When A Mass Email Won’t Cut It: How Property Managers Keep In Touch In Sensitive Times
The coronavirus pandemic has put multifamily property managers in a double bind. Property managers need to be in closer communication with their tenants than ever before, but with staff homebound, they are unable to host any resident conversations face-to-face.
“The playbook they’ve always had doesn’t work under COVID,” said Michael Baker, a sales executive at Notifii, a proptech company that builds communication platforms for property managers. “They don’t always know how to host these conversations digitally.”
Property managers may need to update residents on amenity closures and virus protocols, or hold uncomfortable conversations with tenants who might not be able to pay their rent each month, all from afar. Plus, tighter budgets may mean that property managers may be tackling a heavier workload with a smaller staff.
Even highly sophisticated property management companies may only have one means of digital communication in emails that get blasted out to every single resident with updates on building operations. But these messages can be impersonal and cumbersome. It’s no surprise that crucial information often goes ignored by residents who are inundated with emails as is, Baker said.
To keep residents informed, Baker said, communications need to be approachable, colloquial and above all, brief.
“People want to know that there’s a human on the other side of this message,” he said. “That’s why we believe in text messaging.”
While Notifii first gained traction in the real estate marketplace as a platform to help multifamily communities handle packages, one of the company’s other products has become even more coveted in the coronavirus era: Connect, a platform that lets property managers handle and automate both mass and individual resident communication through text messaging and emails.
Some of Notifii’s largest users are hosting hundreds of individual conversation threads with residents for maintenance requests or renewals. Having all those conversations in a single hub can let property managers seamlessly swap in and out to handle resident issues.
With the push of a button, property management teams can send out notifications to residents in their entire portfolio of buildings, or to specific subsets, like residents on a floor that is scheduled for a cleaning. Often, Baker said, short text messages communicate important information much more quickly and effectively than emails, let alone outdated methods like posting paper flyers on every door in a community.
“There is an appropriate time for email, of course, and Notifii offers an app, but there is definitely something to be said for not making your residents jump through hoops to hear what you have to say,” Baker said. “Text messaging is among the most direct ways to do that.”
Establishing a texting relationship with residents has become especially important as more Americans have struggled to pay their rent. Often, property managers are hosting very sensitive conversations to work out payment plans with residents. In these cases, Baker thinks, texting can feel more relaxed and more personal than email, which can feel cold.
“The more human those conversations can be, the better,” Baker said.
Having a software platform track conversations about rent collection can also help property managers know more about their residents’ lived experience. Baker said that Notifii users can see if a resident has opened emails or texts asking them to complete their rent payments.
“If the resident has opened the messages and ignored them, it may be time to be more firm in your communication,” Baker said. “But maybe you see that the resident hasn’t actually opened any of the messages. Then maybe you organize a phone call or knock on their door to make sure they actually know they’re behind.”
One of Baker’s clients, which operates over 5,000 units across 26 multifamily communities in the Midwest, had been using Notifii’s package tracking feature for over a year. In March, the client realized that its current client communication platform wasn’t up to the task of handling the hundreds of threads that the coronavirus response had produced, from rent collections to whether the pool was open.
“There were so many updates and questions from residents because the engagement wasn’t high from their emails,” Baker said. “We showed them our Connect platform and they fell in love with the product, and it’s running in all their communities now.”
Property managers can also automate Notifii’s platform to send messages, for instance, to residents whose lease expires in two months, to gauge whether they would like to renew. By engaging residents early and automatically, Baker said, the platform can increase renewals and retention while eliminating work for the property management team.
Baker recounted how one Notifii client, Tamarack Property Management, which operates a 500-unit residential complex in Billings, Montana, was keeping in touch with its residents by posting letters to every door in the community. The task of packing envelopes and taping them to doors would take the entire Tamarack team a day or more, and had become unsustainable. The switch to Notifii streamlined the all-day process down to minutes.
With all that time back, the team could focus on tasks that add more value, like interfacing with potential new residents. As the coronavirus makes Americans rethink where they live, Baker said, property managers will have to work especially hard to bring in new residents and keep their rent rolls full. When it comes to bringing in new residents, though, the same wisdom of communication applies.
“Especially in these times when things are so confusing and turbulent, you have to keep open communications with prospects, just like you do with current residents,” Baker said. “If they know there are real people on the other side of the table, they’ll be reassured that they’re going to have a smooth transition into living in your community.”
This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and Notifii. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.