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I wish I could be a leasing consultant again, because I can think of four different channels I would have going at the same time, and I would be making four times the commission for every appointment slot available within a given day. – Rebecca Shaffrey, SVP Corporate Services at Bell Partners
On this week’s episode of Sync or Swim, we share a highly valuable conversation from the most recent Retcon, a best-in-class real estate technology conference, hosted in Miami, Florida. In the recording you’ll hear from Max Steinman, Interim CEO for Rentsync, as he moderates the event’s marketing and leasing panel. He is joined by four trailblazing multifamily industry professionals:
The focus of the panel centers around how technology has become ingrained in the marketing and leasing experience, and how it is fostering greater innovation, streamlined operations, and more competition within the industry.
0:00:55.6 S1: So today's conversation is gonna be on marketing and leasing technology, and really, hopefully from a viewpoint of marketing and leasing technology as an investment, not as an expense, often I think on both the marketing and leasing side, we tend to view tech investments and also investments into just marketing spend sometimes as an expense, but if done properly, it can really help to drive NOI and increase asset value, so that's sort of one hopefully the theme of today's conversation. I'm going to be the moderater, my name is Max Steinman. Let's intro ourselves across the line here, so Clint, if you wanna go next...
[00:1:43:00] CL: How's it going? Good morning. Thanks for being here. My name is cleanly, co-founder and CEO of one day. One day is a video company that helps real estate communities build genuine connections with prospects, residents and prospective team members to make a difference and increase occupancy in resident experience.
[0:02:00.5 MT]: Hey there, Michelle Tate. I am newly appointed the National Director of leasing with Toll Brothers apartment living. Of course, everyone knows a Toll Brothers, the home builder, and I am a proud member of the new team that is building the apartment division, so currently at 4000 units and adding 30 new developments in the next three years. So very excited to be here.
[0:02:21.9] RS: I am Becca Shaffrey. I'm the SVP of corporate services at Bell Partners. Bell Partners is about somewhere between 65 and 70000 units with the national footprint, and my role at Bell Partners is really over all of our marketing and innovations groups who effectuate some of the stuff, and we'll be talking about today. So happy to be here. Great.
[0:02:43.1] DP: I'm David Peres, Chief Operating Officer at Carroll, Carroll's and inter-operator somewhere to Bell with 30000 units across the southeast and southwest. And I have everything but investments kind of rolling up to me, so the evolution has been very interesting in innovation and change and everything that we've done across that. So excited to be here and look forward to the conversation.
[0:3:11.3] MS: Awesome, thanks guys. We're going to start at the top of the funnel from the marketing perspective, and slowly transition the conversation down the funnel towards leasing topics, so we're gonna start on marketing and just the way that marketing technology has changed the way that we lease properties. And I'll start actually with Rebecca, can you share some examples of how marketing has been improving your leasing process, and in particularly the speed at which you can see...
[0:03:48.4] RS: And there's really no way to do this without dating myself, so I will tell you that... It changed everything. So I think having been in this industry over 25 years, you go back even just a handful of years, and we were watching all of the traffic at our websites, and we were looking at the data and the numbers from our ISS, and we are looking at what it was costing to do these things, and I remember being over marketing and telling my marketing team, Hey, we need a call to action out on that website so that the numbers we're seeing hit there, they wanna call us and... So our call of action or the banners or the whatever the newest thing was out on your website need to be so strong because we have no way to really engage or meet the customer where they're finding us, and if we could just capture them and engage and start talking to them in the places where they're finding as well, what a world that would be. And so I think as it relates to this question, the world of these marketing technologies really opened and may open that up and made that possible so that we could really meet customers where they were finding us, and I think you have to go back even one step further, which is, there was now so much more volume of that happening because technology was so much smarter in the way we were sourcing and where we were going, and where we are going to find our leads and open up channels and make it easier for them to find us was creating a volume that our properties and our single-site staff really just couldn't handle on their own, so I know David will share the same with you as well, one of the greatest challenges, but also one of the tremendous victories in the space has been we can meet our customers now where they're finding us and engage, but we also can handle the volume if we're smart about the technologies we select, and that all just equals better results in the end.
[0:05:47.5] RS: So I think I answered that question and then some specific examples of that... Was that part of my question?
[0:05:55.1] MS: Yeah, if you have some specific examples you wanna share it...
