Business as usual? These days, it's anything but. Yet if there's a productive result of COVID-19, it's that organizations are taking the pandemic as a cue to kick-start their digital transformations.
One need only look to the property management community to see this transformation in action. According to a recent survey by AppFolio, nearly one-quarter (23%) of property managers increased their dependence on technology since the beginning of the pandemic. From cloud-based platforms to mobile inspection apps, they're adopting the digital tools they need to keep residents safe, comfortable, and well-informed. Not to mention, they're also adapting the tech they'll need to tackle the inevitable post-pandemic backlog of requests.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has kick-started digital transformations across the property management field. Those transformations may have been rushed at the start, but they have laid the groundwork for true digital transformation to come.
If your company hurriedly adopted tech at the beginning of the pandemic, you’ll want to think strategically about how to build upon that foundation – especially since no one’s clear about when the pandemic will end. Here are six ways that operators are leveraging tech during this time of uncertainty and beyond.
1. Maintenance and repairs: Social distancing rules and stricter health guidelines have put regular maintenance tasks (e.g., small repairs, non-critical check-ups) on hold while posing new challenges for maintenance staff. Instead of physical visits or face-to-face interactions, teams are using digital tools to engage with residents remotely via online messaging, video calls, and other virtual means. Some are also taking advantage of cloud-based platforms to share self-help tutorials and resources at residents' requests. If SuiteSpot's recent operator interviews are any indication, many properties have had great success using these digital communication channels and are planning to keep them in place after the pandemic.
2. Health and safety 2.0: The need to keep pace with COVID-19 guidelines has given rise to new health and safety software. (Don’t miss this micro-webinar that explains how tech can be used to facilitate both move-in and move-out processes.) The pressing need for effective oversight of staff and resident safety has spurred new tech that gives operators the data, collaboration tools, and back-office control they need.
In fact, this desire to help users adhere to social distancing measures and other safety precautions motivated SuiteSpot to create an award-winning COVID-19 Prevention Package, which built upon existing features in our Unit Turnover & Property Operations software. Since this type of tech helps manage the administrative burden of added (but necessary!) regulations, it’s likely to remain a component of property management platforms to manage future health risks.
3. Communication: Operators are doubling-down on remote communication tools (e.g., bulk emails, online portals, messaging apps) to keep residents informed and connected in real-time. Meanwhile, property managers and owners are relying on cloud-based collaboration programs and mobile apps to boost coordination and collaboration among their teams. With non-essential maintenance tasks being shelved until after the pandemic, these communication tools will likely prove crucial in managing backlogs.
4. Turnovers: Turnover rates in rental apartments may currently be in decline, but the downturn won't last forever. And when conditions are better, operators will face a resurgence of activity that will demand quick and efficient unit turnovers. Since every extra day of vacancy costs money, operators are establishing the necessary platforms and mobile unit-turnover tools to be ready to handle the demand.
5. Paperless operations: According to AppFolio's survey, 43% of property managers have moved towards paperless leasing. This echoes many of those in our interviews who are transitioning their paper-based processes (e.g., maintenance requests, in-unit inspections, work orders, etc.) to digital. After all, leasing is crucial, but face-to-face contact? Not so much. Many operators we have talked to were initially worried about a new method, but are finding that the process goes even more smoothly when it’s completely digitized.
6. Virtual showings: The days of physical tours have been put on pause for everyone’s safety. While real-time video streaming to engage potential clients and conduct "virtual tours" isn’t new, it’s become much more widespread – and for good reason. With 82% of property managers stating a desire to ramp up their virtual showings, expect this trend to continue.
Proof of accelerated digital transformation can be found throughout the property management field. The tools may vary, but the goal is the same: to use advances in mobile technologies and cloud-based systems to tackle today's pandemic challenges and remove friction for tomorrow's demands.
Have you kick-started your digital transformation? Take our Multifamily Operations & Facilities Management Scorecard to uncover the opportunities.