There is something of a war on touchpoints in modern apartment property operations with the mindset, “the fewer human
interactions the better,” reigning supreme. Streamlining and
enhancing property amenities and services has become synonymous with digital, automated solutions, but are these avenues really the future of quality customer service?
Amazon’s recent foray into
the apartment market in the
form of automated package lockers offers the perfect example of
this conundrum. It’s also sparked
an interesting debate among
property managers: to automate
or not to automate?
First, it is important to note
that the apartment industry is
not alone in tackling this issue;
the trend is emerging almost
everywhere as the public increasingly demands efficient, streamlined services. Consumers now order their coffees via mobile
apps, car shoppers use online platforms to research vehicles
and apartment hunters turn to their computers and tablets to
search for properties and sign online rental agreements. The
days of concierges, realtors and on-site salespeople seem to be
slowly fading away.
Enter the automated package locker, another bastion of
human-free service. Of course, the issue is not with the automated solution itself but instead lies with what this technology
represents. Under this system, renters gather their packages
without seeing or speaking to another person. While the initial
reaction would be to praise the simplified process, it should
not be forgotten that a touchpoint between the renter and
property manager has been lost. Actually, one imagines many
residents and property managers today could count on one
hand the number of person-to-person interactions they have
had since the time the lease was signed.
For hospitality-minded property management firms, this
breakdown is clearly detrimental to quality experiences. After
all, rental properties are more than just automated, business
transactions; they are conduits for important moments in life.
So where is the happy medium? While being at the forefront
of technology is critical in any business, property managers
must take a strategic approach when it comes to adopting the
For example, in keeping with the topic of the automated
package locker, property managers should ask themselves what
issue or challenge makes an automated solution so appealing
to renters. Do they frequently have to wait to collect their pack-
age because no personnel are at the front desk? Is there a
breakdown in communication when addressing the office
staff? By asking these questions, management can tackle a root
cause and potentially improve an important touchpoint.
Rather than immediately opting to overhaul on-site services,
property managers should consider a strategy that enhances
key interactions without eliminating them. After all, it is criti-
cal to establish relationships from the start of a rental engage-
ment and continue to cultivate a sense of community for each
and every resident.
Encouraging a conversation and a sensory experience not
only helps the individual get a sense of their future home, but
it also instills warmth and a connection to the property. While
some segments of the population will never be receptive to
person-to-person interactions, property managers should not
assume this is representative of each community member or
The apartment is an extension of the renter—a manifestation
of their personality and interests, and the place they call home.
Property managers must keep in mind that they have a role in
creating that home in the form of crafting distinct life experiences and storylines. If property managers diminish their connection with renters, even if unintentionally in the form of
automating too many services, their capacity to contribute to
these experiences and build customer loyalty decreases. With
that in mind, it is critical to identify and nurture valuable
moments with community members while finding a strategic
balance of automation and outstanding service. ◆
Traditional MF Services
Renters gather their packages
without seeing or speaking to
another person. While the initial
reaction would be to praise
the simplified process, but a
touchpoint between renter and
property manager has been lost.
BY DIANE BATAYEH
Diane Batayeh is CEO of Village Green, a property management company
that manages 40,000 units in more than 30 cities, teaches executive leadership at Village Green University and leads the company’s Innovation
Council. She may be contacted at CEO@villagegreen.com. The views
expressed here are the author’s own.