It’s Time to Take a People-First Approach to Technology
Property management is a service industry that hinges on personalized interactions. In 2020, many companies accelerated tech adoption to stay afloat, opening the door for future solutions, such as artificial intelligence, that can transform the industry. However, companies must find the balance between convenience and personalization. Any solution must enhance the customer and employee experience, which requires taking a people-first approach.
Design your technology around the employee experience
Technology shouldn’t be about replacing people. Customers still want to talk to a human being, especially when they’re emotional or the matter is urgent. Recently, a number of companies have removed the option to speak to someone via phone, which is a huge mistake. In a recent Vox article, Michelle Shell, visiting assistant professor of operations and technology management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, notes, “Eliminating human contact when people are feeling anxious causes them to be dissatisfied with their own decision-making, even if they’re making good decisions.”
While it’s certainly more expensive to hire people than it is to implement technology, people will always be the backbone of your company. Instead of looking for ways to use technology to cut back on your workforce, use technology to find efficiencies, streamline operations, and automate menial tasks to free up their time so they can focus on your customers.
Don’t view technology as a silver bullet
Technology is a high priority for most companies, but it’s important to figure out what you want—and actually need—before ponying up the cash. Before you buy, have a clear plan that outlines your goals and how any new solution will get you there. But remember, technology alone won’t solve your problems and the latest software won’t automatically unlock results. You have to change and grow to get results from your tech stack, which means designing and iterating your processes to work with your tools.
In addition, be mindful of the stage your company is in and find the balance between what will serve you well today and in the future. It may be tempting to purchase a number of one-off solutions, but with every new tool, you open yourself up to potential security or compliance issues. Often, a suite of integrated solutions can put processes and guardrails around security and compliance, which can be helpful as you scale. However, you’ll have to decide if you need a best-of-breed solution or if you can settle for good enough.
Managing spend is important, especially during periods of economic uncertainty, so you have to choose your providers and technology wisely. For example, generative AI is all the rage now, but is there an actual use case for your organization and does it integrate into your overall strategy? Anything you adopt should function cohesively and in a flywheel motion. If you rush to adopt new solutions and don’t know how they fit into your overall strategy, they can easily become a cog in the wheel.
Know your demographics
Every community is different, which means they’ll have unique technology needs. One demographic may be interested in adopting your new online tool or using a chatbot for help, while others won’t. For example, if you serve a number of active adult 55+ communities, you need to think about how tech proficient your users are before deploying customer-facing tools. About 85% of people over 65 want to talk to someone over the phone, and a mere 16% say they will use chatbots or apps to communicate with a business. Before you phase things out or in, be sure to get a pulse on what your customers want and design a process that works for them and you.
Technology can be an incredible asset to any property management company. However, when viewed as a replacement for people you risk compromising the personalized service that your customers have come to expect. By taking a people-first approach to technology, you can still stay ahead of the adoption curve while creating a better customer—and employee—experience.
By: David Galy, MBA
Sparta Services LLC
Sparta Services: A next-generation Microsoft MSP offering services on Microsoft 365, Azure, SharePoint, Power Platform, Zero Trust Security, and proactive help desk support. Based in Seattle, WA, supporting clients globally. Our strategic, collaborative, and solution driven approach sets us apart.