[0:05:57.4] RS: Sure, so some of the things we really, really love a specific example that is turning maybe not a great situation into a really positive outcome was we had a specific property in Charleston right at the onset of the pandemic who unfortunately, that whole team had to be quarantined and went down, and it left one person who came over from a sister property to kind of man the helm, and that was a community of about probably 400 apartment homes, and because we had some smart technologies and these marketing technologies, I will tell you in that one month at least 38 apartments, and 36 of those were done without ever really talking to any human in the office, so I think if you make smart selections that really are good ones that engage well and really nurture the prospect through the process, you can find some really really great results, but they did change everything, and I think back to it, as great as that is your people didn't change it, and so one of the greatest challenges in the space is also, we had to change our people, we had to change the way they thought, we also changed a little bit of who we hired, and as we looked for in our turnover, that is normal in our industry, we looked for a different mindset or an enhanced mindset that would embrace this technology.
So I think the ways we lease also have completely changed, and there are multiple channels now, you don't just go to a site and meet with a person and do an in-person tours, and I know we'll get into that a little bit later.
[0:07:37.1] MS: Yeah, awesome, yeah, we're gonna continue our way down that funnel, but just before we do, sticking to the top of the fund, you mentioned volume volume of leads, and obviously it's become easier now with some of the marketing-enabled technology and what's built even just into your standard property management software to be everywhere, to be on every marketing channel, so David, I'll kick this question over to you, what do you guys find... And maybe this is a bit of a controversial question. What do you guys find is the most effective source of leads that you guys have... Go for it.
[0:08:16.4] DP: I think this kind of dovetails very nice with what Becca found when people started hitting websites five years ago, and websites became more, a bigger, more prominent source of leads. Anybody from ILS' here is not gonna like to hear this, but they're sort of in a very antiquated billboard on the internet kinda situation, and the biggest source of leads is Google, people just start searching for apartments, they search certain keywords and certain things and locations or near their jobs, and it's kind of us to do a lot of AB testing to try and get out there and figure out how to just get them in the very top of the funnel, and that's how we kinda plan our budgets.
It's just like, Alright, what's our cost per lead? Just to get to the next situation, and that's how we spend our budget, then we internalize a lot of marketing, digital marketing functions ourselves, because we could be a lot closer to that information and data and really posting a lot of those ads, whether they're on Google or to a certain extent, when Facebook was better, when they didn't take away all the back-end data and information, right now a lot of that's just more branding kind of situation, Ultimate is Google. And then the next piece is just, now you have a thousand leads a minute in there, how do you filter all that, and I think the challenge was how do I make it personal so that they feel like they're coming in and find them in the way that they wanna communicate with us. I had this grand plan of omni-channel communication. If somebody wants to chat and we can do that, we're not there yet, but getting to a CRM that could handle a one-to-one communication and track that, that didn't really exist well, until about three or four years ago, and we moved to knock because of that, we have some challenges in our legacy systems, and they've been kind of innovative in creating that one-to-one channel, and I'll tell you that my goal in inspiration for getting to that next piece is to get all of on-site people out of email, so that it truly becomes a one-to-one channel, and then once you layer in that one-to-one channel, now you can layer in things like AI machine learning to respond, whether that's a voice call or email, and really start to drive that one-to-one channel, record it and now you have this nice backlog and you can hand off to basically your account executive on site, and now you've created this nice funnel all the way through with clean data that you can really audit in a singular place, and you're not sifting through emails to see who responded to who or where they are in the whole sales channel...
I went a little off topic sorry.
[0:11:08.4] MS: All good... It's a good segway anyways, 'cause I wanna ask about AI and chatbots, and maybe just from a show or hands with our property management companies that are up here, became LE and David. Do you guys utilize AI and chatbots currently?
[0:11:27.3] RS: We love them. Love, love with a big heart.
[0:11:36.3] MT: We're still both of those avenues and we will make a decision soon, 'cause one of the challenges that we're seeing is we do use a call center right now, and where the call center was functioning well for us at one point in time because of the pandemic and the reduced structure of the team that they have on their end, the caliber and quality of the call is no longer there, and so we do that there's a definite need to... We have to shift to AI and chat bots, whether we're ready or not.
[0:12:10.0] MS: Got it. And what about from the resident or perspective, residents, viewpoint, are they preferring to chat via a chat, but an AI engine, or do you guys together.
[0:12:27.7] RS: So a vendor, whether they're here today or have talked with me at other opportunities within our industry, I think knows that it is an untapped... And really a great opportunity for AI to do a job. I think I am a firm believer that where humans are trying to read off a list and provide information today, whether that's a call center or some of our processes within the life of the resident customer experience, that it is a formal process that anybody gets trained and walks them through and can learn, AI can do that more consistently, and we'll do a better job of that to effectuate great results, but I'm also a big believer that will never stop being a people organization, so I think that it's really what's the ratio gonna be from automation to a hybrid, partly automated and a hand-off to a human, and then I think a smaller percent that is human only, so my teams are talking about... Is that sort of 80 155? Is that more 75 with the human element being were around 10%, but I think we're evolving really to that space, and I think there's a great opportunity both with residents in that life cycle and also in the maintenance arena for AI to play a bigger hand and create some great results.
