Smart and efficient – KoWo Erfurt's digital communication with tenants
Digital tenant communication by app is the perfect response to social changes in the way we communicate and also allows various processes to be carried out more efficiently. Erfurt-based Kommunale Wohnungsgesellschaft mbH (KoWo), an innovative pioneer in the real estate business, is also benefiting from this win-win situation: technical innovation is meeting customers' needs while the company makes efficiency gains at the same time.
Kommunale Wohnungsgesellschaft mbH, the largest housing company in Erfurt, is wholly owned by the city. In the free state of Thuringia, the company has around 14,000 rental units, making it one of the most significant lessors of housing there. Alongside social engagement and social responsibility, KoWo places particular value on efficient processes, which it is achieving by simplifying and automating work processes and with the aid of a powerful IT system. The easysquare mobile app developed by PROMOS, which features KoWo Erfurt's corporate design, has been in use since May of this year. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded free of charge from app stores. A web application is naturally also available on KoWo's home page for those tenants who still prefer to use a PC.
Prior to this, the SAP® ERP environment was transferred to the PROMOS data centre. In addition to transferring and archiving the existing documents, the company has additionally transferred the old tradesmen’s interface, together with all existing orders and service entries, to the easysquare tradesmen portal including a credit note procedure. The transition allowed the company to develop and introduce additional innovative solutions, particularly in the area of mobile processes, as well as to improve communication with tenants and business partners.
“The technological foundations for digitisation have thus been laid. We have now expanded our range of services with a tenant app, while at the same time simplifying business processes. It was particularly important to us to achieve this without complex data transfer operations and expensive configuration of interfaces. This increases efficiency and stability, cuts costs and improves customer support,” says Thomas Brösicke, Head of IT and Innovation Management at KoWo, as he describes the various advantages.
Going live in record time
It took very little time to implement the project with its basic functions such as defect reports, contracts and services thanks to the implementation and minimal modification of the simple and streamlined easysquare standards. Innovative changes will be made to the standard product over the coming months to provide incremental enhancements. This is where KoWo and easysquare complement each other perfectly – development is currently under way for some KoWo ideas.
Even in its current guise the app's many functions and ease of use are impressive in many ways:
All contract-related documents and master data from the SAP® system are available in the “Contracts” service. For example, tenants can view their utility statement or general contract and property master data here. In this way, tenants can keep track of the contractual relationship and all the master data concerning them. Scanned documents, for example from the tenant’s file, can be accessed in the app at any time. Tenants are also notified in good time of all important appointments such as for maintenance work and drinking water analyses.
Defect reports can be sent directly from the app to the relevant customer advisor: assignment is fully automatic. Required information on the apartment or property is generated automatically from the stored master data. The defect report is created by uploading a photo with a brief description. As soon as the tenant has sent the order, it is processed in the KoWo's central SAP® system. Defects that affect all tenants in a building can be especially highlighted and made available to all the tenants involved. This cuts down on duplication of reports – for example, if the heating system breaks down, the tenants are kept fully informed of how things are progressing.
The “Service” category allows tenants to request and manage changes to master data and approvals online. Master data can cover things such as tenant name changes, new contact details or a change in account data. Approvals relate to matters such as keeping pets or planned modifications within the apartment. The processing status of the requests can also be viewed in the app.
Thomas Brösicke, Head of IT/Innovation Management, KoWo
The integrated chat function allows tenants and KoWo employees to discuss defect reports and service requests. Chat logs are archived together with the report and can therefore be accessed at any time.
Data protection requirements are naturally adhered to: data is transferred via an encrypted connection and correct identification of the tenant during registration is ensured using two-factor authentication. Tenants can only make full use of the app once the activation code has been scanned: this can be sent by post or handed over in person, for example at the tenants' social get-together.
Saving time and money. a feel-good experience for tenants
For tenants, the benefits of using an app for communication regarding their apartment are obvious. Apps fit today’s communication habits and enable tenants’ needs to be met quickly. Direct online reporting and up-to-date information on the report status give tenants greater security and transparency, save them having to keep enquiring how things are progressing and make it much easier to contact the housing company.
The workload required to deal with defects is reduced considerably thanks to the reduction in enquiries and the fact that reports are recorded centrally in the SAP® system. Initiating associated system-integrated processes offers particular potential to enhance efficiency and quality for the landlord. Processes can provide employees with a specified procedure including assistance in dealing with the case. This ensures consistent, faster handling of the problem and even allows customer reports to be processed automatically. The individual stages and correspondence for processing can be adapted to suit the individual requirements of the housing company.
The individual stages and correspondence for processing can be adapted to suit the individual requirements of the housing company.
Telephone enquiries from tenants take up a great deal of working time for housing companies and property managers. Furthermore, sending letters also generates considerable costs. The transfer of self-service tasks to tenants saves telephone and postage costs and company resources whilst also improving process flows.
“It is now even faster, simpler and more convenient for our tenants to contact us and they can communicate their concerns around the clock. Initial experience and feedback from our tenants and colleagues is very positive,” concludes Thomas Brösicke.
“We have used a number of methods to inform our tenants about the new app and we have plenty more ideas for how we can achieve even greater reach. This is the only way to maximise the benefits of the app for both the tenants and for us. We are particularly grateful for the support of our tenants' associations, who have given us advice and support during the creation and introduction of the app. The fruits of this are already apparent. Processes from the mobile app help to improve customer satisfaction. The addition of further services to the app will create greater added value for our tenants and employees.”