A prospect arrives at an apartment community where he encounters a self-serve kiosk. He types in his parameters for the type of home he is seeking. A mobile, humanoid-type robot arrives at his side, asking if he has any follow-up questions.
The robot scans his ID to make sure he is who he says he is, then produces a key fob. The prospect is free to visit the apartment that fits his parameters and take a look. An iPad equipped with chatbot technology will be in the apartment home, the robot explains, in case he has any further questions while exploring the unit.
He can also use the tablet if he chooses to sign a lease on the spot via a fully automated process. Sounds like the perfect modern-day leasing process, right?
Make no mistake—advances in automation and AI technology are immensely valuable and can reshape portions of the leasing process moving forward. But something was glaring missing from the example above: the human touch. Not once did the prospect interact with a human.
Shopping for a home is a deeply personal experience. If you’re paying to park at a concert or sporting event, sure, a kiosk that spits out your parking voucher is great and convenient. But something not likely to ever change is the importance of personalization to someone shopping for his or her next apartment.
That’s not to say that automation cannot play a role in the leasing process and onsite activities in general. It certainly can, but while striking the balance of not sacrificing personalization in an extremely interactive industry. Automation should complement the human experience rather than replace it. Look at automation like Goose from Top Gun, Sam from Casablanca, Chewbacca from Star Wars or even Rob Gronkowski to Tom Brady—something that provides amazing sidekick value.
Automation becomes increasingly valuable in a stretched labor market, where onsite associates are already loaded to the max. It can help augment tedious processes to enable associates to maintain their trademark service levels. Essentially, it can empower teams to do more with less.
The examples of automation have been well documented , from automated email follow-ups to prospects at opportune times, the ability to transfer duplicate information through various channels so it doesn’t have to be entered more than once, to the use of chatbots to answer initial prospect questions in the early stages of the leasing lifecycle. These efficiencies are even more valuable when they can be seamlessly integrated with a community’s comprehensive operating system, enabling them to become a routine part of daily processes.
Some see AI and automation and immediately think this is designed to replace humans. In multifamily, it’s designed to help humans. As such, here’s hoping that the completely human-free leasing experience is never to come.