by Demetrios Barnes
Between labor shortages and centralization efforts, multifamily is placing more pressure on its maintenance teams than ever before. The pace and scope of the work is growing as companies increasingly assign the upkeep of multiple communities or even entire market portfolios to a single service crew. Teams must work strategically and efficiently to accomplish more with less manpower.
To make such maintenance models feasible, technicians can’t be tied to a maintenance office. It used to be that when a technician finished one service request, they would return to the maintenance office to pick up anotherother paper service ticket. That back and forth couldcan consume more than an hour of the workday and is no longer an acceptable use of time.
Today’s maintenance techs need the flexibility of a mobile maintenance platform that enables them to remain in the field, provide real-time reporting and manage all aspects of their jobs.
Today, residents can submit service requests through a mobile app, and maintenance technicians manage their daily workflow via the same digital platform.
Maintenance associates always have their workflow platform with them, so they no longer need to backtrack to pick up their next work order, saving valuable time. Their daily stops are plotted via the most efficient route and assigned by task type and proximity to the task, further streamlining the process.
Tasks can also be strategically routed to technicians with the appropriate skill sets for the job at hand. For example, HVAC repairs can be assigned to associates possessing the related training and certifications to expertly complete the task without requiring quality control checks from a supervisor.
Those logistical improvements bolster response times and empower technicians to complete more work each day.
- Resident Communication
Maintenance teams are the front line of customer service at most apartment communities, with more direct interactions with residents than leasing associates. That role will only increase as more operators shift to centralized operations.
As a result, the ability of maintenance teams to communicate with residents in real time, and through their smart devices, becomes paramount.
Mobile maintenance platforms that provide a direct channel of communication with residents, and track those conversations, create an invaluable customer service resource. Real-time messaging means technicians can update residents on anticipated response times and receive rescheduling requests from the field.
Most importantly, by keeping residents informed and acknowledging service requests when they come in, maintenance teams can effectively boost resident satisfaction.
- Preventive Maintenance
Comprehensive mobile maintenance platforms include templates to develop a mobile maintenance schedule and ensure that maintenance teams stay ahead of potential property issues and compliance regulations.
Mobile-first technologies can also enable proactive parts replacement on major components — like furnaces, water heaters and appliances — before they break down. By programming vital information like warranties and installation dates into templates, mobile-first technologies take the guesswork out of fixed asset management.
Mobile platforms also allow technicians to enter notes, condition updates, replacement dates and other data into templates from the field, creating a running log of completed preventive maintenance tasks and a real-time reference for owner/operators.
Mobile maintenance platforms can also create custom workflow templates for home turns or annual inspections, ensuring that maintenance teams cover everything on their checklists.
Due diligence inspections during acquisitions provide real-time inspection feedback through mobile platforms, enabling acquisitions teams to react quickly and accordingly. The instantaneous insights provided by mobile technology allows companies to quickly budget for value-add projects, get a jump on procurement and repair needs, or back out of deals earlier in the process, if needed.
During each routine mobile inspection, teams can also construct and update a detailed asset inventory of every appliance, fixture and product installed in homes and at the community. Comprehensive asset lists represent a wealth of valuable live information that can be used to optimize procurement and preventive maintenance.
Operators can keep things simple for maintenance techs by allowing them to load workflow and inspection apps to their personal smartphones.
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) options ensure associate familiarity with the device, which shortens the learning curve and increases adoption. BYOD programs typically include a monthly stipend to technicians, but saves operators the upfront expense of device procurement, as well as maintenance and technology insurance costs.
With a single login to access all maintenance-related app features, operators can also eliminate the confusion and dysfunction that often accompanies siloed technologies.
Multiple credentials for various aspects of the job not only waste time, but also reduce adoption and use rates which curbs the intended benefits of tech deployments. It also results in the unintended creation of “zombie” accounts — accounts no longer used by current associates or still active accounts assigned to former associates.
Zombie accounts expose operators to potential service and reputation issues, and also compromise the system integrity of other integrated platforms.
Single logins for comprehensive maintenance platforms make it easy to initiate, manage and discontinue associate credentials, because operators don’t need to track access permissions across multiple platforms.
By streamlining all maintenance processes, mobile platforms establish a more efficient, transparent and effective maintenance workflow. Not only do app-based maintenance systems enable teams to remain in the field and accomplish more — supporting centralization — but they also provide real-time asset tracking data to empower nimble decision-making and reduce operating costs. Mobile maintenance also creates a direct line of communication with residents, allowing for real-time communication, improved responsiveness and a better resident experience.