Welcome to 2020, the year of Customer Experience.

2019 was an interesting year for anyone working (living, and breathing) in property management and real estate.

We saw the dramatic fall of housing prices and interest rates, followed (unexpectedly) by renewed growth and recovery. Rental yields dropped in Melbourne and Sydney throughout March, which was followed by a, albeit small, market correction.

What was also witnessed was Purple Brick’s, an industry Disruptor, rise, and fall, along with some trust-less systems that came from first-pass experimentation. The expansion of brand new streams of revenue for businesses within property management, that didn’t solely come from partnerships with bond service companies and utilities, was also seen.

And we saw an increasing laser focus on CX across the board. This particular change can be seen as more mature property management businesses transition from bread and butter property management towards an asset and wealth management services offering for their clients.

And across the board, we saw an increased pinpoint focus on Customer Experience. This change is more prominent the more mature property management businesses transition to wealth management and asset services offering for their clients, from the stock bread and butter property management.

But it is not always a good year for everyone.

2019 didn’t treat everybody kindly. Most agencies discovered that digital disruption was no longer just a buzzword and instead an established reality. Inside the offices of agencies that have not been quick to adapt, are now feeling the procedural inefficiencies pinching down on them while outside the office there is an increase in expectations from landlords.

However, overall, inefficient processes, difficult market conditions, and increasing owner demands stand-out as main factors, for agencies of all sizes, that challenge and halt agency growth. But it has been clearly shown that both Customer Experience strategies and technology go a long way to helping agencies push past these difficulties.

There’s plenty more we learnt from the property management sector in 2019, that we can take into 2020.

1. Take action instead of waiting out for the market to change

While the property management industry is transitioning to a Customer Experience focused economy and environment, agencies are trying to find ways to provide their services at a higher level for the same expenses.

When this is figured out, it will be almost impossible for agencies to simply just wait out difficult market conditions. While there is still some time for agencies to start innovating and adapting to prepare for the future changes to the market, it is not much and the change needs to start now in earnest.

2. Review and Analyse your technology stack

Principals and property managers are starting to feel the burn of an overflowing, and expensive, list of technology that was scrambled together as needed throughout the business’s growth. A lot of these systems are too complex and require too much manual attention to be able to properly integrate with each other efficiently. Having to create workarounds to be able to use these systems in tangent defeats the original purpose and advantage of having these systems to begin with.

Agencies could be a lot more logical and strategic about what systems and technology help them be more cost-efficient, operationally efficient, and scale more effectively. Minimising your stack of technology while maintaining a similar efficiency is the key. Need help? Get in touch and ask some questions! We can help your agency review your systems efficiently and effectively.

3. Investigate new sources of revenue— such as charging more one-off fees to owners

Your agency should be realised as a property services firm, which means to start re-evaluating to find more sources for revenue beyond just commissions. Admin, court, let, and advertising fees? What are things you should aren’t, but should be charging for? Don’t settle for anything less than what you are worth and what you provide, start pushing more costs.

If this isn’t an option available to you, not a problem. Revenue can come from many avenues and sources. A couple of examples include Airbnb and other services alike, and partnerships (including, but not limited to, compliance and surveying). There is no limit to routes you can take. Creating this type of relationship networks take time, but pan out and are effective in the long run. When it comes to property management, it is a long game. This means that your growth and operation strategies should be as well.

We predict that in 2020, growth strategies such as partnerships and service offerings will be normalised within property management environments. It is definitely better to have these strategies earlier than later. This will put you in a much better position to competitively negotiate commissions and the like.

4. Designing a strongly focused Customer Experience strategy is key

Customer Experience (CX) is somewhat of a revolution that is growing momentum at an incredible pace. As it gains momentum new options and services that can what kind of experience your agency presents to clients.

Because of this, it is predicted that Customer Experience should be one of the main focus’ in 2020 for landlord retention and growth. It is recommended to map out a tenant and landlord’s typical process that will result in them becoming your tenant/client and what the experience therefore after would be like for them to not get left behind.

The main goal is to identify both the strengths and the weaknesses in that transitioning process. Look for what the main complaints, positive feedback, and the long term and short term fixes are. Use that to expand upon that experience in order to make it as emotionally satisfying and problem-free as possible for your customers.

Quality Customer Experience, what does it look like in property management?

Stand-out successful strategies we have seen have been focusing on:

  • Overcoming internal isolated information channels within different departments
  • Looking for a way to better the onboarding journey experience
  • Making response time quicker
  • Creating services that add new value to the business
  • Creating more, better and quicker self-service options, and
  • Offloading excessive work from property managers to allow a more meaningful customer service experience.

To do that, agencies may need to become radically more effective at managing information, and at reducing the time it takes to complete all key property management processes in the property management life cycle. That will mean a smarter investment in property management software, and it will also mean making that investment soon if they haven’t already.

Agencies need to be more effective at information management and reducing the response and completion time to complete the main priority processes within the life cycle of property management. This means there is a need to invest smartly into property management software sooner rather than later.

5. Pick people and tools with a vision for the future

Every day the pace in which the market changes increases. The valuable members of your business will be the ones that can easily plan for future changes and adapt to them quickly and easily. Innovation and motivation to adapt to new markets and technology are now a crucial personality trait and what to look out for in potential employees in 2020.

This doesn’t mean becoming redundant and handing all control over to the machine overlords. And it in no way should be. New technology and changes only allow for more room to express creativity, thoughtfulness, and to be a leading visionary no matter which rung you are on top of the career ladder. The boardroom is no longer the future. The future now lies within open-plan offices. Work is now in the imagination and hands of employees to the fullest extent.

That’s not to say technology isn’t a critical piece of the puzzle. Technology sits at the intersection of customer experience and customer service, and as such its role will be to support both. As PMs learn how to use technology to ease their mental load and admin burden will be eased.

Technology, as it currently is, sits at the junction of both customer service and experience, maintaining the role of supporting both. Property managers can use the technology to ease their mental and physical workload along with their administrative burdens.

That’s why we predict that the businesses who truly take growth seriously in the next twelve months will be looking to invest (if they haven’t already) in technology with a clear vision and strategy for the future, rather than tech that promises to do the job adequately and cheaply, for now.

Because of this, we believe that businesses who want to take growth throughout the current year seriously will be focusing heavily on technology investments along with clear strategies and visions aimed at the long term benefit of the business.

Do less. Make more. Grow more.  

2019 has ultimately revealed that technology has the power to re-evaluate and re-imagine how a business is run. Agencies that are able to and willing to make the shift will find the coming year could mean do less, make more to grow more.

\Wondering what to read next? Try our Ultimate EOFY checklist for property managers or discover what your rent roll is worth from our interview with Deon Yeo.

About Console

Console are providers of trust accounting software and end-to-end property management solutions, for property managers and agents in Australia and New Zealand.