Customer Focus in Multifamily with CRM and Business Intelligence

: ReLuminous cofounder Chris Brust and Alliance Residential senior vice president of performance Tina Mortera speaking on the Customer Relationship Management Systems and Business Intelligence panel moderated by Carmel Partners senior vice president of operations Erik Rogers at the 2013 Apartment Revenue Management Conference.

To understand what the impact of business intelligence to customer satisfaction in the multifamily industry will mean, you just need to know a little bit about barbecue. If you’re still in the dark, you need only know that barbecue in places like Texas, North Carolina, and Kansas City is an extremely complex, nuanced, days-long affair and has little in common with throwing some bratwursts on the grill. 

“To that end, I want you to think about using Excel and think about all the analogy comparisons we did back in high school for the Scholastic Aptitude Test,” said Carmel Partners Senior Vice President of Operations Erik Rogers as he introduced the Customer Relationship Management Systems and Business Intelligence panel featuring ReLuminous Co-Founder Chris Brust and Alliance Residential Senior Vice President of Performance Tina Mortera at the 2013 Apartment Revenue Management Conference. “Think of those analogies, because Excel analysis is to business intelligence as hamburgers and hot dogs are to Texas, Kansas City, or North Carolina barbecue.”

Indeed, the application of business intelligence (BI) tools to customer relationship management (CRM) systems within multifamily housing industry is both game changing from a technology standpoint and necessitates a corporate-wide effort in order to be successful. “This whole idea of focusing on the customer is something new to our industry which has traditionally focused its systems and strategies on accounting,” Brust said. “BI is an enterprise level endeavor of reporting, analysis, monitoring, and prediction, and using CRM in these four areas is a challenge because we have historically modeled our systems around the transaction.”

One firm that has embraced the challenge is Alliance Residential, which has just completed the launch of an internally developed talent management system allowing for BI analytics and performance metric analysis by job function as well as property and portfolio-wide.  “We love the way revenue management provides a methodology for pricing, but what about other core elements of our business?” questioned Mortera. “What about people and places and product? How do we do a better job of creating systems that help us analyze that?”

Alliance’s talent management system has thus far been able to answer a lot of those questions with an online career portal integrated with applicant tracking systems and performance analytics based on core areas (financial, market performance, sales performance, service, compliance, customer feedback, and reputation) that are further defined by up to 20 additional key performance indicators. 

By directly recognizing individuals and teams who succeed, the result has been a corresponding increase in leads, lead follow-up, site visit traffic, appointment to lease ratios, and total number of leases signed.  “We’ve already leveraged a strong correlation between follow-ups and traffic and our ability to close and convert,” Mortera says. “The data is very powerful, but it is a big cultural change to make all of your data this transparent. It takes commitment and alignment to put a CRM and BI system in place that includes visibility into all interaction points.”

An integrated BI/CRM platform is not necessarily a cheap initiative either, the panel admitted, and changing people behaviors based on performance analytics can likewise be challenging. “Whether the ROI is clear at this point, I don’t know. But I would encourage folks, even if they are using modest tools, to systemize processes as much as they can,” Brust said. “Feeding results back into the organization and changing strategic behaviors can be tough, because most people use BI the way a drunk uses a light post: more for support than for illumination.” 

For more, download the Customer Relationship Management Systems and Business Intelligence presentation

This information was presented at the 2013 Apartment Revenue Management Conference.

 

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