February 28, 2022 |
Updated February 28, 2022
Balancing humans with machines is the key to future success.
The rental housing industry has been increasingly shifting toward online platforms, but the pandemic demonstrated that incorporating technology into every touchpoint is essential to informing, nurturing and engaging prospective residents and residents.
After developing a brand, story and customer experience, how can operators best extend that journey?
Industry experts believe the answer lies in automation while maintaining a human touch. During the 2021 Apartmentalize session, “The Theory of Automation: Every Touchpoint Counts,” panelists shared first-hand experiences and advice to help grow rental housing businesses while taking some of the pressures off leasing teams.
The entire world is starting to tap automation capabilities in various facets of life, and multifamily is no different.
“As an industry, when we can sense things are happening, we can respond better,” said Robert Lee, Chief Operating Officer for Hy.Iy Inc.
However, some fear technology will replace people. But in reality, it is meant to support team members to better execute their jobs.
“We think it’s all about balance and the pandemic taught us that,” said Jamin Harkness, Executive Vice President for the Management Group, LLC. “On one hand, we have to make the owners happy, and on the other, we need to hold on to our team members and make them happy.”
“The pandemic brought up flaws in our existing technology, pointing out the weaknesses we needed to address to help our employees,” said Steve Hallsey, Managing Director at Wood Partners. “We added technology that made some big differences in that, while also keeping our occupancies and absorptions very strong.”
“COVID put us five or six years ahead in our technology platforms,” Hallsey added.
Technology assists multiple touchpoints throughout a prospective resident’s journey, from finding a community to taking a tour and signing the lease. It has changed how operators think about the business and how they can leverage technology to help onsite team members.
“Even though we wish to automate touchpoints with technology or introduce technology to take some friction out of the process, we still need the staff there to be the human touch that supports residents,” Lee said.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve never seen technology replace a person onsite,” Hallsey added.
While self-guided tours carried operations through the pandemic, a session poll indicated that 84% of attendees said in-person tours are in high demand and produce the best closing ratios.
“I think it’s how you develop your technology, where you think you'll get the best closing ratios and where you’re going to get the biggest impact from the way you lease that will shape what you’ll focus on in terms of technology,” Lee said.
According to panelists, having the right technology is part of the equation, but how well you execute the process is the true test of how well the technology will work. And many processes have been proven over time to be effective and simply require modifications opposed to implementing new technologies in every case.
Easily integrated platforms allowing automation at various touchpoints help gather information that can be interpreted and analyzed to make better decisions when responding to certain issues. This provides more leads, renewals and an increase in tour conversions.
“All touchpoints have value,” Harkness said. “So we have adopted a linear model that really helps us drive our marketing decisions based on those.”
As Hallsey noted, “You can never have too much information.” Utilizing every touchpoint available is crucial for analyzing attributes pertaining to sources, running effective marketing and social media campaigns and gaining the information necessary to make better informed decisions.
For the rental housing industry, balancing humans with machines is the key to future success.
Andrew Ruhland is a Junior Account Executive and Assistant Content Writer for LinnellTaylor Marketing.