decision, technology can help provide predictive analytics based on historical activity and current trends. Previously, decision-makers would review multiple reports, possibly using only small portions of information from each, to compare their findings across portfolios or regions and manipulate their own reporting to display. Technology can aggregate all given metrics in a digestible manner to easily identify whether any patterns or relationships exist.
Technology can take many data points and demonstrate where a community may be overperforming or underperforming as identified by the given metrics that are of the highest importance to the organization. Endless amounts of data are available to operators, and it can be overwhelming to identify and understand the most important metrics, but it is critical not to get distracted by outliers considered less impactful. Tech can create efficiencies by limiting the amount of time spent compiling and presenting data, allowing more time for review and identifying steps forward.
Resident expectations have been increasing as the amount of rent they pay continues to increase year over year. Residents want service that goes above and beyond and makes their lives easier. This includes online access to apartment pricing and availability, self-scheduling community tours and submitting an application on their timeline. Finding a new home is an extremely stressful and time-consuming process, and customers prefer to take ownership of this process. Customers primarily start their search online, narrow down their selections and only visit their top options in person.
The decrease of tours in the preliminary search phase enables property managers to focus on serving current residents. A robust community website with up-to-date photography, community and neighborhood information, current availability and pricing, and a seamless online leasing process is a must.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is becoming a valuable resource in the industry. Partnering with an AI provider provides prospective customers nearly instantaneous responses to questions throughout the leasing process, from community pet policies to the appointment-setting process. While there are providers that offer similar chatbot technology, these services are limited to answering a defined list of questions. An AI-powered platform can increase the lines of communication and start the relationship building with the customer, which continues through the customer and resident life cycle.
Once a customer becomes a resident at the community, a highly functional resident app will allow them to submit rent payments or set up recurring payments, submit service requests, review their lease and renewal options, view community events and amenities, and communicate with the management team. This technology provides residents the flexibility to address concerns on their schedule without being limited to the office hours of the community. These apps should be integrated with the property management system (PMS) to allow payments and service requests to be seamlessly entered into the PMS, limiting the need for employees to review and manually enter information and avoiding the possibility that these items could be overlooked.
The pandemic brought to the forefront the need for more self-guided functionality, especially with tours. While paying rent and submitting service requests online are now standard, the ability for customers to tour communities on their own was previously not widely utilized or offered. However, self-guided-tour technology allows teams to accommodate more visits to their community, during both office hours and at times when the offices are closed. With customers undertaking a bulk of the research online, they are well-versed in community offerings prior to their visit and may not require the personal connection fostered by interactions with the management team.
A robust website experience, AI technology, resident portal and self-guided tours can assist companies significantly in increasing efficiency of their teams. Each of these components allow customers and residents to create their own level of service and define what works for them. They can find answers to many of their questions without having to pick up the phone and call the community. Residents can submit payments and service requests that are seamlessly entered into the PMS, or they can visit a community even when the office is closed. With employees continuously working to create a robust resident experience, it is imperative to identify where companies can take advantage of efficiencies in these processes.
Technology also allows operators to review the traditional staffing models and automate or streamline processes to reduce staffing needs at the communities by centralizing certain operational components and taking advantage of the individual strengths of their employees. For example, an operator can partner with a post-move-out collection affiliate that can act as an extension of the community to collect on monies owed to the community before turning the debt over to a collection company. Employees can focus on the resident experience they are providing current residents, while still collecting on move-out balances.
Another example of creating efficiencies is centralizing the leasing process. With the utilization of self-guided tours, an online application and a remote lease-signing process, employees can communicate with prospective residents from anywhere and process their application all the way through the lease signing. Again, employees can attend to the needs of current residents while leasing activity remains active. All these items require a significant amount of communication, and by taking advantage of the information contained in their PMS, community teams can ensure information is communicated correctly and accurately.
Stacey Darden is the Senior Director of Innovation & Compliance at New Standard Equities, She is focused on building key partnerships, community acquisition/disposition leadership, & driving process improvements to influence growth. She can be reached directly at sdarden@newstandardequities.