By DuBois, Fred
Journal of Property Management , Vol. 66, No. 2
It's 2001 and spring is right around the corner. For the multifamily real estate community, that translates to moving time. At this very moment, all across your city, prospective renters are jumping on the Web to begin their search for a new apartment home. Before they make their selection, they'll want to view the floor and site plans, determine the price range, apply for the apartment and institute the required credit check--all via the Web. Of course, they'll still want to talk with the leasing agent directly about specifics, but increasingly, browser-based Web applications are making the apartment rental decision an easy one. By providing this kind of outstanding information, property managers can more readily turn prospects into residents.
The new resident can then sign up in advance for broadband internet access, utilities, telephone, renter's insurance and cable-all through a browser-based application. All that remains is for the resident to come into the office for ten minutes to sign the lease package created from the on-line application with all attachments included and pick up the keys. In the back office, the company has collected important demographic information about the resident and included that information in a data warehouse that is mined by a sophisticated OnLine Analytical Processing ("OLAP") tool tied to the property financials delivered over the Web.
The example of online customer-oriented activity for an apartment company described above would be nearly impossible with the DOS or stand-alone Windows-based software products for the real estate industry that still dominate the marketplace today. However browserbased applications are hitting the real estate technology marketplace in a big way that will significantly change a real estate company's interaction with its customers: prospects, tenants/residents, employees, suppliers, vendors and investors.
Benefits of Browser-Based Apps
For a real estate company, viewing property leasing, investor relations, property management, and accounting activities through the customers' eyes is not a new trend brought on by browser-based applications. However, these applications facilitate a more reliable, useful, and personalized interaction with all customers of a real estate company (See Chart 1).
Customer relationships can be enhanced through the use of these applications because they provide an efficient, easy to use, and reliable way for the customer to interact with the real estate company. A tenant/resident who receives one-hour service each time they submit a service order through the property Web site will feel that the company can be relied upon. If an investor gets an immediate answer to a question posted through the Web, that investor's satisfaction with the company will be increased. When a supplier sees the volume of product or service purchasing from a company increase, that supplier's openness to price reductions might be improved.
Integration of the data generated by browser-based applications as customers move through the relationship from prospect to resident/tenant is important in providing a seamless customer experience. To better handle this complicated relationship, some companies are implementing content management applications to manage the volume of online content being created and delivered to residents/tenants.
Customer loyalty also can be better maintained through the use of browser-based applications by providing timely responses to service issues, additional service offerings available through partner sites, brand consistency, and familiarity with your company's property locations in other cities.
Another factor to consider is that people using the tools delivered through browser-based applications need an easy-to-use, intuitive interface with strong "help" capabilities. Browser-based applications usually provide a more interactive "help" capability through an online software support desk and knowledge Web sites, which is a key benefit for browser-based applications. …