Calming Controlled Chaos with Entrata
The Problem | Maniacal Multitasking in the Leasing Office
If multifamily apartment leasing had a middle name, it would be multitasking. So says Sarah Greenough, a leasing office veteran and now chief marketing officer for Lowell, Massachusetts-based Princeton Properties. Greenough calls multitasking the nature of the beast in high-touch leasing centers that involve hundreds of people and hundreds of things all going on at the same time.
“We all want to give 100 percent of our focus and attention to the customer, but our business is one of controlled chaos with the UPS guy trying to deliver packages, a resident coming in because they lost their cat, the phone is ringing and there is a prospect waiting for a tour,” Greenough says. “No one can sit at their desk and complete a single action item from start to finish—it’s simply not doable in this industry.”
To help identify areas where productivity and efficiency might be improved in the leasing office—specifically by adding technology solutions where available—Princeton initiated a time-in-motion study. For 17 days, nine employees at four different properties tracked their every move, paying particular attention to interruptions and the associated “switching costs” of dropping one thing in order to take care of something else.
The results backed up Greenough’s controlled chaos theory: phone calls were interrupting work flow 42 percent of the time, with resident issues commanding a change in focus 19 percent of the time, and package delivery breaking the concentration cycle another 10 percent of the time. To help better prioritize all of these resident and prospect-facing demands, and hopefully provide some much needed bandwidth to Princeton leasing pros, a decision was made to invest into what Greenough calls “safety net” technologies.
The Solution | Streamlining Customer Service with Platform as a Service
“Like most multifamily firms, Princeton spends a lot of time trying to dissect all new technologies without getting obsessed with shiny toys just for the sake of having shiny toys,” says Greenough of her criteria in adopting new systems and software. “For us the core considerations of any partnership are twofold: will it improve the customer user experience and/or will it improve efficiencies and lead to more productivity at the site level.”
Since 2007, that modus operandi has often led to Princeton’s adoption of technologies and services from Property Solutions, including implementations of ResidentPortal™, ResidentPay®, Message Center™, Leasing Center™, Docu-Sign™, ResidentInsure™, and the responsive design of the firm’s ProspectPortal® community websites.
“Having a call center is an example of having a safety net and having the confidence that those leasing partners know our products and can close deals,” Greenough says. “We always want our local teams to be first. We have to acknowledge that we cannot always be first, even on the best of teams in the best of scenarios.”
While Princeton hasn’t always followed a mantra of picking up every single new technology, the firm has taken a hard look at every product launched by Entrata. “I believe that Property Solutions’ mission is similar to ours with a customer first approach and a similarity in our ethics when we are designing and applying technologies to our marketing and outreach,” Greenough says. “Ultimately we think that is a great synergy for us.”
Indeed, as Princeton looked to streamline on-site efficiencies even further as a result of its time-in-motion study, the prospect of moving to a full platform approach to leasing via Entrata Core quickly gained appeal with Greenough and her team. With miscellaneous office work accounting for nearly a third (32 percent – a full 2,800 hours) of associate time, the focus was to leverage technology to eliminate needless office work, simplify tasks and maximize team interaction with prospects and residents.
The Results | Happy Associates, Satisfied Residents, More Conversions
For Greenough, the prospect of leveraging Entrata’s dashboard design with all property management options in one software with a single log-on was in and of itself enough reason to adopt a platform approach.
As revealed by the Princeton time-in-motion study, task interruptions and associated switching costs alone can account for 40 percent of productive time. “We can’t continue to expect our site teams to log into anywhere from three to six different systems every morning and spending the day going back and forth from all of these programs depending on where the prospect is in the lease cycle,” Greenough explains. “It is confusing, it is time consuming, and anything that is relying on that many integrations is going to at some point lose some data continuity.”
The time-in-motion survey was also a reminder that all of the initiatives to automate tasks and work with marketing and technology partners who can back up on-site teams powers results at Princeton. Since moving to a larger suite of dashboard driven services including Entrata’s Leasing Center and Call Center, Princeton has seen notable improvement in both employee morale and customer satisfaction.
“Happy employees are critical to having a better environment to work in, have success in, and interact with customers in,” Greenough says, “But we look at unsexy things too, like improvements to lead conversion and traffic volume, and our customer satisfaction studies show improvements at virtually all touch points.”As a result, Greenough says “the right thing to do” is launching all of Princeton Properties communities on the platform approach to systems that are relieving the burden of redundancy and streamlining work. “We’re looking to convert all of our properties onto the Entrata dashboard with the LeasingCenter call center come first quarter of 2015.”
“At the end of the day, we want our teams focused on the customer in person on the phone and online, and Property Solutions products match our need with trying to get the right product to the right people at the right time,” Greenough says. “Productivity improves profitability, that’s really what it is all about.”
About Princeton Properties Founded in 1973, Princeton Properties offers exceptional apartment homes and fully furnished corporate housing for rent throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Georgia. With 6,000 units under management, Princeton Properties is engaged in ground-up luxury construction as well as value-add rehab and renovation. As part of a corporate effort to elevate the level of customer service provided to valued residents and guests, Princeton has adopted the Entrata platform to increase on-site productivity and efficiency for a superior customer experience.