For decades now, data has been a vital commodity companies need to carve out a competitive advantage in their market. And this has been driving a lot of activity for businesses in every single industry, creating big leaps forward in profitability, efficiency and customer experience. But this obsession with data has brought some major headaches for both company and customer. Brock and Scott look at the issues all businesses face in getting to grips with the data opportunity, and focus on how data can make a positive difference to the world of property management.
The true value of data
In the last five years or so, the likes of Forbes and The Economist have claimed data is now the most valuable resource we have on this planet. And, in theory, this is a concept we agree with, 100%. Data is very powerful indeed and there are good reasons why companies in all industries are so focussed on it.
In a business environment where little is confidential thanks to the internet, it’s easy to replicate what the competition does. The ability to be just a fraction better at something becomes absolutely essential to business survival. Whether that’s a 1% improvement in customer experience (CX) or a supply chain that’s 1% more efficient, data can be the magic key to unlocking these improvements.
When you’re really considered and deliberate about the type of data you collect and make use of the many tools we now have access to, you can do some remarkable things to elevate your CX. Taking what you know about your customer and using it to anticipate their needs can help you to update your service to anticipate, rather than react, to those needs.
But the truth is the vast majority of companies have limited capacity to do anything meaningful with all the data they’re collecting. The amount of data harvested by the property management industry is massive but few have the tools or processes to organise and access that data in a helpful way. Instead of piling more and more into a system that’s not working, real estate businesses need to pare back their data sources and focus on being more effective and doing more with what they have.
The sheer number of digital products real estate agencies are now using makes this data challenge even harder to tackle. Most agencies will be running half a dozen separate apps to take care of tenant applications, payments, maintenance and more. Not only is the data from all these sources disconnected and disparate, it also presents potential security issues. When data sets are held outside of your operating system and protected by less stringent levels of security, the risk of a breach becomes greater.
And for industry players who can bring all their data together securely, meet the considerable cost of storing it and run it all through an intelligent analytics program, there are still more challenges to tackle. Just because a change is driven by data insights doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to add value to the customer. This is why we see examples across all industries of customisation for its own sake. Data-driven CX can sometimes do more harm than good because a company that gets it wrong can come off as being even more out-of-touch with their audience than the ones that keeps things as they are.
Privacy and prejudice
If we look at companies who are really nailing it in using data to fuel commercial success, Facebook is right up there. As one of the most data savvy companies in the world, we should be in awe of Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild. And perhaps we would be if they didn’t operate like someone creepily looking over your shoulder at everything you say and do, watch and buy. But they have hit on an easy exchange billions of people are willing to make — you get this great product for free and we get to find out pretty much everything about you and sell it to other companies. Even though many are still giving up their privacy for the right to connect on social media platforms like this, others are getting wise to the privacy privileges they’re giving up to be part of the community.
In the real estate industry, it’s worth remembering that doing things digitally may be completely new to property owners, who’ve only ever dealt with real estate paperwork they can hold in their hands. And whether we like it or not, our industry is influenced by data uses and misuses outside real estate. While the legislation doesn’t yet demand higher levels of responsibility in how we manage data, customers expect it, so we’re taking that step up regardless.
A masterclass in data magic
It’s a shame that data driven apps and systems now have a bad name. Many of the effortless experiences we take for granted in the modern world wouldn’t exist without sophisticated data and analytics. Tapping your myki card in Melbourne or your Opal card in Sydney is how we end up with a more efficient, affordable and less crowded transport system. This is just one example of how the data we share, in the right hands, can make our day-to-day lives ever more comfortable and convenient.
In the hands of another amazingly smart and successful data company, our personal information can set up experiences that look, feel and sound like magic. Disney’s whole business model relies on repeat patronage to their theme parks. When you check in at Disneyworld, you get the wristband that tracks each ride you go on and where you’re queuing in the park. Using this data, a personal message is sent to you suggesting a ride you’ll really love nearby with a shorter wait time. This is how Disney use data to great effect, creating moments that are so vivid and special for kids and families that they then fall under a powerful spell and can’t wait to return.
A recipe for better customer service
At Kolmeo we don’t see data as a magic wand for happiness. But we definitely use it as an essential ingredient for designing better customer service. Using data to make a difference to all our customers means being aware of their pain points and thinking about how we could solve these or even create moments of surprise and delight like Disney do. Based on these ideas we then consider if collecting extra data could support these improvements. Or it could be a case of bringing two separate, existing data points together.
An example of what data could do to add value for every side of our Kolmeo triangle goes like this. We know the average property owner has just the one investment property and not much cash to spare for maintenance. So what if we used data analysis to flag an increased chance of a major appliance in their property breaking down in the next 18 months? An upfront conversation about this would help them budget for repair and replacement.
Not only is this a value add for the owner, it’s likely to be a win for the tenant when a faulty appliance is repaired or replaced more quickly, perhaps even before it breaks down. A hot water system that’s upgraded in good time, won’t fail at 4.55pm on a Friday, causing maximum inconvenience to tenants and trades as well as a much heftier bill for the property owner.
This is just one example of how data could reduce friction that can come up in property management conversations and relationships. Rent reduction, for example, is always going to be a tricky conversation to have. But what if you could brief an owner in advance by sharing a visual model? A graph showing the comparative impact of a six-month vacancy and a $15 decrease in weekly rent on their overall income could prepare them for a more positive conversation and decision.
Data driven interventions like this can be a game changer for property manager, owner, tenant and even trades. The traditional path to getting repairs sorted can be a huge waste of everybody’s time. Getting three quotes is an inconvenience to trades, tenants and property managers concerned. But what if you used price data from the last 10 repairs to a leaking toilet made in the area, set a price for the job and offered it to one of your preferred trades? Better yet, you could share the job and fee to trades operating nearby via an app and so they could book themselves in on the basis of availability and proximity. Job done, with far less time and hassle for all involved.
These are just some of the data-driven efficiencies we’re dreaming up and putting into practice. And with a careful eye on making sure we always deliver value through the data we collect and how we use it, we’re on a mission to bring just a touch of magic to the property management experience for everyone in the Kolmeo triangle.