CAU­TION­ARY TALES IN TECH­NOL­OGY

TECH­NOL­OGY IS UL­TI­MATELY about im­prov­ing the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence as op­posed to caus­ing angst. How­ever, in some cases, when used im­prop­erly, it has been known to do just that. Brock Fisher ex­plains the pit­falls of three sce­nar­ios from his pre­vi­ous ex­pe­rien

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - Brock Fisher

As Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve got to start with the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and work back­wards to­ward the tech­nol­ogy – not the other way around”.

TECH­NOL­OGY IS AN EN­ABLER, NOT A SO­LU­TION.

On­line ten­ant book­ing soft­ware is prob­a­bly my sin­gle favourite in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment of the past decade, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that sys­tems like this are still built by peo­ple and for peo­ple to deal with peo­ple. How the tremen­dous power of th­ese sys­tems is used ul­ti­mately de­ter­mines their im­pact, ei­ther pos­i­tively or neg­a­tively, on a cus­tomer’s per­cep­tion of your busi­ness.

Over the years I have lost count of the num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions I have had with peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced the flip­pant use of one of th­ese sys­tems when look­ing for a rental prop­erty. One such ex­am­ple was a pro­fes­sional col­league of mine who wanted to look at four dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties through four dif­fer­ent agen­cies. On each oc­ca­sion, the ap­point­ment was changed be­tween three and six times, some­times with as lit­tle as 30 min­utes’ no­tice. They gave up try­ing to look at two of the prop­er­ties al­to­gether be­cause, in their words, it was “just too hard”. On each oc­ca­sion they had re­struc­tured their work day in ad­vance to be able to view the prop­erty, in­clud­ing mak­ing ar­range­ments for pick­ing up their kids, and each time th­ese ar­range­ments were made in vain.

This is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of the ini­tial ad­van­tages and pos­i­tiv­ity of be­ing able to choose a time to in­spect the prop­erty be­ing exponentially out­done by the way the sys­tem was sub­se­quently used by prop­erty man­agers, and creat­ing a neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for the prospec­tive ten­ants.

The im­per­sonal ef­fect of a set of de­tails in a data­base, not a voice on the end of the phone or some­one stand­ing in re­cep­tion, seems to lead us to deal with peo­ple in ways we nor­mally wouldn’t – and ways which I am sure we wouldn’t tol­er­ate our­selves if the sit­u­a­tion were re­versed.

If you wouldn’t want to call a prospec­tive client on six dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions and ex­plain to them why you have to shift their view­ing ap­point­ment to another time, don’t be tempted to just click a few but­tons and do it any­way. Don’t let the sys­tem take the bul­lets for you.

First, think of the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, and then set up your sys­tem to de­liver the ser­vice that your cus­tomer ex­pects. This should in­clude clear guide­lines in your of­fice around what is ac­cept­able and what is not re­gard­ing can­cel­la­tion and reschedul­ing of ap­point­ments, and how th­ese need to be com­mu­ni­cated to the prospec­tive ten­ant.

BREAK IT TO MAKE IT

It’s re­ally im­por­tant to know how to break things, so you can avoid do­ing it. En­try, exit and rou­tine in­spec­tions have been rev­o­lu­tionised by the use of apps on mo­bile de­vices to record de­tails and photos of a prop­erty in an in­te­grated fash­ion, some­times even by dic­tat­ing to Siri, so Siri can just fill the in­spec­tion form out for you.

I work with a re­ally big team, and in many ways we’re the ul­ti­mate crash test dum­mies for this type of prod­uct. I have been fas­ci­nated by new and in­ven­tive ways that peo­ple have found to lose data, which not only up­sets them but also cre­ates ag­i­ta­tion with a ten­ant if you need to redo an in­spec­tion, or ag­i­ta­tion with an owner if you are left with noth­ing but a blank re­port to give them.

There are a sur­pris­ing num­ber of vari­ables that can af­fect the per­for­mance of an app, from how it is used and when you press ‘save’, to the op­er­at­ing ver­sion of the soft­ware on the de­vice us­ing it, to the net­work where an up­load or down­load of in­for­ma­tion oc­curs. Per­haps an in­ter­rup­tion dur­ing the process could af­fect the data, or what about if a bat­tery goes flat?

THE IM­PER­SONAL EF­FECT OF A PROSPEC­TIVE CUS­TOMER BE­ING JUST A SET OF DE­TAILS IN A DATA­BASE, NOT A VOICE ON THE END OF THE PHONE, SEEMS TO LEAD US TO DEAL WITH THEM IN WAYS WE NOR­MALLY WOULDN'T.

Af­ter the warm and fuzzy feel­ing of amaz­ing­ness about your new app has passed, make sure you have a proper con­ver­sa­tion with your provider about any vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that you need to be aware of, and what sorts of things you would have to do to the app to lose your in­for­ma­tion. It’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to un­der­stand where the in­for­ma­tion ac­tu­ally is, and at what point dur­ing the process it is not re­cov­er­able. This ed­u­ca­tion should also form part of any new staff in­duc­tion process.

I’ve seen in­stances where mul­ti­ple days' worth of rou­tine in­spec­tion data was lost be­cause a user had is­sues with sync­ing when they re­turned to the of­fice and the app was con­stantly crash­ing on their de­vice. In­stead of seek­ing tech­ni­cal ad­vice, they sim­ply deleted the app on their de­vice and re-in­stalled it, as that is what they did with their other apps if they crashed and wouldn’t open. This sim­ple re­flex ac­tion sub­se­quently lost a mas­sive amount of in­for­ma­tion, as of course all their in­spec­tion data was still on the app; it had not yet gone any­where. But af­ter they deleted the app there was no hope of re­cov­er­ing any of the data.

EX­PE­RI­ENCE YOUR OWN SYS­TEMS

Tem­plate cor­re­spon­dence in prop­erty man­age­ment is hardly new news, or cut­ting edge. But don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the num­ber of tem­plates in your busi­ness and the on­go­ing im­pres­sion they cre­ate with your cus­tomers. Think more broadly than just your let­ters. What about things like own­ers’ state­ments and all the mes­sages and com­mu­ni­ca­tions that tech­nol­ogy such as your on­line book­ing soft­ware is send­ing out con­stantly?

I en­quire on our rental prop­er­ties all the time, just so I can check ‘what hap­pens next’ and see from the cus­tomer’s per­spec­tive what cor­re­spon­dence we’re send­ing out. I am also an owner in our sys­tem so that I can use all our apps and por­tals, and ex­pe­ri­ence our cor­re­spon­dence from the same point of view.

It’s re­ally im­por­tant, I be­lieve, to ex­pe­ri­ence your own prod­ucts from the front end, client-fac­ing per­spec­tive, and not al­ways just be fid­dling around in the back end.

If you have had an owner for five years, are they still get­ting an emailed state­ment each month ‘wel­com­ing them to the con­ve­nience of email state­ments’? How about their rou­tine in­spec­tion let­ters or copies of their lease agree­ments? Is this still the ‘same old same old’ ev­ery time so that your cus­tomer sees the same thing over and over and over again?

The hall­mark of a good sys­tem is that it doesn’t look like a sys­tem to the client. When was the last time that you re­freshed or up­dated your ev­ery­day cor­re­spon­dence?

DON'T LET THE SYS­TEM TAKE THE BUL­LETS FOR YOU.

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