0:13:54.5 MT: If I may, one of the things that we're starting to see, and we're really pitching with our leasing professionals because there is some nervousness with technology coming in on the scene, is we're actually elevating the customer experience now because we're having more meaningful conversations instead of mundane robotic pardon upon conversations with our residents and with our prospects, so it's tremendous. The opportunity that we have.
[0:14:22.2] MS: Awesome, I'll get to you soon, Clint, 'cause I wanna play off the AI in human element there and talk a little bit about video, but first I just wanna segue a little bit further down the funnel, so engaging the lead, which most likely the future of engaging the lead is gonna be done through chatbots and AI, that next step is getting that tour book, which can be done again through AI and Chatbots, but what are the expectations when it comes to touring, so there's 3D tours or self-tours, they're still in-person tours. Well, still probably that is the predominant method used, so Michelle, what strategies can multi-family owners and operators take to personalize that experience and differentiate themselves... Right.
0:15:19.5 MT: So one of the things, this is on topic and a little off topic, but it's really important that we're hiring leasing teams that love technology and love being in front of the camera, those are the two greatest challenges that I have with leasing professionals, the vanity of it all is getting them into the videos and getting them in front of people after spending such a long window of time hiding behind their desktop through the pandemic, so we really believe in what we're starting to utilize is more of a layering effect of the different platforms rather than a hand-off or connecting the dots in... So for example, on a self-guided tour, there are ways to add video components into the mix so that they can meet a leasing professional somewhere along the line as an example.
0:16:16.4 MS: And... Clint. You're the video, man. So I love your perspective on this. How in particular can video be leveraged to add that human element...
[0:16:30.4] CL: Absolutely, so video is... It's not a light switch. I think people confuse it with you implement video and you're expected to see results... A biggest part of it is, like you said, is kind of the vanity of being on camera who likes to listen to themselves on voicemail, nobody that's amplified on video, so to take a behavior change and have a leasing agent be able to use video and a regular basis, the tech has to be there, but the experience in working with a tech and the education that goes into the buy-in is equally as important as what you do, and once the content's created, you're able to read into the analytics and see... And so from a video perspective, it's just a channel to build a connection, and that's what sales is a story telling, so video is the vehicle to do it. Well, the challenge right now and implementing new texts and new ideas is your buyer perspective resident is changing, what are we doing to change on the leasing side to meet them where they wanna see, to create a community outside their four walls, well, videos, one avenue of it video can work with that AI and automation through personalized videos can be a nice one, two tandem for instance, on people that say, Hey, I'm interested in possibly coming in for a tour, being able to create a CAN video of your leasing agent that you have ready to go through that AI chat bot is something can use to convert from ancoats, it's nothing as simple as creating a video and saying, Hey, I'm Clinton, I'm the leasing manager here at Turtle Creek, and I just wanted to give you a quick little tour of our property and it's a can video that you've already shot, we've got these three events coming up this month, so it seems personal, seems timely, and you just re-shoot that video once a month, it takes 15 minutes, you automate that and have that be sent out to every lead.
So it seems personal, it seems timely, those are things that you can do once you get the education part of your team and buy-in of how to use it, but video is not a silver bullet or a catch-all, it's a vehicle to establish connections and the narrative you put around that story is gonna determine how will you do that, and then once you have the content, you can leverage it through the analytics.
[0:18:32.4] RS: I love video too. I think that we go crazy with stuff like this, and I tell my team all the time like, I wish I could be a leasing consultant again, because I can think of four different channels I would have going at the same time, and I would be making four times the commission for every appointment slot available within a given day, and getting excited about video in that space, our teams, we challenge them, data is so important now and so available, like go back through your really cool CRM and pull out anybody who was interested in that one bedroom and invite them to a virtual open house where you're showcasing it and walking it around, and we've had leasing agents get five leases from Virtual Open House tours where they're showing the one-bedroom apartment home and people... They've sent links out to anybody who has at least as a way of follow-up, but a way to personalize it and not just in the link through maybe a follow-up cadence or what have you, but really be the one and be in front of it. I do think Michelle brings up a really good point though, that you have to be able...
