Chatbots Lift Pandemic Burdens Off Leasing Teams
With properties closed off and staff spread thinner than ever, property management and leasing teams have had their skills and determination tested by the coronavirus pandemic. As these teams have been challenged to fulfill all of their responsibilities with limited resources, they have turned to technology for help.
To continue meeting residents’ needs, property management groups are providing their leasing teams with a new communication method: digital chatbots. Chatbots, software that holds conversations with users in real time, offer the opportunity to serve renters or prospective tenants virtually, in many cases without requiring any form of live interaction from the leasing team.
As chatbots' technology has advanced, they have also specialized themselves to help with tasks like property management. BetterBot, a chatbot built for multifamily property teams, is helping to streamline the leasing process. Prospective renters can interact with a rental property via BetterBot, enabling them to gain information and schedule appointments in real time without the need to speak to a leasing agent.
Bisnow spoke with BetterBot’s Trevor Park to understand how chatbots can benefit property management groups, their leasing teams and prospective renters.
Bisnow: How has the pandemic added to the challenges facing property management teams?
Park: The pandemic hasn’t necessarily created new challenges as much as it has encouraged property management companies to approach their client-facing operations from a different perspective. Teams are beginning to embrace technologies that can help handle multiple challenges at once, such as relying on a multifamily chatbot like BetterBot.
As leasing teams have shifted to remote working, chatbots have been able to constantly handle the front line when these teams cannot.
Bisnow: What functionalities does BetterBot have?
Park: Prospects can communicate around the close with BetterBot, which can handle inquiries such as current specials, unit information and property amenities. Additionally, prospects can tour the property through any one of BetterBot's Intelligent Tour Types, with fully embedded virtual tours from Matterport, Zillow or YouTube, and syndicated property photography. It also provides a fully integrated calendar that allows prospects to schedule in-person, self-guided, video and phone tours.
Our chatbot also assists tenants after they've moved in. As we continue to build out our renter features, we are seeing more interactions with our chatbot for helping with simple solutions like connecting to their resident portal to schedule maintenance tickets to touring the neighborhood in search of restaurants and amenities through our embedded property map. We see this continuing into more avenues in the future to help with amenity scheduling, providing concierge services and other resident support.
Using BetterBot, property management teams have the potential to increase revenue, optimize their staffing, identify qualified tenants and lower their overhead.
Bisnow: Should property management companies consider downsizing their leasing teams in favor of chatbot integration?
Park: BetterBot was built on the foundation of wanting to help leasing teams gain time back to do what they do best, being human. We don't see BetterBot, or any chatbot, as a replacement for a traditional leasing team. Chatbots are designed to speed up clerical tasks, freeing up existing leasing teams to connect with current and prospective residents in person. A chatbot can help ensure the best quality leads are coming through to the property. Ideally, these leads will be ready for a tour and have all the necessary information to help them make a leasing decision prior to meeting with an agent.
Bisnow: Are prospective and current renters comfortable getting information from a chatbot instead of a leasing agent?
Park: Over 60% of consumers have said they are open to using a chatbot over speaking to a real person to ask about a product. As chatbots continue to become more advanced, that number continues to grow. A key aspect to this acceptance is transparency and accurate conversations. BetterBot's central system is built with Guided Conversation, which allows us to communicate with the prospects without the risk of error that natural language processing encounters.
Bisnow: Has the multifamily industry adopted chatbots on a widespread basis?
Park: When chatbots first started jumping into the multifamily industry, there was a great deal of skepticism because the tech was still rough and expensive to develop for property-specific information. As the technology improved, though, chatbots have become increasingly affordable and scalable for larger managers. For instance, the scalability of these bots has become increasingly easier. By leveraging BetterBot's Guided Conversation system, we have been able to create hundreds of individual chatbots in a matter of days versus months.
Bisnow: How do chatbots work? Is it the same technology as voice assistants?
Park: The Googles, Alexas and Siris of the world run on natural language processing, but studies have shown that NLP causes more frustration in the leasing journey because of the 30% error rate and common misunderstandings of simple questions.
BetterBot employs Guided Conversation instead of NLP. With more than 2,000 BetterBots active, these chatbots achieve a 98% success rate.
Bisnow: What makes BetterBot stand out from other chatbots?
Park: BetterBot was designed as a multifamily-specific chatbot, not as an add-on for another software solution. We created BetterBot as an omnichannel solution to integrate with nearly every client-facing platform, as well as other property management software. It is also fully customizable to ensure your property or company's brand is adapted and provides a seamless leasing experience. We believe it is one of the most versatile chatbot solutions available for PMCs, leasing teams and tenants alike.
This article was produced in collaboration between BetterBot and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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