By Zuzanna Chmielewska, Brand Lead, houzen
The pandemic is straining Build to Rent operations. Being a people heavy operation, this unfortunately also becomes a roadblock in times of crisis, as it lacks the necessary tools to digitally deliver customer excellence.
The industry is now recognising the need to invest in a digital ops stack that is functional, transparent and customisable – which keeps various teams vertically aligned. This is exactly the tech that many Build to Rent providers have been mentioning at conferences as ‘nice to have’ or ‘future solutions’. Build to Rent operators should urgently mitigate the negative revenue impact, which per Houzen estimates, could be between 16% to 33% every month.
Tech: less is more
The key in the current situation is not to sign up for ten client-facing apps, which have separate dashboards and reporting. The smart solution is to use one or two apps but pick the ones that can either communicate with each other, or provide a snapshot of operations in various business verticals. Otherwise, you could spend up to 15 hours a week simply compiling data to create reports from various software’s and apps, which taking into consideration an average of £70,000-80,000 annual Analyst’s salary, can turn into a substantial month-on-month cost.
Good organisation and fast communication will be vital in the upcoming months – hence teams should start testing communication platforms to see what best suits their customer requirements and team culture. For example, a few operators have started using Slack and Microsoft teams for internal communication, and HubSpot for customer management.
Dynamic pricing makes its entrance in the UK
An example of a feature that many in the Build to Rent community have been speaking about – but nobody adopted in the UK – is dynamic pricing. Available due to daily live reporting and based on data-based triggers that propose an ‘optimum price’, this feature has been common in hospitality for years.
It has made its appearance in the US Build to Rent market for a couple of years and has just been introduced by houzen in the UK – as a feature within houzen data labs software. It compares the market structure, prices and competitors daily, and proposes an optimum price, together with a report on daily ‘Willingness To Pay’ for a particular unit.
Booking without in-person viewing
A fully digitalised ops stack allows for efficient remote working while still being able to deliver quality (video) viewings and quality customer journey handling, without the customer realising any difference from an otherwise offline interaction.
According to Rightmove, between mid-April (when lockdown measures were at their most severe) and mid-May (when the market activity started to resume), the number of lettings listings with virtual tours increased by 44 per cent, rising by 63 per cent when it comes to listings with videos.
Communicating within the team and the community
Getting back to normal, for any Build to Rent provider, means rebuilding the community. Because of the specifics of the virus pandemic, imposing a standard set of rules for community events in all the properties within the portfolio may be simply impossible. Some operators have introduced a way to deal with this – they crowdsource ideas and logistics from their tenants.
Using a simple form in an email or even a voting poll on social media, tenants vote for what kind of activities they feel comfortable attending. Starting from online classes, small gatherings in the guests’ lounge, DIY crafts hour lead by the on-site team, to even the concierge – the possibilities are endless.