PropTech has exploded in multifamily housing, providing an opportunity to transform lean teams into nimble, efficient machines. SmartRent Chief Operating Officer Demetrios Barnes moderated the 2022 Apartmentalize session, PropTech: Empowering and Evolving Teams, to examine the relationship between technology and operations in terms of ROI and revenue generation. He was joined by a powerhouse panel of female leadership: Cindy Clare, chief operating officer, Bell Partners and Kristen Fuechslin, executive vice president of marketing, The Richman Group.
Panelists agreed that while technology should not replace personal connection, it can complement the efforts of associates to optimize operations and create more comprehensive prospect and resident experiences. Consider the success of self-guided tours followed up by an in-person or video conversation with a leasing agent. Likewise, access control technology and workflow platforms have built efficiencies into the hands-on tasks of maintenance team members.
Technologies that empower on-site team productivity and property performance are essential. Working in tandem, teams and technology can become powerful drivers of ROI. As the industry continues to move toward a hybrid operations model, and considers greater investments in proptech, there are key factors to consider.
For more operators, the primary question is how to evaluate cost versus ROI.
Clare shared ROI often hinges not on the technology’s ability to deliver, but the team’s willingness and ability to put it to use.
“I can make the decision to put this (technology) out there, but if the teams don’t buy-in it’s not going to work,” Clare said. “The people who are going to use it have to like and recognize that it’s going to make them more efficient.”
Operators can improve buy-in by involving associates in proptech vetting and selection, and maintaining an open dialogue about potential implementations. Many associates still fear that technology is only here to cut costs and replace their role in the company, but those concerns can be alleviated through transparency and inclusion in the process.
Whether associates view the implementation as a benefit or burden will dictate if it is used to its full potential. Solutions that make life easier for associates, and that free up time for associates to maintain person-to-person relationships with residents, are better received and used with greater consistency. Typically, that is going to hinge on successful integration. There is no room at multifamily properties for solutions that don’t play well together and share information, because siloed tools create more work for associates.
“We look at whether (a proptech implementation) is going to move the needle, but also whether there are training opportunities in place,” said Kristen Fuechslin, executive vice president of marketing at The Richman Group. “We don’t want to throw something out there that is going to befuddle our teams or make them less efficient. We don’t want to create more work or more opportunities for mistakes to happen. Integrations are key to making our teams more efficient and limiting redundancies.”
Due to today’s staffing challenges, operators are trying to do more with less. And it’s happening at a time when renters’ customer service expectations are higher than ever. Renters now expect 24/7 access to teams, and meeting those demands requires outside-the-box solutions, especially with limited staff. The centralization of leasing and operations is the direction most operators are going, and the trend will only increase in the years to come. Identifying technologies that support the transition to centralized operations, boost occupancy and deliver ROI is paramount.
“With centralization, automations and removing some of those monotonous tasks from our teams, what we’re really talking about is valuing the human aspect and our associates’ time, now more than ever,” said Demetrios Barnes, chief operating officer at SmartRent. “Especially amid the staffing challenges that we’re all facing.”
Regardless of whether associates are located on-site or in a centralized location, operators must train and re-engage associates for the landscape ahead. If the goal is to meet customers where they are – whether it’s online, via chatbot or in person – teams must be prepared and equipped to keep pace.