funnel lease CEO, on how to prepare for and thrive for the inevitable changes that artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing to multiple families.
With every new technology shift or macro change, there are winners and losers. Artificial intelligence (AI) is no exception. In multi-family tech folklore, there is a persistent belief that the AI winners will only be large companies, and the AI losers will be smaller companies such as leasing teams. I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
For small to medium-sized operators, if you think AI is only for the big operators and the public companies, you’re missing out on the opportunity to let technology help level the playing field. Without taking advantage of current technology, you risk being disturbed by major operators (and becoming their asset rather than their competition). That may sound terrible, but I believe that when smaller operators want to prove the value and higher costs to their customers than larger competitors, better customer service (ie responding in a timely manner) is vital. So if your business has to choose between cost, speed, or quality (and cost is off the table), you know where to focus.
For leasing professionals, you should see AI as a colleague and advocate. If you do, you are in the best position to use it to win. Does AI sometimes lead to smaller teams through attrition and attrition? Yes. Does it also work hand-in-hand with team members to enable them to do more with less and automate the parts of their work they hate? Absolute.
As we know, the arrival of automated machines in Ford factories meant that some jobs became irrelevant. Nevertheless, Ford remained one of the largest employers in the state of Michigan. How does this compare to multi-family housing? As in the Ford factory, when AI is used in multiple families, it means that some tasks take longer and are more expensive to do manually.
So if you’re a team member who prides itself on being the first to respond to every lead as quickly as possible without spending the time coming up with the perfect response, you may have more success focusing on closing that lead once they are warmed up. Shutting down is a skill that AI isn’t designed for, but fast response time is. So focus your time and attention on working with, rather than competing with, AI. I personally have no goal or belief that AI will replace humans, as I believe both are necessary for our industry; technology can be used to help lease professionals and increase their impact.
The truth is that it is inevitable that automated communication will come into play in the apartment rental process as it is incorporated into every other ecommerce experience. Let’s look back to look ahead. When I joined the multifamily industry in 2012, less than a quarter of the tenants paid their rent online and many operators thought they had to accept paper checks indefinitely.
Today, through working with many of the largest property management companies, I know that over 90% of their residents pay their rent online. It is clear that the technological adoption of the industry was increasing.
I believe the same growth will happen for AI-based conversations. It will be part of any apartment community in the future and learning how to use it will be critical for multi-family professionals.
Here are three ways you can join the winning-with-AI side.
1. Take care of the transfer and the relationship.
The primary AI task within multi-family homes is to answer initial questions. And as we’ve all experienced in our own lives, the questions you have or the help you need can eventually escalate to a human customer service representative.
At my company we have seen that AI can handle about 86% of the first questions; and for the 14% of questions that need a little more help, leasing professionals are there to help. Ensuring a smooth handover between machines and teams ensures a scalable and excellent customer service experience.
Multi-family AI can be optimized to plan a tour. But if a potential resident asks about the wall color of specific rooms or something complex and your AI solution can’t answer that question, now’s a good time for a leasing professional to step in and say, “The wall color in all our apartment houses is beige, and you are welcome to paint it any color. Customer service should rejoice and cherish the relationship. When an incoming lead from the AI solution is escalated to the leasing team, the relationship should be the top priority .
2. Focus on the AI happy path.
AI is not your high-EQ leasing team and your leasing team is not the hyper-productive always-on-AI solution. Instead of focusing on every single scenario that could arise on a typical day on location, you can use AI to focus on the repeatable, scalable happy path. As in the example above, it could be prospects to plan a tour themselves. Then let your experienced and skilled leasing professionals take care of the curveballs instead of the repetitive tasks that steal their time from valuable interactions.
3. Remember that coffee is for closers.
AI is no closer in multi-family homes. In our industry, it gets incredibly nuanced and technical at the bottom of the funnel. While automation built into online leasing solutions removes much of the manual hassle from leasing teams and streamlines the process, there will always be escalations from AI to the leasing agent during the application phase. This is when a real coffee drinking human being is needed to lead that to an approved and signed lease. Be sure to hone these closing skills.
Join the AI side.
From inquiry to leasing, AI is here to partner with your leasing professionals. When AI is deeply integrated into your tech solutions rather than being used as a tech band-aid slapped on top of individual solutions, it can help you gather information to build a richer picture of your tenants, the relationship with potential tenants and reveal patterns in tenant behavior. At the end of the day, there will be winners and losers in AI adoption, but if you follow my advice, you can be on the winning side.