Sep 16

Checks & Balances: New Options to Collect Payments

Posted by: Entrata | Category: Company Announcements,Newsletters,Residents,Summit

The 2016 Entrata Summit, held September in Park City, marked one year since the company announced its new ResidentPortal mobile app, which would give residents the ability to pay rent by voice or photo, from any mobile device. Since its official launch in December of 2015, announced Entrata’s VP of ResidentPay, Kate Hampton, the app has surpassed 120,000 users, over 800,000 sessions, and achieved a strong five-star rating in the app store.

“The insights we have been collecting over this period are convincing us more and more every day that electronic payments is the only logical path to follow to achieve sustainable business performance,” said Hampton. Although payments in the multifamily industry haven’t changed much in recent decades, Hampton asserted that the old ways of collecting rent are fast becoming outdated, if they’re not already obsolete.

For example, as early as seven years ago, Laurel Zacher, VP of marketing at Weidner Apartment Homes remembers working a lease-up in the Midwest. “Seven years ago,” said Zacher, “and not a single resident had a checkbook! You’ve got to get used to this new world pretty fast when that’s happening.”

Lincoln Property Company was just looking for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs. “Our properties were spending so much time making copies, entering payments into the system, driving up to 30 minutes to deposit checks in the bank,” said Nicole McLemore, Lincoln’s national special projects manager. “We estimated we had team members spending two to three days, sitting in the back office doing payments.”

Both Lincoln and Weidner stepped up to beta test Entrata’s ResidentPortal app and encourage online payments on properties. And both saw significant reductions in fraud, accounting errors, and time spent on payment processing.

“We found a direct correlation with app adoption and a reduction in accounting errors,” said Zacher. “With problems like transposed numbers and wrong accounts, for example, we’ve achieved a rate of less than 1/1000 on properties with high adoption. Accounting accuracy and attention to detail is so important because that’s where the money is.”

“To our residents, it’s an inconvenience if they don’t have online payments,” said McLemore. “They love being able to take a picture for a payment, and we love it because they’re not entering the wrong account number then blaming us for the NSF.”

The move to online payments, and specifically mobile payment methods, has been growing across verticals according to Jason Vince, channel development manager at Vantiv, on of the largest payment processors in the U.S. “Mobile app usage has increased by five times since 2011 and in that same time desktop usage has remained stable,” he explained. “It’s an evolution on the internet and our mobile devices, and it’s only a matter of time before it takes over payments. Everywhere you go you can pay with your phone. I can add more money to my parking meter with my phone. If you don’t provide a mobile solution, your business is going to go elsewhere.”

Hampton reports that the Entrata ResidentPortal app is experiencing high levels of engagement with users. While a user could easily pull up the app and pay rent in a matter of seconds, renters are sticking around after the transaction and using the app to interface with their properties. Analytics show an average of just under 2 1/2 minutes spent on the app per session, and users are accessing just over six screens per session as well. They’re spending time browsing on the app and leaving great reviews.
But Entrata’s thinking bigger. Hampton announced in the Summit session several new options for ResidentPay and ResidentPortal users and a new partnership with Visa for card transactions.

“For eight months we’ve been quietly running a pilot program to empirically prove that changes to specific regulations would lead to increased card acceptance, creating a win-win-win environment for the card brand, our clients, and their residents,” explained Hampton. “We proved what we set out to prove and as a result, we’re now able to offer ResidentPay users variable Visa convenience fees, separate debit pricing, the elimination of the Visa phone authorization requirement, and Visa convenience fees for recurring payments.”

These concessions, while currently unique to Entrata and one other provider, are what our industry needs to progress payments and keep up with renter expectations. Hampton also demonstrated new functionality within Facebook Chat and Amazon Echo, showing how residents are able to interact with these platforms to check rent balance, make a payment, or submit a maintenance request using artificial intelligence responses.

“These demos consist of common ResidentPortal functions,” said Hampton, “but the options here are truly limitless. We have a million ideas and the best dev team on the planet.”

For more information about new payment functionality, contact your Customer Success Manager.