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Discover the transformative power of AI-powered virtual assistants in our latest blog post. From Siri to Alexa, we explore their rising popularity and game-changing capabilities within the world of technology.
In this episode of the Multifamily Innovation Show, Patrick Antrim hosts Trevor Park, a specialist in multifamily and real estate development who now serves as the Head of Marketing for a software company called BetterBot.
BetterBot is based out of Seattle. Park’s goal is to connect people and to provide them with strategic solutions through world-class support and good data. BetterBot is a sophisticated AI chatbot. It aims to give people their time back and create more freedom in when, where, and how people can access their information. The company views itself as customer-centric.
(2:20) – Getting away from emails
“300 million emails are sent each day, and only 18% are opened,” says Antrim, turning things over to Park to explore why that is.
Park answers that the main problem is the sheer volume of emails sent out. BetterBot helps reduce the number of emails coming in, and ensures the emails that do arrive are better leads. That frees up lots of time for property management teams.
Park says BetterBot can also help with resident retention, explaining, “By freeing up the front end, it allows you to focus on that back door.”
(4:40) – The way people consume information is changing
People want things instantly these days. BetterBot gives them instant responses, leading to a massive improvement in rent conversion times. Conversions started happening in about 13 days rather than 45.
(6:30) – Lessening touchpoints
Since BetterBot handles a lot of the preliminary questions, you don’t need to have as much back-and-forth over email.
(7:40) – The Handoff
BetterBot doesn’t try to trick people into thinking they’re talking with a human; it’s very clear and upfront that it’s a chatbot. With email nurturing, they also offer things people can do online rather than needing to connect with a human.
Park believes the handoff between the automation and the human is one of the most important parts of the technology. AI doesn’t do things better, it’s just different, and Park wants to create a good interaction and workflow between technology and humanity.
(10:00) – Texting
People are already used to being on their cell phones constantly. That platform is similar to chatbots because you can send messages without having to worry about someone being active on the other side; you can even send automated messages. Some companies have AI guided text conversations to help people make purchases or get tech support.
(11:40) – Prospect interaction
Almost 60% of traffic is coming after hours, Park says. When things come in during working hours , the leasing agents can handle it, but it’s the late-night hours when direct interaction is most valuable. The company that responds right away is more likely to get that person’s business. Plus, it’s expected! People want instantaneous results.
(14:20) – Building a bot
It takes BetterBot 3 days or less to build a bot tailored to your apartment. Then, they can adapt that so you can have it across your entire portfolio.
“By having that level of data come through, you’re able to really evaluate where the trends are coming from, where are you seeing the best ROI from your marketing sources, where are you seeing the most traffic, what’s converting well? You can start to evaluate it on a much grander scale,” explained Park. “When you’re looking at isolated data points, you can really be blinded by initial results and skewed data.”
(16:30) – Why trust BetterBot?
It’s all in the data. They’re at almost 100 million greetings. That’s 100 million data points and prospects they’re directly influencing. From those, they’ve had close to 50,000 conversions, which is an enormous impact in the market.
They’re also very transparent about sharing data points, even when it shows disappointing news. Even bad news gives you insight into trends you can then remedy.
(18:00) – The evolution of BetterBot
The company was originally focused on natural language processing. They chose to go with guided conversations instead. Those conversations work like a choose your own story book. They built from there, integrating things like virtual tours. They also rolled out email nurturing bots recently. Now, they can map what best leads to good conversions.
They want to evolve more to the resident side of things moving forward. Now, you can learn more about the resident experience even while using the chat bot.
(23:30) – Why don’t more properties use BetterBot?
BetterBot focuses on the U.S. but does have some links in Canada. Park believes the only reason it hasn’t expanded even further is because of the cost. They don’t do per-unit cost, it’s by property.
“I would say if you take your total web traffic and take out 60%, that’s pretty much the miss you have right there,” said Park. “Not being able to answer questions for people who look at your website, that’s 60% of traffic that you’re losing. Then factor in the number of emails you’ve gotten and the ones you’re able to follow up with.”
By factoring in the number of leases most properties miss out on, Park believes BetterBot pays for itself. When people try out BetterBot’s demo, they see how efficient it is.
Keep in mind, not all leads are qualified; some people are just checking out a tour or looking at the units. They might not be a lead worth nurturing off the bat, so BetterBot helps weed those out rather than leasing agents wasting their time.
(28:00) – How does this work with email?
Chatbots are limited to marketing links and websites.
“Where email comes into play is pretty much everywhere else,” explains Park. That could include places like Zillow, where people might click a link to send an email. The property can’t always follow up, so BetterBot responds for them and instantly engages with the prospect, then driving the prospect to the chatbot to schedule a tour.
BetterBot has tracked how response time influences successful signing of leases. More often than not, the first property to respond is the one that got the lead.
(30:30) – The future of leasing
Park thinks virtual tours are going to dominate the digital space. As in, being able to see the 360 view of the space while online.
