Staffing shortages. It’s one of the top issues on the minds of property owners and managers as the multifamily industry struggles to balance finding the right team, with an ever-increasing list of demands and responsibilities for leasing agents.
Leasing offices continue to shrink as the workload piles on, and it has become difficult for operators to attract qualified candidates to fill positions. Those jobs remain empty. The work keeps coming. And the spiral continues.
So how do we put an end to it? Respage co-founder and CEO Ellen Thompson has a few ideas.
Thompson appeared on the Apartments On The Go podcast with hosts Courtney Smith and Matt Ruedlinger, where they discussed the future of the industry, and the technology that could be the secret to ending staffing shortages for good.
Thompson knows AI leasing
For 20 years Thompson has been at the forefront of technology advances in the multifamily industry, specifically in marketing and artificial intelligence. In 2017 her company introduced the first multifamily chatbot with Natural Language Processing. Flash forward five years, and Respage has introduced a truly omnichannel AI leasing assistant, ResMate, that may be the secret to relieving the industry’s staffing shortages.
During their discussion Smith recalled a conversation with an assistant property manager where she asked, ‘What is the most important part of your job?’ The manager’s response: ‘Everything.’”
Stories like this are not uncommon for on-site teams, as the workload has led to burnout and eventual resignation for many skilled multifamily workers.
“The No. 1 reason people are exploring AI right now is to make sure that staff experience is better,” Thompson said on the podcast. “We are burning our on-site teams out. But by having a bot, you could eliminate 50-60 hours of time per month, which is all pretty boring stuff anyway.”
Bots like ResMate lean on natural language processing and automation to provide a human-like experience for the prospect while reducing the workload for the on-site team, like emailing or chatting with residents online.
How much time does it really save?
Smith speculated that the time saved by introducing a bot could improve the working environment and employee output if agents have more time to devote to tasks.
“What we are seeing is people who have a little bit more free time are focusing on resident retention, events, and just being able to have a 9-5 job with no overtime,” Thompson added. “The time swapped out is making the job more manageable and allowing folks to prioritize the human aspect.”
This in turn leads to an increase in employee and resident retention as the leasing staff can focus on building relationships and providing a better community experience.
“I think we just unlocked the newest trend in multifamily,” Ruedlinger said, arguing that companies with AI leasing agents will soon begin to attract better qualified candidates. “The AI automaton is limiting headaches…For me that is a benefit. It’s peace of mind going into work.”
Thompson agreed, stating that she recently interviewed a candidate for a position who inquired about how Respage supports its team (thankfully, she had a good answer). But that got her thinking about the employee experience.
“Your better (candidates) are going to want to have a professional experience where they can grow those high level skills,” Thompson said. “Let’s face it, answering an email or scheduling a tour is not very exciting, but getting better at running events, or improving retention rates, or making sure that maintenance is flowing—that’s more high level, more interesting, and it’s a better career path for people.”
Not everyone is ready for AI leasing
Of course, there are industry professionals who doubt the benefits of AI leasing and prefer the human touch at their properties. But Thompson believes more people will eventually make the leap to an automated leasing office as employees demand a better environment.
“I think in the future people on site are going to choose employers based on the technologies that make their jobs more meaningful,” Thompson said. “My prediction is in 3 years we will be there. Your better leasing agents are going to become concierges, they’re going to have a different skill set, and they are going to demand that technology support.”
If you’re interested in hearing more from Thompson about the Acceptance of Automation, check out the Apartments On The Go podcast, here.