What is a CRM and why should it matter to property management companies?
Every group has a person in it who never forgets to wish everyone a happy birthday, remembers all key information about each person, asks questions to deepen the relationship, and warmly welcomes new friends into the fold. If this person was a piece of tech, it would be a CRM. A CRM or Customer Relationship Management is the heartbeat of a multifamily property management company’s tech stack and is a vital part of bringing to life a modern shopping experience at leading Property Management Companies (PMCs).
In this blog, we’ll go over what a CRM is, why it should matter to PMCs, and how a CRM works closely with teams to deliver an excellent experience for renters.
What is a CRM?
CRMs are used in almost any customer-centric industry. A multifamily-specific, or as we call it, a renter-centric CRM is software that helps property management companies nurture relationships with current residents and prospective renters. Essentially, the CRM is a database that securely stores all the renter-specific information and preferences.
CRMs are key to a property management tech stack because they keep everyone on the team on the same page. All communication between the team and renters or residents is in one place, so it empowers leasing professionals to pick up any conversation and provide speedy customer service. So, if a leasing team member is giving a tour, or out of the office, their teammates can follow up with any lead they were nurturing. Meaning every conversation continues to move forward. From the renter’s perspective, it means that they never need to repeat themselves to different members of the onsite team and that the team is better equipped to help them find their next home.
New renter + new expectations
In any other industry, renters can buy whatever they want online, pay instantly from their phone, and never repeat key information twice.
Renting an apartment shouldn’t be different.
Renters expect algorithms to understand their preferences and based on those preferences to recommend experiences that they’ll enjoy. They use apps and tech for everything, and they expect that it adds ease, not complexity, to their day-to-day life.
Both consumer behavior and consumer buying power have radically changed many industries, and multifamily is long overdue. The pandemic exposed foundational cracks within the multifamily business model: It was (still) built around properties, not today’s renters. Today’s renters have high expectations, are mobile-first, want lots of flexibility, and they’re fickle. To earn their loyalty, they expect flawless customer service in every interaction from their initial inquiry through renewal.
A brief history of multifamily SaaS
Delivering the level of service that satisfies today’s renters is impossible with legacy property-centric operating models. Traditional property-centric models rely on either point solutions or legacy vendors.
Point solutions have disconnected databases and require multiple logins resulting in siloed renter communication and data. This approach makes it difficult, if not impossible, for PMCs to stitch together a “complete” picture of the renter journey. If your renter-facing tech stack, or the suite of technologies that your company uses from initial inquiry through renewal isn’t interconnected, not only will the experience feel clunky for leasing professionals with multiple platforms, but for renters too. Certainly, point solutions may create individual good moments within the renter journey, but as a whole, fail to challenge the status quo or create a significantly better overall experience for renters and PMCs.
Legacy property management softwares (PMS), were originally developed as accounting software. While they often hold out the carrot of a “new update soon,” they too fail to deliver actual innovation on the renter-facing pieces of their platform. To be fair, property management software takes care of accounting, billing, maintenance, and other properties-facing requests with ease because they were crafted with the properties in mind, not the renter. They’re really good at those kinds of needs, and are pretty terrible at taking care of renter-facing tasks.
Since both of these traditional property-centric tech solutions aren’t cutting it…what is? A new class of tech, Renter Management Software, built with the renters in mind delivers a modern shopping experience from initial inquiry through renewal. We’ll get into more specifics of what constitutes a renter-centric solution and renter-centric business model below.
Quality service depends on a renter-centric model
A property-centric leasing and operations model is the traditional operating model in which the property is placed at the center, and then everything else revolves around this physical asset. This limits a property management company’s ability to provide an excellent experience for their leasing professionals and their renters. First, with tasks revolving around individual properties, companies are hamstrung to help alleviate the deluge of daily tasks thrown onto their onsite teams’ plates. Instead, they have to ask their teams to juggle walk-ins, schedule tours and cancellations, scrutinize applications and leases, and deal with renewals and disgruntled residents. This results in situations where a leasing professional could be asked to help a prospective renter choose their next apartment home, and at the same time need to diffuse a situation where the resident in 304a is having difficulty with their loud neighbors. With a property-centric model, there is no way to centralize tasks to a specialized team. So, out of no fault of the leasing professional, but 100% to the reality of being asked to do more with less, the leasing professional can’t provide great customer service to either the prospect or the resident. Lose-lose.
More specifically, in a property-centric model, all renter information or data is stored on guest cards tied to individual properties (not a single guest card about that individual renter’s preferences). If a renter applies at multiple properties in a single portfolio, this results in duplicate efforts by leasing teams (within the same company) working the same lead. See the graphic below for a visual representation of how a property-centric CRM fractures both renter information, and their experience.