“Then, when we start getting into when they’re about to convert and they want that tangible piece, this is where I truly value having a leasing agent being able to show me through a property and give me their elevator pitch on why this community is awesome,” said Park. “But I see the benefit in self-guided tours. I see being able to take yourself on your time after hours, before the office is open, what have you, and being able to actually tour the property without having to be beholden to a leasing agent’s schedule. That was huge.”
Park predicts those two will fuse, so people will be able to choose the time and day and that will determine whether it’s self-guided or not. If someone is available to host the tour, they’ll be there; if not, you can do a self-guided one.
(33:40) – Emotional vs. Logical buyers
Antrim points out that not all sales people or leasing agents are good at everything; some are good at details in the property, some are good at building strong relationships.
Park worked at Greystar for a bit and knew people who were fantastic at building relationships. People would check in just to be friendly and chat, not simply engage for transactional purposes. A chatbot can’t do that.
(35:40) – What’s it like to work at BetterBot?
“It’s like a job I have yet to consider an actual job. I get to test out new things, I get to build things, I get to explore what works and doesn’t work,” said Park. He doesn’t have a fear of failure, because everything is a team effort.
BetterBot has two different stakeholders: they have to evaluate what the consumer needs from a quality experience; but they also have to factor in their client and how they engage with the onboarding experience, reports, and so on. Those factors always have to be top-of-mind.
(39:20) – Handling tough conversations
Park says being transparent and sharing data is the best way to communicate. That’s the best way to find solutions. Maybe the company’s website is outdated and isn’t a good platform for the chatbot; maybe the chatbot is sending good leads but the agents aren’t closing them. Better performance requires a better picture of what’s going on.
Antrim points out that the multifamily industry has tons of smart people but has historically fallen very behind in technological advancements. For those that have been avoiding new tech, they’ll need to jump on soon. It’s a good time to do it, since technology is becoming more affordable and there’s more evidence to prove how automation pays for itself.
Park points out that onboarding takes time and effort; by fixing the onboarding process early and understanding what it takes to do that gets the company over that hurdle.
(44:50) – Final thoughts
Be more open to new tech solutions. Adopt one that fits your company, not one that fits the exact immediate solution you need; that way, you can build on the tech moving forward.
Rent delinquency is increasing and as we all know, resident priorities are shifting as well. This is causing the multifamily industry a lot of uncertainty during a time of already rapid change. Due to these changes in wants and expectations, multifamily companies must start strategizing for the future to ensure profitability and continue to create places that residents want to live.
It is always important to listen to the customer, which is something that is often overlooked in this industry. Yet it is also important to make sure that they are following their agreements by paying rent on time and that they have the ability to do so. Everyone is looking to raise rents to meet certain revenue goals; however, there are other issues going on beyond the scope of rent increases.
We invited one of our clients, Lisa Strauser from CredHub to speak on what they are doing to alleviate some of these stressors.
CredHub is a service that companies in the multifamily industry incorporate to help reduce multifamily rent delinquency. It works by associating rent payments to tenants’ credit reporting agencies. For most tenants, that’s a great thing – it allows them to use their largest expense as a way to improve their credit scores, just as mortgages do for homeowners. For others, it’s the extra incentive they need to pay their rent on time, so their credit score isn’t brought down by a late or missed payment.
Lisa Strauser is the Sales Director for CredHub. In this recent interview, she discussed some of the ways the multifamily industry is struggling, as well as how it can improve.
Strauser says the way to make sure properties aren’t bleeding out revenue to delinquent payments is to make sure their residents are truly held accountable for their rent. If they aren’t held accountable, there’s no incentive to make their rent payment a priority among their list of bills.
By implementing resident credit reporting, Strauser says that the accountability factor is put in place immediately. In fact, she says properties that implement CredHub’s technology see the delinquency rate lower within a period of just 60-90 days.
“The delinquency rate naturally reduces when there is finally a consequence for not doing what one is supposed to be doing,” explained Strauser.
CredHub also goes above and beyond by impacting credit scores for previous residents who still have an outstanding balance with the property.
“Impacting their credit for balances owed has a way of motivating people to pay outstanding expenses to remove it from their credit report,” said Strauser.
She says that although CredHub aims to ensure rules are followed, the company’s work isn’t about punishment – on the contrary, it’s about helping boost those who are paying on time, typically boosting FICO scores by 42 points. It levels the playing field between renters and those with mortgages who see improvements for on-time payments on their living space. Some people are credit invisible and can use this as a way to leave their mark.
“For those with established credit profiles, the increase in FICO scores leads to an offering of better interest rates on credit cards and higher credit limits,” said Strauser. “For those without social security numbers, in assisted properties, or lacking social security numbers, it establishes for the first time a credit identity by rewarding them for their timely rental payments.”
Strauser also argues that CredHub can, in some instances, be the final deciding factor in where someone wants to live. It should be included as an amenity, just like a pool or gym, since it’s something intended to improve the residents’ lives. If a potential renter knows they’ll pay on time, they would see an enormous benefit in renting from a property that offers CredHub. Likewise, the usage of that technology would discourage those who know they may not pay on time, meaning the property gets a higher quality resident.
