Apartment operators have focused for years on implementing technologies that optimize the resident experience.
Solutions such as online portals and mobile apps that allow users to conveniently pay their rent, make service requests and reserve amenity spaces can drive high levels of resident satisfaction. Smart-home devices can add real convenience and ease to renters' lives.
But the time has come for apartment companies to also focus on technologies that make the associates more efficient. When this happens, operators will become better positioned than ever to provide great experiences for both prospects and residents.
That was one of the major takeaways of the "Invest in Your Teams by Investing in Technology" educational breakout session at Apartmentalize. Speakers included Brenda Gammie, Senior Vice President at Avanti Residential; Tracie Leonard, Vice President of Operations at Gables Residential; and Joe Melton, Vice President of Marketing and Management Support Services at The Morgan Group. Karen Gladney, Co-founder of Power Pro Leasing, moderated the panel.
When evaluating an associate-facing technology, Melton says he goes through a checklist of questions. "I try to keep it simple. I call it the three E's," he said. "Is it easy to use? Two, is it easy to understand? Three, is it easy to support? Our team just can't have any level of confidence and assist our residents if these three E's are not checked."
The panelists discussed a number of solutions they have implemented to make their team members' jobs easier. The technologies included iPad leasing apps that allow associates to efficiently gather information from prospective residents while on tour, and give agents instant access to a wealth of data so that they can answer prospects' questions while away from their office desks.
The session also touched on mobile apps that allow maintenance team members to access and close work orders while they're out in the field, which minimizes the number of trips they have to make to the leasing office in a day.
Additionally, Avanti Residential has begun offering self-guided tours, which serve two benefits: They allow prospects who wish to tour a property by themselves to do so, and they free up leasing agents to handle their many others critical responsibilities.
Providing associates with modern technological tools not only makes current employees happier and more productive, but it's also key to attracting new hires, the panelists agreed.
"Our industry on the maintenance end has significantly evolved over the years, and I think the new talent on the maintenance side is looking for that technology as well, just like the leasing side is," Gammie said. "That's something that is important to them."
The panelists cautioned against jumping headfirst into the implementation of a new technology and urged companies to exercise their due diligence.
Leonard says her company also conducts thorough pilot tests before deciding whether to roll out a solution across the entire portfolio.
"We have a large portfolio, so we will run a pilot test with a new technology on, let's say, six properties," Leonard said. "We'll run the test for usually up to 60 days and then compare performance, before and after, for those pilot communities as well as the performance for similar communities across our portfolio that weren't in the test."