You need that personality who's on the camera to make it live, and I think one of the change management pieces for our teams when AI and bots and everything came really came into mainstream and really were the hot tickets a couple of years ago, and the new bright shines was well, a little bit of ego of, Well, wait a minute, like I am really good at what I do, how could this called robotic thing, I possibly do a better job than the in-person touch they're gonna get from me. And you touched on it, Michelle. I think the key to that is really how do you work together, how do you partner in that space so that you get the best results, but I also think back to what you were also asking us, Max, was, I think our customers today want information quickly and easily and they want... They are not as particular about how they find it or what it feels like, as long as it is a smooth and great experience through most of it, and the tolerance there has really come from outside our industry where they're used to, whether it's banking or any of their day-to-day stuff that they're doing, they're used to the automations and efficiencies they're finding through technology, so it's really helped our space in a very behind the curve industry, which we were up until now.
[0:20:52.3] MS: Yeah, I completely agree, and I think the key word you mentioned is efficiency, the perspective renter wants an extremely efficient experience, and of course, the property management company wants an extremely efficient experience, and we're closing gap and leveling up with other industries slowly but surely. So I wanna ask you one more question in regarding video, because it came up to Michele how... There's a bit of a... The word personality came up that your leasing agents have to have that ability to just be able to hop on and be great video and maybe they don't... Maybe they don't... They could have been leasing agents for the last decade and they're fantastic in person, but they don't have that skill set, is it just something that's innate or can that actually be trained and is there an effort that actually goes into that to bringing those leasing agents up to speed. So maybe you, Clint, if you wanna comment on that and Michelle afterwards.
0:21:58.4 CL: Yeah, for sure. No, it's definitely something that can be taught. Just like we're talking about, the prospective residents, they don't care how they get the information, is the result... Is it efficient? It doesn't seem like a community I call home. Did I get the information I came for? Did I get it quickly? It's the exact same thing. I'm a Leasing A, I'm only going to take the behavior of doing video if I know if it helps me close more leads or prospects to get room into my buildings, so being results-oriented is the biggest part to the behavior change, and there's a lot of people who just naturally are good on camera, and they've got that and you think, Okay, these five portfolio are gonna be fantastic and these 15 are not gonna be what we've seen through rolling this out in 6000 real estate properties. Now, our operators is the people that sometimes that may be the most hesitant end up being the ones that are best at it, and it just comes around the education and feeling comfortable, like think about the technology you use on a regular basis, and then think about the technology you use three or four times a year. How comfortable are you with and comparative to both of those, so we also know they don't have all data, sit inside and make videos, but being very particular in a walk-before you run approach of saying, We're gonna do a can video for online leads to try to one, convert them to a tour, and then when someone comes in to tours, I'm gonna send them a personalized thank you because they're gonna go to or three or four other places, and if I can differentiate and build a connection with prospect, they're much more likely to trust me and make a decision that influences my business and a positive by getting them uncomfortable or getting them comfortable on camera comes with a couple of things, putting this simple, as silly as it sounds, a magic one feature that hides my wrinkles and makes my hair line look a little bit better than it really is in real life, like the zoom feature, people use Zoom, I think a lot more, because you look better on Zoom that you do on a WebEx, 'cause it doesn't have that touch-up or in a few months ago, right? Myself included.
So it's as simple as some of those things to put in your best foot forward 'cause it's their brand, right. And then templating it and making high animated intro on ultras of music and just subtle things that look like a really polished product and making it take less time than it would to do another prospect follow-up like an email or phone call. And then showing them the data on why they're doing it, and then getting that feedback loop from the prospect or the residents saying, This made a difference, and I'm so impressed that you did this... I personalize, I'm moving in, you start to do that, it has a snowball effect on those people that are hesitant to being on video, and then you've gotta have the experience with the partner that you're working with in tech to know your business, to know your goals center people to help them get over that comfortable sample.
[0:24:23.4] MS: And Michelle, I don't know if you don't have any commentary from the leasing side, is that what you see is...
