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3 Proptech Execs' Take On Customer Support In A New Age


As COVID-19 touches increasingly more lives, commercial real estate's leadership is grappling with how to not only be present and communicative for their teams, but for their customers as well.

Often, proptech startups are lean by design and accustomed to iterating in order to survive, which gives them agility — an advantage that bigger companies may hope to emulate in times of dramatic change. SelectLeaders spoke to three companies about how they're adapting moment to moment.

"During these difficult times, we find that customers and prospects are not thinking about anything to do with our product offering, but rather, things that can help them best navigate the direct personal and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," Actuate CEO Sonny Tai said. 

Tai's security camera firearm detection technology company is grappling with the same challenges as companies around the world, quickly devising a plan to support both the company's employees and its property-owner clients in the uncertain period ahead. Actuate leadership deliberated over what the company’s COVID-19 customer outreach would be. 

"We have refrained from sending out a generic COVID-19 email announcement, since customers' mailboxes are likely inundated with those from other companies, but we’ve had a workshop earlier this morning brainstorming how we can best support each other and help our customers during this time," Tai said. 

Meanwhile, leadership at Avail, an end-to-end platform that provides web-based tools, education and support to independent landlords, responded by augmenting its standard offerings in order to meet the immediate needs of its users. 

"We are customizing the educational tools we provide, such as sample letters to send tenants and action steps to take related to COVID-19,” Avail CEO Ryan Coon said. "As we monitor the changes ahead, we’ll adapt our educational content and outreach to best serve both landlords and tenants with the resources they need most."

Not every company is in a position to alter its output in time to accommodate the concern of the moment. At Switch Automation, a platform that integrates building systems, equipment and data to help property owners optimize energy usage and reduce operating costs, leadership is putting their team's agility to work.

Switch Vice President of Operations Patti Mason said the company, accustomed to remote work, has been able to continue day-to-day work nearly undisrupted and is now focused on helping its customers leverage Switch features like remote control of utilities and automated utility scheduling in order to help reduce energy consumption and lower costs as the pandemic empties office buildings across customers' portfolios.

When it comes to their broader community, Mason said that in addition to planning webinars to brainstorm solutions to COVID-19’s challenges to the industry, Switch is also taking its support for local organizations — like regional CRE sustainability meet-up Rocky Mountain Green and the Urban Land Institute Colorado — online, to forums like LinkedIn.

Like Switch, Tai's team at Actuate is asking not just what customers need, but in what ways they can make a broader positive impact. 

“I think the best way for us to move forward is to be good community citizens — practice social distancing, promote sound disease mitigation advice and offer our time and resources to assist those in need,” Tai said. “After all, we are a safety and security technology company, and right now, the COVID-19 pandemic poses as much of a threat to the welfare of our communities as gun violence. We’re going to do our part to fight it.” 

Related Topics: Career Development, Top Talent