Last modified on September 7th, 2022
By Marc Frenkiel
Retention — of both residents and employees — is a key factor in the success of any property management business. But as work from home and flexible hours have become mainstream, people are seeking changes in both where they live and work. To better attract and retain residents and employees, property management companies must prioritize empathy. Incorporating technology is a powerful and effective way to show your residents and employees that empathy is a priority in your business.
Empathy and property management technology
There are two prongs to the connection between property management technology and empathy:
Incorporating the right technology conveys an elevated level of service, for example, by allowing for faster response times and more robust communications.
This is demonstrated in the series of Resident Motivations Reports that we created in 2021. The goal of these reports was to help property owners and managers better understand the changed preferences and expectations of their residents. When asked, “How has your property management company or landlord disappointed you in this past year?” a common answer across all metros and the greater U.S. was a lack of empathy. For example, a Miami renter answered, “Lack of communication. If your property manager is unreachable most of the time, you need to do something about it soon.” A Los Angeles renter told us that “They [management] are slow to respond to repairs and are cheap, neglectful, and rude. It’s pretty clear they see tenants as people to be dealt with rather than people to work with. All the tenants here are good. There is no need for such disdain.”
Investing in technology shows that you understand the difficulties of your team’s day-to-day work and are willing to invest in tools that make their jobs easier so they can focus on high-level tasks and provide residents with the best service possible. There is a certain symbiosis: your employees can do their best possible work with the help of property management technology so that residents can have the best possible experience. Here’s the proof:
AppFolio recently conducted a survey of over 500 active property management employees. When asked, “What changes has your employer made in the last 12 months that have improved your overall job satisfaction?” 25% of respondents answered, “Improved processes and workflows” — something that dedicated property management technology can help to achieve.
Our research also found that employees report spending over 40% of their time on busywork and 14 hours per week on tasks that could be automated or streamlined. This is time and energy that they could invest in providing residents with great, empathetic service. When all this is taken into consideration, it becomes clear that adopting an empathetic mindset toward your employees and providing them with the tools they need to succeed in their roles allows them to show more empathy toward residents. Here’s the proof:
Jerry Tanaka, COO of Redwood Property Investors, testified that his staff began treating residents with significantly more empathy after a robust tenant portal was incorporated into their workflows: “I think it was a big culture shift that happened when we went with AppFolio. AppFolio allowed us to be more connected than ever to our residents. We were always hands off: ‘Oh, just call us for maintenance.’ But now it’s like, ‘Please send it in the resident portal. We’d like to take care of it. Document it and hold us to our 24- to 48-hour response time.’ And that’s huge. So I know for a fact that the residents love it, because we came from nothing or standoffish, so it helped us with the personal connection.”
To adopt an empathetic mindset toward your residents and employees, ask yourself, “How can I provide my residents with the best possible service?” and “How can I help my employees focus less on busywork and more on providing residents with the best possible experience?” Once you’ve done this, technology emerges as the obvious solution. For example:
- Having a central hub from which to correspond with renters via email or text message streamlines the communication process and keeps a consolidated history of correspondence.
- Workflow tools digitize and clarify processes and workflows, eliminating uncertainty about how to complete a given task and ensuring residents receive prompt resolutions for any issues they encounter.
- Tools that leverage artificial intelligence, such as an AI-enabled leasing assistant that responds efficiently to casual inquiries and directs serious prospects to your leasing staff, or AI maintenance tools that use algorithms to judge the level of urgency, automatically respond to maintenance requests, and dispatch pre-approved vendors, allow employees to better serve residents and spend more time on high-priority tasks.
For a more hands-on understanding of how technology can help you prioritize empathy — an important factor in resident and employee satisfaction — we invite you to sign up for a customized AppFolio walkthrough, where you can see how these ideas translate into real-world action.
Comments by Marc Frenkiel