At the National Apartment’s Association Apartmentalize Conference on June 6th, executives from top property management companies discussed a highly attended “Many Paths to Efficiency: How Are Operators Centralizing Services?” Perspectives were shared from Suzanne Hopson – President of Tricap Residential Group, Chase Harrington – President of Entrata, and Kimberly Nicholson – Senior Director, Property Systems Owned Assets at Greystar.
Setting the Scene for Centralization
Panelists first discussed the factors that led to a decision to restructure, noting the pandemic as a large catalyst and the pressing need towards gaining efficiencies at scale. Suzanne Hopson detailed the small considerations that kicked off the process. Rethinking the way tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, construction, acquisitions could be streamlined to better service customers across the board was a starting point. When they analyzed the customer journey to the processes that were involved, they noticed a lot of overlap – many people were owning the same tasks. “When a lot of people own the same thing, you own nothing” she noted.
Tricap Residential’s Path Towards a Restructure
Being able to shift current roles and also hire more specialized roles has been the necessary fuel to allow higher quality and service to be delivered to residents for Tricap Residential. In doing so, they demonstrated that representatives can be empowered to focus on a few specialized tasks that they excel in, rather than being spread thin across multiple tasks that interfere with quality and productivity.
One of the more significant changes included dissolving the corporate office. All rent processing including delinquencies and bad debt were lifted from the onsite team, and sales transitioned to 100% remote, handling no more than an average of 500 units. The process has proven to increase efficiency, allowing tech to be truly centralized so that sales can take on any lead from anywhere.
Centralization Hurdles for Tripcap
First responders and service providers across communities faced the greatest challenges with the changes. Moreover, there were difficulties in ensuring smooth communication with residents regarding the operational changes. In retrospect, the implementation of the sweeping change took place over an 8-month period, and Suzanne acknowledges that they could have approached it differently by prioritizing thorough training from the beginning.
Greystar’s Drivers Towards a New Model
Similar to Tricap, Greystar was analyzing more impactful ways to enhance the customer experience. They also were looking to improve higher job satisfaction across the board. Kimberly Nicholson shared how they had already started with a centralized leasing process in Dallas, Austin and the DC area. Roles such as the Centralized Assistant Manager role were moved offsite and helped centralize resources. Another tactic was centralizing operations for 4-5 communities per a small geographical area or region.
Contrasting the organizational changes of Tricap, Greystar has moved towards a hybrid work model of 2 days in office and 3 days remote for teams, allowing in-person mentoring but also providing the flexibility to work independently. Results have included faster processing of applications and increased resident satisfaction overall.
Greystar’s 5-Step Methodology
Throughout the process, Greystar was able to identify 5 key practices that assisted them on their centralization journey. They included ‘knowing your why’ and focus to incorporate centralized measures, taking a methodical approach towards areas of overlap and assigning metrics to new processes, honing down the right tech mix, keeping team members involved, and getting direct feedback from residents. In the example of finding the right tech, Kim shared how they tried 3 different CRM platforms before deciding on the platform that worked best for their teams. Additionally, when seeking feedback from residents directly, she mentioned how sending CX teams out into the field allowed the process to be fine-tuned in real time as they started to put new procedures in place.
Bridging Efficiency and Dedicated Service
Overall, both Greystar and Tricap have seen success in moving touring to a centralized model. Residents specifically shared positive sentiment on virtual and self-tours. Being able to stop into a leasing office on their time has been convenient. Data demonstrated that Sundays (typically a closed day for many offices) is a popular touring day, and most residents book tours within 1 hour of stopping by, proving immediate value to the change in structure.
Suzanne noted that while a centralized model has increased efficiency – the caveat is that you can’t remove the human element entirely. We’re living in an era where inquiries demand instantaneous response. Residents want answers to their questions and their needs now. The centralized approach has helped bridge the best of both worlds – lifting burdens from the onsite teams while allowing for more dedicated service and time to listen to what residents really need.