[0:24:30.1] MT: I feel like I have so many comments, but I'll try to keep it brief as the professional responsible for educating the leasing team and motivating them to want to record the videos, I have to say that there's a part of me that just wants to hire people with the willingness, they wake up in the morning and just want to record and go, and then we have leas and professionals that have the ability to do it, and the answer is somewhere in between, because the people with the willingness, they may record 20 videos this week, 18 of which you're pulling down from social media and those with the ability to do it, if we're encouraging them to do what they're getting quality out there over quantity, so I think that that is especially important with the video. Comeback to you,
[0:25:24.1] RS: I think my two cents is start slow with your teams, and when we came out of the gate with video as one of the new vehicles, we decided, let's just start and get five videos made for each property, and that way they can shook it regardless if you had 50 floor plans, let's just start with your best one bedroom floor plan, your best two-bedroom floor plan, or your best two floor plans that sell or you have the most of, and let's get two really good ones of those floor plans. Let's also do a new resident move in video because we know that'll be a big one we use all the time, and it didn't matter who on the team was most comfortable or the best at it, the team could sit down and write that script together and really work on those, so we kinda challenge our teams to start slow, get five really good ones. The other ones that we did were an amenity video, and then also your most maintenance thing that people call that has really simple instructions, so is that resetting your garbage disposal, is that... Where is my electrical panel? Or whatever that is, and do just a really quick quick fix video that you could use with your existing residents, and the adoption was... Once people got into it on smaller bites like that, I think we had greater adoption and then people weren't so fearful because they could get those out and see the results of using them in small doses, and now we're crazy out there, and I think we have the problem Michelle talked about, which is their video crazy, and we gotta pull them back a little bit on what's really effective over quantity...
[0:26:58.3] CL: Right, absolutely. I think the swimming lanes of what you're talking about it, putting it in there at the beginning is really crucial 'cause you have those curated content and then you can add a touch of personalization to see the results of, Okay, if I have a can one that's not personalize, and that's personalized and do AB testing to see at really works. And like you're saying that the new resident move, and that's one of the biggest things we're saying of just building that sense of community when they do and the resident experience starts on day one, how are you making it personalized for the renewal process, starting that through video things like that we're seeing and just like that gives a very simple use case for your team members to follow and say, This is what I need to be able to figure out how to craft my narrative around that story, because the video is only as good as the story... And you're talking about them. I think that's really cool, actually, Rebecca. But it sounds like you guys are achieving operational efficiencies with video, which is typically more traditionally thought of as a marketing medium, and it's kind of blending the two, so that's kind of neat
[0:28:00.1] MT: To make a quick comment about time timing the videos because I have to... 'cause it's the number one reason I hear from leasing professionals, aside from vanity or fear, even though they just left the pool area and had recorded a quick tiktok and posted that online, they're fearful and don't want to record and post anything for us on our social media page or for our clients. So it does kind of make me laugh, it gives me some pause, but if we're teaching them right out of the gate, when they start, when the weaving moments are, we do have time. Every time you walk in apartment, you have your device with you and you record that space, you're walking out to the amenity area area or you're walking the property in the morning, have your device with you and record a dog emotions, something happening. We're doing this, we are on vacation, we're this and we're hanging out on weekends with our friends, we need to give them permission and help them understand when those ween opportunities are, and then we'll have more active participation from our onsite teams. Great points.
[0:29:00.1] MS: Yeah, so moving along to what I would say is a pretty hot topic these days, the topic of self-guided tours, I'm curious if the three of you have experience with that, if you're set up with self-guiding tours at any of your properties and how that's going, David, do you have experience with that?
[0:29:24.1] DP: Yeah, yeah. We shut things down, I guess, April, and shows all the different mediums and everything to do whatever we were doing from a self-Gatto or perspective, obviously those numbers shot up through May, and most of our assets, I've seen them come back down, we're still above pre-covid levels from a selection standpoint, but I think from a self-guided tour, it's really just kind of meeting people where they want to be, some people want some help, some people wanna be guided in person, some people want to just do it all virtually. And it's been kind of just trying to figure out the right mix that delivers overall value, some of the initial self-getter companies were fairly expensive or they started realizing how much the adoption was and really started jacking up grade. So we've been working through that. I think numbers at least are not portfolio or back above over 50% on wanting to have a self or an in-person tour with somebody walking them through, but it is sort of catering to the full customer journey. So if you just map it out and say, Hey, this is how people wanna shop, so I need to have... These kinds of assets have to have no really sophisticated self-guided tours, and this really allows people to come at 80 O'clock at night and tour, and then you gotta think about the other fun things like safety and all the other things, but there is a channel, there is clearly... Somebody wants to go do that. Not everybody can come to work, and I've always wondered, 'cause I came outside the industry, do we really know if we do better leasing, if we're opening at different hours or we just always open 90 to 50, it's always just kind of this chicken and egg situation, I don't know if we really have any great data around it, 'cause I always get questioned when we look at our leasing data and we have a nice spike at 8 o'clock and our people are like Just finishing applications at that time, or is it because self-guided tours are available at that time and just kind of working through that.