By using services like CredHub, multifamily properties can incentivize residents to pay on-time, increase resident retention and create a competitive advantage for their property. Services like these are paving the way for residents to get credit for one of their most costly expenses and to hold others accountable who may have fallen behind.
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Recently, our client BetterBot put forth a bold statement: “Property management teams need to stop depending on emails.” The company released an explanation for their challenge, but we wanted to learn more about the thesis.
BetterBot is a Marketing and Leasing Automation Software that replicates your best leasing agent and allows customers to inquire about apartments and homes and receive an instant answer at any time of day or night. There are over 200 property management companies already signed on with the company. The business says its BetterBot for Web solution helps find prospective renters who are more qualified, increases the time it takes to secure a lease and frees up team members to focus on other work.
We set out to learn why improving this may benefit the multifamily industry. We spoke with Trevor Park, the Head of Marketing at BetterBot. He says emails are, put simply, failing.
“Ultimately, it comes down to response time and staying top of mind,” explained Park. “Response time instantly drops for communities after-hours, and most of them do not have any sort of nurture campaign to ensure they stay top of mind. Even with a nurture campaign or quick response times, it can be challenging for property management companies to stand out in a sea of crowded inboxes. Not to mention the work involved for the leasing teams to maintain and track follow-ups if they don’t have a solution that can help with both of these.”
There are some obvious ways the days of the multifamily chatbot have been reigning supreme. With people browsing on their phones looking for new places to live, they expect answers quickly. Office hours only cover a specific portion of the day, and with today’s technology, people just don’t want to wait. If they send an email late at night and the property doesn’t answer until the following day, they could lose interest. Automation helps accommodate the immediacy of the modern era.
But BetterBot presents some other compelling arguments, too. For instance, promotional and branded emails are often filtered out and automatically sent to the spam folder, defeating the purpose of creating it in the first place. BetterBot has worked to ensure their emails make it to their inboxes by working directly with the major email providers. Email boxes can also get over-crowded, and the vast majority of people tend to delete marketing emails without ever opening them. It can also be challenging to categorize leads well enough to pay proper attention when property management teams are flooded with emails each day.
“The problem isn’t necessarily with how Property Management teams handle emails; it is the volume of emails and leads that come in for them,” explained Park. “Take any specific property and look at the average number of inquiries that come in. How can one leasing agent tell the difference between those ready to convert and those just shopping around?”
He says many of those emails are simple questions that automation can quickly answer through lead nurturing or the use of a chatbot. That’s not only better for the client; it clears out the property management teams’ inboxes of tedious work so they can more aptly focus their efforts. On average, leasing automation saves between 56 - 60 hours per month for a single property.
“These menial tasks take away from the qualified and engaged prospects that the property management teams can be engaging with to build a strong relationship and ultimately convert them to a resident faster than the window lookers,” said Park.
BetterBot recently launched their newest product, BetterBot for Leads, geared towards leads coming in through a community’s marketing sources, such as Apartments.com, Apartment List, or Zillow.
The leads are the element property management teams are most likely to lose as they get bogged down in small, simple tasks that add up to take a significant chunk of their day. Rather than having a person send a quick question and lose interest as they wait for a response, BetterBot’s instant-response AI gets the preliminary steps out of the way. Then, prospects are more ready to move forward and talk with the leasing team more meaningfully. As BetterBot puts it, by giving them time back in their day to do what they do best, be human.
“BetterBot for Leads can then help nurture those leads and sort through the prospects to provide the leasing teams with the ones that have the highest likelihood of converting so they can focus on engaging with those prospects first for easier wins,” said Park.
Park says it’s all about identifying the pain points and bottlenecks that sap efficiency when it comes to leasing. Here, he says, pairing automation with human touch solutions can save the day. It’s not a one or the other solution but rather a partnership that can help improve efficiencies and drive more substantial ROI.
“BetterBot for Leasing replicates your best leasing agent and gives your leasing team time back in their day by responding to and nurturing the leads at the top of the funnel. When automation nurtures a lead effectively, team members can focus on high-value tasks, such as tours, move-ins, and resident retention.”
Automation for marketing and leasing, it seems, is the future of multifamily. BetterBot says 56% of website traffic happens after property management offices have closed up for the night. It’s impossible to compete with companies whose customers have 24/7 access to answers and communication. The final argument would be simply for the loss of human touch a chatbot may have. There, again, BetterBot has a solution. Since property management teams are no longer overwhelmed with the low value, menial tasks, they can be more engaged with the prospects that have scheduled a tour, are ready to convert, and ultimately build the relationship with the resident. It’s a chance, the company says, to “infuse authenticity into customer interactions.”
Although emails likely aren’t going anywhere, software like BetterBot’s can help make old tech function better. If your email inbox is less crowded, you’ll be able to focus more on what’s in there. The logic is tough to argue with. So at Multifamily Leadership, we concede BetterBot may be right: property management teams need to stop depending on emails.
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Did you know that 300 billion emails are sent each day, but only 18% are opened? Most property management teams today are too dependent on email. Usually, they see how much time and energy email takes, but don't know how to break the cycle.