In a renter-centric model, property management companies place the renter and their specific preferences as the center of their business model. By this we mean that the technology the property management company uses, is built around the renter via a single centralized guest card. A single guest card gives leasing professionals transparency into what a renter is seeking in their next home, and then allows them to find suitable options for the renter (even if that means referring them to a sister property). A single guest card streamlines follow up for both the renter and the properties. To be clear, linking property-centric guest cards and other workaround-style tech-bandaids that fail to deliver the benefits of a renter-centric model.
Renter-centric software architecture allows property management companies to be strategic with the tasks they ask their onsite leasing professionals to take care of and allows them to take a lot of the back-office off-site. While changes, like this, can seem scary short term because they are disruptive. Big picture, they give property management companies more flexibility in their business, and will insulate their business from the inevitable great resignation employee churn. Additionally, because onsite teams won’t be asked to do more with less, it provides more fulfilling careers to leasing professionals by empowering them to focus on what they do best: providing thoughtful customer service to prospective renters and current residents.
Leasing teams are stretched thin: Four workstreams a renter-centric CRM can make easier
Insulate your company from talent churn and give your do-more-with-less teams a burnout antidote: renter-centric tech that frees them of rote tasks and lets them maximize effectiveness.
Renter-centric platforms are truly the Goldilocks just-right solution in the multifamily space, they make the leasing experience better for renters, onsite teams, and PMCs. Win-win-win.
Here are four specialized workstreams, or tasks, that they can centralize and streamline:
#1. Easily answer renter’s questions
Finding a new home is a deeply personal, and financially weighty decision. While renters are unique, many of their questions aren’t. In fact, many are easily answered via automation and AI.
Without the help of AI, automation, and centralized workflows, your onsite team is buried following up with thousands of lukewarm leads, or answering redundant resident questions. To compound this, teams are increasingly short-staffed and asked to do more with less. This leaves them with limited bandwidth to provide exceptional customer service to decision-ready renters and long-term residents. Self-serve automated tech allows renters to find the information they need to self-qualify, and make their weighty where-to-live-next decision at their own pace.
A renter-centric virtual leasing assistant works in tandem with your CRM to answer researching renter’s (often repetitive) questions quickly. It can easily respond to things including:
- Can I schedule a tour?
- How do I schedule a virtual tour?
- I have a Golden Retriever named Gordon, what is the pet policy?
- What two-bedroom apartments are available?
#2. Single source of truth for renter preferences
Excellent customer service makes prospects feel known, and almost like they’re a “regular” somewhere rather than reaching out with their initial inquiry. Today’s renters want information instantly, and if they’ve told a business something once, they assume they’ll never need to repeat that information again.
When your VLA and CRM work closely together, they add all renter preferences and relevant information to the single renter-centric guest card. This, gives your leasing professionals a single source of truth when they need more information, or simply a reminder of your Golden Retriever’s name (note: not Fido). So renters never need to re-explain or remind the team about specifics, and they’re able to cater to renters as individuals and make them feel known.
#3. Escalates items quickly (when needed)
When, and if, a renter’s questions are too particular or nuanced for the virtual leasing assistant to answer, they’re upgraded and handled by the 100% human team. Questions like: Can you hear the ocean (or the highway) from the kitchen? When you allow the prospective renter to self-qualify, by the time these more nuanced questions come along they’re already invested. Meaning that leasing professionals aren’t wasting their time taking repetitive, easily-automated, questions from window-shopping leads. So, when the leasing professional does pick up the conversation and answers the prospective renter’s questions, their time is focused on high-intent leads.
Then, all of this communication, in addition to all of the communication with the VLA is stored in the renter’s guest card for future reference.
#4. Leases (and more)
Once a renter is ready to apply for an apartment, and knows they want to live there, a product suite that includes an online leasing solution drives the next step in their renter journey. A true online leasing solution is mobile-first, delivers on a modern online shopping experience, and takes less than ten minutes. Applicants use fintech and screening-tech integrations to both verify income (if necessary) and conduct their background check all in a few clicks within the application interface. Goodbye digging up W-2s or other personal paperwork and uploading it to get into a new apartment home, hello modern apartment shopping experience. Then, when a renter is able to renew their lease a year later, it’s the same portal, same log-in, and same great experience that they had when they applied the first time.
Incremental isn’t enough
Gone are the days when it was “good enough” to have a business model built around properties. In the age of consumer-centric service, PMCs that equip their renter-facing teams with the tools needed to put the renter at the center of everything they do will win, and win big.
Schedule a demo to learn Funnel’s approach to the intersection between forward-thinking multifamily best practices and how our technology can support industry visionaries.