[0:31:30.0] RS: I think for us, when self-guided tours first came out, we kinda did our own RFP around all the different solutions out there, and then actually went out... I personally was in Alexandria, so I went to a few of the really sexy urban ones that had some of the really high cost solutions and found myself locked out on a balcony at one point and couldn't get back in, and all kinds of different funny things came through the solution. So I think that at the end of the day, what I would say around self-guided touring is we have really... The solution that we decided to go with actually was the least expensive and really used technology that was not a technology, it was back from the days of lock boxes in real estate where you would show up and that worked really well for a quick out of-the gate across the portfolio solution, because the app and the experience was something people could relate to, and we weren't having to educate the customer, everybody could know, Oh, I'm gonna get a code, I can use the lockbox, I can help myself now. Fast-forward, we have now evolved into more sophisticated solutions, but by asset class, not necessarily geography, and I think that sometimes we think you gotta pick one product that's gonna work across everything, and you might need to start there, but then you really need to be most effective know your data, know your customers, and pick the solution that works best for...For that particular situation, and one other thing I would tell you is that we have challenged our most recent problem have been that we have people coming out that don't want the in-person tour, but on the fly, they wanna be able to do self-guided when they show up, so don't take me, but how do I get access to that apartment home? And there are all kinds of risks and security issues if you just hand keys, we know that, or if you don't know that, know that. Don't do that. And so we have pushed and stretched our vendors to say, How do we get a QR right there in our leasing office that would immediately issue the code via app, or how do we make that a better piece of the pie of the solution of self-category? And actually embrace self-guided touring at the place... At the community, in the clubhouse or at the leasing office.
[0:33:50.6] MS: It sounds like flexibility is the key, and that not every rental prospect wants the same experience, and certainly flexibility by asset class as well.
[0:34:03.3] MT: It's not a one-size-fits-all. So to your point, you... What does your WiFi situation... There has been one of our biggest hurdles with the app, not at all of our need, all of our communities, some of them have had much more success than others, but with some of the older communities where the Internet Connect is not as strong and the client is showing up without having completed their homework of loading the app, etcetera, we have some challenges and had to create some work around, so there are some communities to your point that still are candidates and the clients tell by the way, still candidates for wanting it, somewhat of the old-fashioned way of touring it truly being self-guided and self-initiated all on their own terms and patterns without someone else guiding them through the process, even an app, so it depends, and of course... And I'd love to hear your feedback on this as well, we're finding that in urban markets, it's been much more successful than in some of the suburban markets, and of course the higher dollar value on the apartment, some of that clientele, they definitely want a little bit more hand-holding, so it's been kind of all over the charts as far as the self-guided tours are concerned...
[0:35:10.4] MS: That's interesting feedback, I never thought about that, but I sort of makes sense. Is that kind of consistent with what you guys have seen as well.
[0:35:18.1] RS: We thought that initially, at least on our portfolio and certainly had stronger adoption out of the gate and urban markets, but then we found it really was an education issue and a re-train of our people's mindset in some of our more garden style or our outlier markets was really just the adoption of How do I need help, how do I sell this to my prospect that's calling in or has contacted us, and how do I make that a popular way? And honestly, we've seen greater adoption in the last probably four months in our garden style communities than we had seen initially out the gate, just through retrain.
[0:35:58.5] MS: Cool. And something I actually learned from someone else who may or may not be in this room at this conference is that I don't think self-guided tours has to be as technologically enabled as we perhaps think it does. It certainly can be, it can be that somebody shows up as their IV loaded into a platform and can safely interact with the building without any human interaction, but it can also be simple, and it can be that they show up, meet the leasing agent and have that opportunity to then get the keys or the combo and continue on and successfully tour on their own, because that's the experience they want. And obviously, in that situation, you can gain back a lot of operational efficiency, you can just pack more tourism and perhaps have a lower cost on your leasing team, but at the end of that tour to re-add that human element... Clinton, I'm gonna turn over to you again here, you showed me something pretty cool earlier today as sort of a sales technique or leasing technique using video, and I think could be a need to bring everyone else in on that experience...
[0:37:26.0] MS: Really the follow-up action, that personalized follow-up at the cite video.
[0:37:29.1] CL: So part of any sales process is listening to the prospect and making sure they feel like they're... Their voices are paired that up with finding the right community and speaking on the specific topics. So what we realized is the creative prospect fall and the touch point after the tour, being able to automate and create a personalized video, curate some content, like you were saying, around five different types of videos that are high quality, that you feel are up to brand standards, that you trust. So it's not just the Wild West with content that's going left and right to the people you need to get move in your buildings, but then having that leasing agent being able to personalize a message and just saying, Hey, Max, thanks so much for coming by today. I know a big part of what you're trying to make in your decision is what's around the community, right. You're new to Dallas and you're looking for restaurants at night life and things within a mile proximity, so after this video, I'm gonna send you an email with a follow-up with some things you can...That are right around here, and you're creating that community outside your four wall, and it's not as focused on your building per se, because it's a very competitive market, and we've seen just that personalization, and as long as you're being very cognitive of your time and saying, I'm gonna just make sure I'm 10-second clip, personalizing it, and I curate the other content, I follow up with an email, the tracking on that, or being able to see when they engage with their content, when they open it, what the engagement of where video is headed. Soon is the things that you say that actually people's interest and get them to move in to be able to say the right things, and then that goes back into the training around with your leasing agents on the narrative, they say for certain things, people are moving in these properties for these three or four differentiators we have that our competitors don't and leaning into that on video, but really just create a prospect follow-up, not over-complicating it and giving swimming lanes to make it personalized. We've seen people able to increase the portico ratio through that. Awesome, I wanna do a time check 'cause there's no clock up here.
