While technology was needed immediately to maintain operations during the early stages of the pandemic, it is important to assess whether these solutions are temporary or viable in the long term.
Virtual technology was a necessity during the pandemic as operators rewrote their practices and procedures to accommodate a remote workforce. But virtual is now a reality, and the technology is here to stay.
During the Apartmentalize 2021 session, “Virtually Unstoppable: Managing Properties from Anywhere,” industry leaders discussed the virtues of the technological advances introduced to multifamily housing during 2020.
“There has never been a year that has presented more operational changes,” said Lisa Domm, Vice President of Strategic Business Services for Preferred Apartment Communities. “We’re in a very human industry, and losing that personal touch during COVID was really challenging. We really had to think about how we can better use the tools available to us.”
Online payment portals, maintenance workflow systems and inspection platforms all quickly became required aspects of operations during 2020, as offices closed and leasing teams worked remotely. But operators were still cautious to retain their person-to-person connections with residents.
“People still like to lease from people, even if we have to focus on remote sales strategies to do that and ensure that personal touch is still an option,” said Kaycee Kisling, Managing Director of Multifamily Investments at Mark-Taylor Residential. “We knew response times could be impacted, so we implemented remote strategies to make sure we were keeping up with communication during the pandemic.”
Finding the right technology partners to maintain or even raise the level of onsite service was critical to avoid the resident perception that property teams were phoning it in.
“I think we all looked at what platforms could help us to overcome the obstacles we were facing,” Kisling said. “We needed to improve our internal communication and really create radical transparency throughout the company. We also looked at who we were partnered with for smart-home technology. It was critical that we were able to conduct self-guided tours and virtual tours through our website. And on the maintenance side, we were looking at platforms that could help us improve our response time and resolution times so that we could continue to improve our online reputation scores.”
While technology was needed immediately to maintain operations during the early stages of the pandemic, it was important to assess whether the solutions were temporary or viable in the long term.
“We have the mindset to never let a good crisis go to waste, so we really focused on what changes are here to stay and what things are going to transform our industry moving forward,” Kisling said.
Successfully transitioning to a more digital business model has hinged on integration and avoiding disconnected data silos.
“It is important to make sure that everything is streamlined and that all the data is flowing and working, and making sense holistically,” Domm said. “Another really big thing for me is getting rid of all the extra logins. Everyone wants to sell you something that requires you to log in. The more that we’re able to get things working together and get them plugged into the same location, the easier it’s going to be for our leasing teams.”
With technology now firmly a part of multifamily operations, it’s up to property teams to maximize its potential.
“We’re going to take advantage of this new velocity, this new speed at which things are moving, to make sure that we’re staying ahead,” Domm said. “The multifamily industry has been the industry that technology forgot, from a lot of perspectives, but we’re no longer that, that’s for certain.”
Doug Pike is a Content Manager at LinnellTaylor Marketing.
If you missed 2021 Apartmentalize, the largest rental housing industry networking and education event, or just missed a few sessions while attending, then you’re in luck. Order NAA’s REWIND program to access 80+ PowerPoint-synced audio and video sessions from Apartmentalize. You’ll also get a chance to earn continuing education credits (CECs) with purchase. Share the knowledge and relive the experience by ordering REWIND today.