Have you noticed the new branding at McDonald’s includes touch screens inside the restaurant? One may think the idea of a self-ordering system is about reducing employee costs and increasing NOI, but it actually is driven by the desire to focus on the customer’s experience. According to a Business Insider article, “A recent MSN poll suggests that most Americans prefer cashiers over automated kiosks. But automated ordering can help wait times and improve order accuracy, and it doesn’t negatively affect labor as much as some think.” The challenge for McDonald’s is many consumers believe mobile ordering and kiosks have arrived to take away jobs, ultimately saving money, however that simply isn’t true. McDonald’s is reallocating labor to other parts of the business and is meeting the demand of the consumer on their wants and needs through remarkable customer experience.
Our industry is not much different. With the chatter about self-guided tours and other technology, the fear that leasing jobs will be eliminated is just not practical. Self-guided tours allow leasing agents to free up some of their time from phone tag, emails and setting up appointments. In addition, they allow prospects to not feel rushed when touring. Embracing this new technology must also come with the knowledge there is no replacement for human interactions as choosing a home is an emotional and important decision. According to our 2019 Online Renter Study, the perception of quality customer service is ranked #2 in importance regarding the leasing decision, which lets us know elimination of leasing jobs will not be a thing of the future. Self-guided tours allow us to better customize a prospect’s experience, ultimately complementing the onsite team’s quality customer service.
Whether the prospect tours during or after office hours, it’s important to meet the preference of that prospect. If a self-guided tour is preferred leasing agents will still have the opportunity to connect before and after the tour. Perhaps the prospect tours afterhours and the follow up now looks a bit different than a traditional email, call or text.
Combining technology and customer experience is a tricky balance. In 2015, renters rated the importance of a community’s commitment to technology (specifically technology to enhance communication, service, and experience) a 4.03, by 2019 the importance grew to 4.14. Because we are in a business that is people-driven, we cannot let the evolution of technology substitute for human interaction. Renter’s questions and concerns will always need someone to assist them, only people are capable of empathy and can handle complex concerns and solve renter’s problems. Again, the challenge is creating a strategy that accommodates both.
When a renter reaches out to have a conversation, whether it is because they want a self-guided tour or a traditional one, it’s an opportunity for the community’s team to shine! The more a community welcomes new technology, the brighter the light will shine in the interaction a renter has with the staff. We must look at the traditional role of a leasing agent and view the new technology as an evolution, not an elimination to keep up with the changing preferences of renters.