[0:39:18.3] MS: I've got one last question for the panelists up here, and then we can probably transition to some audience questions, it's a biggie and it's more of an opinion or a perspective. And maybe we'll just start with David and work our way over. But what do you think is the next big thing from a technology perspective in multi-family marketing and leasing...
[0:39:45.0] DP: Well, so much of what we talked about here today has been around scaling, and so promoting really the best of the best, what I call account executives, leasing people, and now we're enabling them to do more, do better, and getting them out of little random data entry stuff. And a lot of that is just trying to get them to find those moments to really create even better experience to that customer and feel like it's personalized, so I think it's analyzing again, so anything that's gonna be personalizing that customer experience without making it really creepy, I think that's what everybody's like, Why do I have random ads and Facebook. So I think honestly, and I probably will be moving to... And in this last topic that we were talking about from a self-guided tour, it's almost like augmented reality tour, where it's like... You're still there. It's still real estate. It's still a considered purchase. My investments team is not buying a single thing unless they go and walk it like five times, and I think that there's just that mentality... Yes, it's come about, I think it's site unseen, touring, but there's something about whether it's virtual reality, hey, I'm sitting in my room and now I could see something across the country on the city, whatever. But then there's an augmented reality thing where you can go and walk it, maybe that's some glasses or whatever, and you kinda see what it looks like when it's alive, kind of situation starts to really push the envelope on sort of like people that can't visualize where my couch fits, or my bed is, and it really becomes another tool in that leasing teams tool box in that city to create a little customer differentiation.
[0:41:49.4] RS: I would say... What's the next? So I think a theme while we've been here these couple of days has been around the dominance of AI, and I think our industry, of course, is no different, have already shared with you my vision for that in our resident space, and also on the service side, and I think that will naturally grow, I think centralizing some of the things that David talked about that our data entry or our teams are doing on the sites and solutions that help lift that to create operational efficiencies will be key, because I think where I started today was we have leads, a galore, and we're always trying to win our competitors in the space, so we need to get stuff off our people so that they partner with technology and work more leads, whether those are your existing customers that live with you, 'cause... Let's be honest, if you can keep them happy and keep them with you and keep raising rents, that's really where the bread and butter is, It's not on the front end, bringing in... 'cause I still have to pay money to turn the apartment home and market to find you and all of that good stuff. So I think our industry and technologies have made a good start in the resident space, I think the pandemic really jump-started all of the virtual community events and things like that, but I don't feel like we've really seen the comprehensive solution for that space around really creating that community and augmenting, I think we have pieces and parts and some good ideas, but really not a slam on that I've seen... Maybe I'll ask these guys, they know something, or maybe you guys know something, you can tell me after that, but I think that will evolve, and then I also think we have to respond to the staffing crisis that's going on in our industry, and I think technology helps that through some of the operational efficiencies, but also in the maintenance and especially in our maintenance area, we're all struggling to keep our property staffed and provide great service, and let's be honest, the resident who moves in and stays with you, not because you're the greatest, but probably because they have a non-eventful life, if they have an eventful life with you, when they stay with you, that's where they start looking to your competitor to find the easy or non-eventful life through service.
[0:44:9.4] MT: I have a dream. I don't know that we'll see this, but what I've been working with on the front lines with our teams is not just their ability to perform, but their agility, so going back to a one size doesn't fit all scenario by community, it also doesn't work that way by client by prospect. So I found actually our most successful tour has been a fusion of a self-guided and a live virtual tour, meaning having a client walk through the apartment space while we're zooming with them from the office to answer questions at some point during that conversation. So is our leasing team prepared to take any step, are they thinking creatively on how to really connect with the customer now back to my dream, 'cause that's solving for the customer experience, which is something I think we lose sight of in all of this, we keep trying to solve for operations because of our crisis with how do we have enough team members out there to actually get the job done, and so the technology is definitely supporting us and back-filling in that. But my dream is, is there a way at any point in time that we can get to a One-Source login for the leasing professional to be able to take them through any experience that they can craft without logging into 10 different platforms to get it done or trying to recall their password in the platform that they're trying to connect with to connect with that client. So I know that sounds very simplistic, but I'm still need to keep dreaming while I'm hiring leasing professionals that have the ability and the ability to try to move about the cabin.
