Digital leasing still requires a human touch and it is essential to find ways to infuse the human element into virtual leasing.
Digital leasing has revolutionized the way the real estate industry operates. Fading are the days of traditional leasing when prospects had to physically visit properties to see the apartment and make a decision. The entire process can be completed digitally, and prospects are taking advantage of these tools. Prospects will explore online and acquire extensive knowledge about a property before reaching out.
Leasing teams can shine in the digital leasing process by leveraging technology to enhance the customer experience.
From the initial inquiry to move-in day, there are countless opportunities to create a seamless and engaging journey for prospective renters. Prospects can tour apartments virtually, examine floor plans and sign a lease online without setting foot in a community until move-in day. While digital leasing offers many benefits, including convenience and flexibility, it doesn’t nullify the human touch and how it functions as an essential component of leasing in today’s digital environment.
The Human Touch and Blending Teams With Tech
Leasing teams play a crucial role in building trust and rapport with potential residents. It allows leasing professionals to understand a prospect’s needs, address concerns and provide recommendations. Without the human touch, the leasing process can feel impersonal and robotic, potentially deterring prospects from committing to a lease. It’s essential to find ways to infuse the human element into virtual leasing.
Today’s leasing teams play a vital role in bridging the gap between virtual and human interaction. According to the new 2024 NMHC & Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey, half of residents prefer a digital renewal, and yet still 50% would prefer personal assistance. The goal is to provide everyone the ability to ask questions when answers are unavailable online, meeting the needs of residents and prospects regardless of their personal preferences.
Whatever solutions your teams employ for leasing, communication strategies need to be adapted to ensure that they are providing a smooth experience. This includes being responsive to inquiries, providing information about the property and addressing any concerns. By doing so, leasing teams can create a sense of trust and reliability, even in a virtual or hybrid setting.
Policies and Training for Digital Leasing
While automation makes things easier, faster and more convenient in theory, the ability of teams to respond and troubleshoot can make all the difference when things don’t go as planned.
To ensure a seamless experience, owners and operators must establish clear policies for digital leasing. These policies should distinctly outline the procedures and guidelines for virtual tours, lease signings and communication. Policies should also address any potential challenges that may arise in the digital leasing process and provide solutions to overcome them. By having well-defined policies in place, companies can set expectations for both their leasing teams and prospects, creating a more efficient and transparent experience.
Procedures won’t be effective unless teams are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle digital leasing.
This requires comprehensive training programs that focus on understanding the platforms, effective communication techniques and problem-solving in a digital environment. Numerous online options are available for digital leasing training, allowing employees to learn at their own pace, offering quizzes to test their knowledge and, most importantly, keeping your teams up-to-date on the latest technology and trends. Companies can also utilize video conferencing tools for training and brainstorming, making sure all teams are on the same page on policies and procedures.
Regular assessments should be conducted to evaluate the leasing team’s performance and identify areas for improvement. By investing in training and assessment, owners and operators can ensure that their leasing teams are well-prepared to provide excellent service at the most valuable touchpoints in the digital leasing process.
Mystery shopping is also a valuable assessment tool for the quality of prospects’ digital leasing experiences. Acting as prospects searching online, mystery shoppers can offer insights into the leasing team’s performance and identify areas where teams can enhance the digital experience. Companies can also use surveys with prospects to gain an even greater understanding of their point of view. The feedback obtained from mystery shops and surveys can then be used to further enhance the digital leasing process in conjunction with leasing agents. These mystery shops and surveys also offer an opportunity to ensure that onsite teams are properly executing company policies.
The Digital Leasing Toolbox
The digital and in-person experiences must complement one another, providing potential residents with a smooth process that provides the contact and information needed at the right moments.
Video Tools — Zoom, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime are examples of must-have video-conferencing technology. During virtual tours with a leasing agent, prospects still have the opportunity to ask questions. They can also speak with leasing teams face-to-face, blending the human touch with tech to create trust. For those who prefer to tour on their own, 3D cameras can create an immersive walkthrough of apartment homes, amenities and all areas of the property at a time that is most convenient for potential residents. This still provides a general feel for what it would be like to live in the community.
Artificial Intelligence — AI and chatbots help collect the initial information about prospects, answering basic questions and scheduling virtual or in-person tours. Because not all queries can be handled by AI, the ability to connect prospects to leasing agents is a must. If people are looking after hours, then an option for leaving a voice or text message is needed.
Cloud-Based Document Management — Systems like Dropbox and Google Drive enable teams to securely store and share all leasing-related documents in a central location. This eliminates the need for paperwork and reduces the risk of lost documents. Document management can also be used to allow residents to sign leases and share other pertinent leasing items.
By appreciating the influence of digital leasing and the significance of human interaction, owners and operators can craft a quality experience for potential residents regardless of what avenue they choose. Residents and prospects are unique individuals with distinct desires in their living situations. Technology plays a practical and efficient role in disseminating information, but it is crucial to remember that personalization relies on the human touch.
About the Author:
Kendall Pretzer brings more than 30 years of experience in property management and supplier solutions to her role as the Chief Executive Officer at Grace Hill. Kendall joined the team in 2018 after Grace Hill purchased her company.
About Grace Hill
Grace Hill provides industry-leading SaaS technology solutions designed to make a positive impact in real estate and improve the lives of people where they work and live. Harnessing years of real estate experience and the understanding that people are better together, Grace Hill helps owners and operators increase property performance, reduce operating risk and grow top talent.