In the spotlight of the coronavirus crisis – digital networking is in urgent demand
Coronavirus has changed many of our daily routines. Wherever it has been necessary to keep a distance this year, technical aids have come to the rescue. Many companies have been and are being forced to send their employees to work from home and to keep in contact with them via digital services, as well as organising customer contact via virtual means. The result is that, according to a recently published study from the Ifo Institute on behalf of the recruitment agency Randstad, almost two thirds of the HR managers surveyed more frequently organise virtual conferences and around 60 percent want to reduce meetings in the office and business trips. By contrast, 23 percent introduced new software for collaboration in the second quarter, and this number is rising. Other areas of life are also set to be increasingly digitised, such as education or administration.
Which opportunities and benefits arise for housing companies here?
Particularly in light of the current situation, at the height of which social interaction was almost entirely forbidden, housing companies with digital solutions had a strong set of cards. They could conserve limited personnel resources and at the same time continue providing a smooth and high-quality service even without personal contact.
The easysquare team seized on the signs of the times and, together with customers, integrated further useful additional functions into the tenant app in record time. Now, as well as the common services like service and defect reports or the option to view contracts and documents, there are new features like “my neighbourhood”. Here, users can offer or search for products and services. Whether offering help with shopping, advertising a running group or looking for a used tricycle – there has never been such an easy or efficient way to interact with neighbours and connect with local service providers.
With this integratable neighbourhood function, property managers create unique added value that scores twice right now – because during these strange times, the desire and need for solidarity, contact and exchange is greater than ever. Housing companies that actively support this are viewed in a positive light. At the same time, this is another module to enable further services for tenants via the app. But what other ways are there for landlords to use the digitisation trend for their own gain?
Figure 1: With no registration required, the tenant app in connection with the potential tenant app offers the opportunity to search among all available units and send enquiries about specific listings to the company.
“From now on everything will be digital anyway”
Even before the pandemic, the use of smartphones was significant among all age groups. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, in 2019 more than 97 percent of the age groups between 14 and 59 owned a device, while among the over-60s the figure was 77 percent. Almost all consumers who can and want to do business have access to a smartphone. And they also use them – portals and apps are used for shopping, to book trips and concert tickets, or to conduct bank transactions. The rising trend can already be foreseen in the crisis. Wherever direct contact without distancing and hygiene rules is to be avoided, digital processes will continue to come to the fore – be it for tax declarations to financial authorities, various municipal services or checking in for flights in advance.
There are already services for which it has become accepted for them to only be processed via portals. Think of application management, for example: companies explicitly request that potential new employees apply using a digital tool. Some go even further, stating that applications by e-mail or even post cannot be considered. So why shouldn’t such digital solutions also be taken advantage of when it comes to tenancy matters?
Making the tenant app obligatory?
Using a tenant app demonstrably improves business processes and also noticeably optimises the costs side. However, a usage rate of at least 10 percent in relation to the overall portfolio is required for significant savings. Many housing companies rely on voluntary use of the app, making it available as an additional offer. For some of them, this is the first attempt at operating an app, and they first want to figure out how to handle the medium. As a result, the penetration of the tenant app as the main communication channel between landlords and tenants remains far below an economic use threshold. With digitisation rates shooting up, now is the time to boost your tenant app usage rate.
How to create added value?
At PROMOS, we are convinced that increasing the usage rates must always take place through acceptance of the app amongst the tenants. It is therefore not sufficient to simply prescribe the app as the only input channel for tenants. However, this can be useful as an additional measure to push a good and beloved app even further. But how do you get to this stage? We believe that a mixture of marketing, intuitive and simple operation and – most important of all – significant added value for tenants is the solution. For example, the app could already be advertised when concluding a rental agreement, with the tenant being invited to download the tenant app. In principle, it would also be possible to set re-letting in motion using a potential tenant app. In the case of digitised marketing of a vacant or new apartment, real-estate portals or the website would recommend downloading a potential tenant app to be used by those who are potentially interested in renting. In this app, the apartment would be shown via sketches, 3D images and inspection videos as well as important details such as the rent price, deposit and contact information. If a contract is concluded, the potential tenant is seamlessly switched to a potential tenant and all services for tenants are available. Our experience has also shown that the continuous advertising of the app or temporary campaigns such as Easter or Christmas competitions have powerful effects on user activity within the app.
In addition to marketing campaigns, the app should provide significantly improved service compared with the conventional input channels. As soon as users realise that their concerns are processed faster and their problems resolved better via the app, acceptance will automatically increase even without obligatory use. In this context, it is particularly important to pay attention to the design of the app.
For this reason, we focus on the following questions in our projects:
- Which issues are our tenants most concerned about?
- Which problems can we resolve with the app?
- How would I personally want to operate an app?
Ultimately, it’s about gaining maximum acceptance for the app among tenants so that both sides benefit to the best possible extent: your service employees because their workload is reduced through streamlined processes and your tenants because they feel they are in good hands. Innovative and progressive at all times.
Professional Product Manager