By Stacey Darden, senior director of innovation and compliance, New Standard Equities
In the multifamily industry, we rely on technology to increase productivity and to help us make strategic decisions.
Technology allows information and data from various sources to be collected and organized in a way that is easy to understand. Rather than looking at different reports to form an educated decision, technology can help synthesize data into predictive analytics based on historical activity and current trends.
Previously, decision makers, such as asset managers or investors, would review various reports only using one piece of information to try and compare findings across portfolios or regions.
The old-fashioned approach might include reviewing a box score report or resident activity detail to understand property operations for a given period. Or it may have involved reviewing a variance report to understand the financial activity for a given period.
An asset manager would then try to discover any correlation between the two sets of reporting. Technology can help display all given metrics in a digestible manner to easily identify if any patterns or relationships exist.
Selecting a technology provider who will partner with clients and help customize reporting based on the client’s needs will not only decrease time spent reviewing multiple reports, it also will create a more consistent method for processing information.
Synthesizing Key Data for Decision-Making
Technology providers can assist in the creation of leaderboards to rank a community’s performance among larger portfolios. Technology partners can also take a client’s established key performance indicators (KPIs) and create dashboards that reflect a community’s performance. Such dashboards enable operators to be more agile and to identify where additional resources may be needed.
Technology can also use as many data points as desired and help demonstrate where a community may be over or underperforming as identified by the given metrics that are of the highest importance to the organization. These metrics can include occupancy, payment delinquency, income, expenses and ready units. There are endless amounts of data available to property operators. Identifying and understanding the most important metrics can be overwhelming to narrow down.
Partnering with an analytics provider will often allow property operators to identify the metrics that are of highest importance and visualize the data for easy review and comparison. This technology helps minimize the time spent on gathering the data from the various sources and will allow operators to focus on reviewing the information and make key decisions based on the information provided.
Various sources may include a customer relationship management (CRM) platform such as Knock, a property management system (PMS) such as Yardi or an application-screening provider such as RealPage.
While engaging with an analytics partner may be costly, there are advantages to the additional expense. Primarily, once set up to a company’s standard, there will be a significant reduction in time spent gathering data, compiling it into a useable format and then reviewing.
Secondly, this will allow more consistency in the analytics process and in the data reviewed. With multiple people reviewing the same information, it will highlight the items of focus in a clear and consistent manner allowing for quicker decision-making and action taken.
Any potential technology partner should work with its customers to identify what problem or issue is of highest priority for the customer and show the customer how their technology can solve said problem while providing a realistic time frame for completion. Regularly scheduled meetings throughout the on-boarding or implementation process and regular check-ins with your technology partner are beneficial to developing long-lasting and meaningful collaboration.
Catering to Resident Expectations
The expectation of residents has been increasing as their rent amount increases year over year. Residents expect service that is above and beyond, all while making their lives easier. This includes enabling residents to view apartment pricing and availability online, the ability to self-schedule a time to tour the community and to submit their application from the comfort of their homes.
Trying to find a new home is an extremely stressful and time-consuming process, and customers want to be able to take ownership of this process. Customers primarily start their search online and narrow down their selections and only visit their top options in person.
This reduction in tours for customers in the preliminary search phase allows property managers to focus on serving their current residents. A robust community website with current photography, community and neighborhood information, current availability and pricing and a seamless online leasing process is a must.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is becoming an invaluable resource to management teams. Partnering with an AI provider allows for nearly instantaneous responses to questions that prospective renters have throughout the leasing process, from community pet policy through the appointment-setting process.
While there are many providers that offer a similar chatbot technology, they are limited to answering a set list of questions, whereas the AI tools can open the lines of communication and start building the relationship with the customer, which will continue through the leasing process. Once a customer becomes a resident at the community, he or she can continue to expect a well-integrated resident experience via a resident portal.
From texting to email blasts to in-app messaging, these are all communication channels residents can use to keep in touch with the management team, and these should all be accessible from the same platform on both the management and resident end.
A highly functional resident app will allow residents to submit rent payments or set up recurring payments, submit service requests, review lease and renewal options, view community events and amenities and communicate with the management team. This technology allows residents to have flexibility and to address concerns on their time frame without being limited to the office hours of the community.
The pandemic brought to the forefront the need for more self-guided functionality, especially self-guided tours. While paying rent and submitting service requests online are now a standard offering, allowing customers to tour communities on their own was previously not a well-accepted practice.
However, self-guided-tour technology can allow teams to accommodate more visits to their community, during both office hours and at times when they are closed. Also, with customers doing much more research online, they are well-versed in the offerings of a community prior to their visit and may not require the personal connection the interaction with a management team member may bring.
The robust website experience, AI technology, resident portal and self-guided tours can assist companies significantly when experiencing a labor shortage. All these components allow residents to create their own level of service. They can find answers to many of their questions without having to pick up the phone and call the community.
These technology enhancements can be costly, however savings in other areas of operations can offset the investment. Automated processes can generate payroll savings by prioritizing functions that have limited employee involvement.
The right technology enables residents to submit payments and service requests that are seamlessly entered into the property management system, or they can visit a community in the event the office is closed because an employee is out.
A robust resident portal can create an improved resident experience and lead to increased renewals and reduced expenses related to unit turnover. When identifying a partner for these technology components, select one that integrates with your established technology, has a good track record with other similar clients and has a fully supported platform, from on-boarding and employee training to on-going product support.
Stacey Darden is senior director of innovation and compliance at Encino, California-based New Standard Equities. She can be reached at [email protected].