Ready for Centralization? Time to ACT On It!

by Cory Smith

Once you’ve completed a centralization assessment and constructed a roadmap for the resident experience, it’s time to ACT on centralization. ACT is an acronym for choosing when to Automate, when to Centralize and when to utilize Third-party services. It’s the junction where you decide how you will delegate service to prospects and current residents.

ACT begins by asking first if a process can be automated. Automation can be ideal for the speed, ease, and functionality of some tasks. If not, then it’s time to consider if centralization is an option. By deploying teams where and when they’re needed for certain tasks, a new level of efficiency can be reached. If a task can’t be centralized, then it may be time to explore partnerships with third-party vendors. Any repetitive tasks that require labor on-demand should be outsourced. Whatever you can’t ACT on is then delegated to associates, where a skilled professional is essential for success.

When performing the ACT step, it’s important to remember that some items must be handled by associates, and even some automated functions may require the human touch at some point along the way. In doing this exercise, you’ll also determine which interactions are handled by onsite teams, inside sales or third-party vendors. After all, the benefit of centralization is optimizing the use of time and resources. What this does is bring a balance to the process so no one group is overwhelmed and the risk of missing an opportunity is reduced.

Performing the ACT step requires owner/operators to look at each touchpoint in the leasing and management process, and determine which can be handled by automation and which can or must be handled by the company’s teams. While each property may have a different process, there are some basic tasks that can be explored.

Touchpoints that utilize people and proptech together

In order to help bring the balance mentioned above to the process, proptech is a necessary component. It provides leasing and sales teams the freedom to direct their efforts where they’re most needed. Proptech also facilitates more meaningful contact with prospects to keep them engaged. For current residents, proptech can help streamline communication on renewals, as well as maintenance, community notifications, and other property-related issues.

Tours – Scheduling can most often be handled by proptech, and it is usually better suited for this task since tech can track available times and set up a tour much quicker than a property manager. The tours can then be executed with a person, self-guided or virtually. Onsite or centralized leasing teams are the preferred choice for handling tours. Even with the increase in tech presence, people are still necessary at some point for successful leasing.

Outbound Follow-up – Using proptech in conjunction with human interaction creates more touchpoints with a prospect. Follow-up tasks by associates can be supplemented by automated communication. People trend toward selecting the first community they contact, so increased engagement can keep interest in place. It might also be key to redirecting attention to your community if it wasn’t the prospect’s initial selection. On the associate side, both leasing teams and inside sales can focus on this task to make sure nobody is overlooked.

Leasing Execution/Renewal – In the past, this was typically done without any automation, but now leasing and renewals can easily be executed with technology and electronic signatures if the prospect prefers it. This allows the process to take place at a time that’s convenient for the future residents but also leaves open the choice to sign in person. To allow your leasing team time to focus on current residents and attract new ones, this should be left to the inside sales team.

Inbound Leads – A third-party and/or inside sales team is a viable approach to handling your inbound leads, and it’s simple to make automation a part of this process. 

Maintenance Requests – This can also be done with automation and team members, but the optimal approach is to employ a third-party vendor who handles these requests and then communicates those needs to onsite or centralized maintenance teams. The time of your leasing and sales teams can then be focused on growing net operating income.

Tasks that require people only

While automation provides needed assistance in many areas, it cannot be implemented everywhere. There are some duties that require assistance from your associates and managers only.

Escalated issues – if an issue wasn’t resolved using other available means, then it’s critical for people to handle anything that ends up escalating. This can be distributed among leasing or inside sales teams.

Customer service calls – Third-party vendors are an excellent approach to handling customer service calls, especially regarding the first contact. Inside sales teams are a good pair with the vendor in case there are issues that are better resolved by the organization itself.

Centralization impacts leasing

Centralization increases tour availability, offers greater control over the sales process, optimizes your staffing and moves your organization’s focus to high-value and closing activities. These benefits are strengthened by a reduction in workload and stress among your teams and the ability to track the entire process.

ACT is the final step toward realizing savings from $5 to more than $20 per unit while increasing customer engagement. With thoughtful analysis and careful planning, centralization can bring owner/operators the efficiency and improvements to customer care that allows them to better compete in the current leasing and employment environment.

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