[0:45:58.4] RS: I think same problem at a higher level, I was joking with somebody yesterday in the vendor forum over there that like, I wanna open my electrical panel door at Bell Partners and not see a jacked up mass like because we plugged in 40 different things. And I'd really like that to be like five things that do all of it, and I think some of the efficiencies there really just people don't think about... For every new solution that doesn't really isn't more comprehensive, you need that's a separate integration that somebody has to know about, that is a separate contract with a vendor, so last that does more is always a good, good thing, but then I think to your point for our leasing professionals, you don't have to train 50 different things and how they all work and where you go for this and what have you that... That would be simplistic, which is gonna make them more effective...
[0:46:46.7] MS: Well, I think, Michelle, if there was a single sign-on experience that would likely flow as well into better integration, and you guys have all mentioned the importance of flexibility, not just having the exact same solutions at all of your communities, but being able to be flexible to the prospect and the asset, and so that competes with wanting to just have one platform or a couple of platforms. So to me, the key is gonna be integration and having that really smooth and efficient kind of tech stack, martech.
[0:47:27.0] RS: And we're starting to see some vendors in that space, so they're getting that, so my suspicion would be that's coming...
[0:47:37.0] CL: I think from the technology side, it's... We're thinking about it a little bit differently. We used to, it's not just the value that you're driving to your customer, but making it work in your ecosystem and running parallel to other technology platforms, and how do you make those... 'cause getting to that simplistic ideal world means that they have to be able to plug and play and put in system, so figuring out from technology, what do we wanna be the best at, and then Who do we wanna make sure that we're running parallel and using video for our specific use case, that's all I can speak to, amplify other efforts and other pieces of technology, 'cause it's really about creating that community outside your four walls and improving the resident experience, and then from the recruitment side, being able to attract and retain talent to create a culture of recognition where people feel value and they stayed... Right, and sometimes we over-complicate businesses as people working with people. And people wanna work with people they like and trust. And there's no... Not to get all cheesy, but there's not a person in the world you can learn to love you to know their story or relate to on some capability, we know that in our personal lives and we fail to remember that sometimes in the ticket business, figure out what your business story is figure out how you're telling that story externally, and figure out what your employee story is, and then figure out how technology can help amplify that and you'll improve the experience over time, but again, it's not a light switch or so...
[0:49:03.9] MS: Yeah, awesome. Really great perspective from everybody, I don't know if I just shafted us, and we no longer have the time for the questions. How are we doing James?
[0:49:15.9] James: We're doing good. We have time for probably one or two questions depending on how long-winded folks are feeling. First question, pretty interesting. Are you finding that different regions or markets have a stronger preference towards a tech forward leasing experience? I see, no.
[0:49:33.3] MT: I have just one example, the DC market, most of our clientele prefers the self-guided touring process, and they will connect with the lease and professional at some point in time, but we've actually had a 128 conversion ratio toward to lease without a leasing person being involved in DC, and then If I relocate to my Turtle Creek market outside of Dallas, we have folks that are taking the self-guided tours, but usually it's a follow-up or it's just a prelude, it's more of a preview of the community. They still want to go through the full experience and process with the leasing teams, so that's a suburban market, but also a higher dollar value when we're seeing similar patterns through our portfolio of that happening.
[0:50:19.3] RS: I would just add on to that at any of our new development or a lease-up environments are a slam dunk for self-guided, so in fact, we will have probably anywhere from 12 to 15 apartment homes tag for self-guided and they move 40 or better percent of their leases through those channels...
[0:50:37.3] James: Wow, that's fascinating. Was DC work a-holic myself, I can see why we might wanna just jump on in without taking the time... That's fun. And then the next question were number one more, I'm trying to think one that will be quick... This one, if we can be quite on it, what recommendations do you have for smaller owner and operators who have smaller budgets on leasing tech on which they should invest in first.
[0:50:57.4] RS: Solve your biggest business problem and find the solution, spend your money on solving your biggest business problem.
[0:51:04.9] S6: Well, round of applause for our panel. Thank you so much for joining us today. A huge thank you to Max and Clnt and Rentsync and Convey for sponsoring our session today. Thank you, everyone.
E54: Leveraging AI to Improve the Multifamily Leasing Experience
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