Businesses who walk the extra mile for customer satisfaction are always a source of inspiration. And so are the minds behind who lead the way.
Previously, we featured interviews with Brian Welsh from Round Hill Capital, Malte Wallschläger from HIH and Dimitri Huygen from Xior Student Housing on their digital transformation journey. Each one of them galvanizes the real estate industry to make use of technology for a customer journey that gets only better.
In this article, we give space to Stan Kubacek, Senior Managing Director at Heimstaden to find out about how Heimstaden makes use of technology in its daily operations for business growth and tenants' happiness.
Heimstaden is one of Europe's leading private residential real estate companies with over 150,000 rental units in 330 towns and 10 countries, most notably in Scandinavia. What stands out about Heimstaden is their vision in customer centricity that they call Friendly Homes, which is empowered by community, sustainability, innovation and common purpose.
A DATA MINING COMPANY
We ask Kubacek to explain how Heimstaden makes use of new technologies to improve its rental portfolio.
We use technology for many purposes. I see our company as a data mining company. That might sound unorthodox, but I truly think it is a requirement in order to be successful in serving our clients and making a return on investment. If you have a data set based on 100,000 flats, it is obviously different than having a data set based on a few hundred flats. That is why, mining the data is important, just as investing in tenant or landlord technologies brings synergies that will turn into capital that you can mobilize over a large number of apartments and tenants. Since the statistical sample is bigger, you learn big lessons from it.”
“We even serve as a data laboratory to some PropTech companies as we occasionally give them the data for their product experiments. This allows them to come up with new products and offers them to the market. It's all in the collection and usage of data and implementing the results into our everyday work. It makes us more competitive both in our P&L as well as in customer satisfaction. ”
“For our P&L, it impacts our operating cost. We would obviously like to decrease operating costs where we can. That doesn’t mean at the expense of comfort. It can be as easy as monitoring energy consumption or air quality. Once you have the data, then you can save energy. That benefits everyone.”
BENCHMARKING TENANT SATISFACTION
As we understand that Heimstaden works with data heavily, we asked how they use it for tenant satisfaction.
“We collect data through surveys at various points of the customer cycle and then we analyze them in a statistical way. That covers all the processes from the beginning to the end: how the letting process has been, moving in, onboarding and all the activities we do during their stay such as maintenance issues. Once a year or so, we ask about tenants' overall satisfaction with us as the landlord. We have a series of questions to evaluate, such as 'Was the service quick and was the problem solved?', 'Was the staff friendly and polite?', 'What can we do better?'. We take lessons from the answers.”
“At the same time, we want our customers to access client service as part of a digital experience. That includes all the maintenance requests and an online client account with invoices for energy consumption. The customer account also provides information about upcoming maintenance in the building or discounts we’ve negotiated with local retailers.”
TECHNOLOGY TO STREAMLINE MAINTENANCE PROCESSES
As a part of the customer-centricity vision, Heimstaden makes use of a well-designed, tech-enabled maintenance system that takes care of issues arising in the building, so that tenants don't need to worry about them. “It is all about streamlining processes,” says Kubacek.
“For example, in our portfolio in Ostrava, the Czech Republic, we have a digital tool through which tenants can submit a maintenance request, like a leaking tap, any day of the week. We even have a chatbot feature that can help and answer basic questions 24/7. That means the clients don't have to go anywhere or call anyone. This is logged and processed by our dispatcher who can do it at home online.”
Then, on Monday morning, Heimstaden’s maintenance staff sees the tenants' issue entries that they need to take care of that day. The staff doesn't need to go to the office to access this information. To change the tap, they know where in the warehouse to go and the necessary items have been prepared for them. Then, they ride to the tenants' house with the help of the navigation system. Once everything's taken care of, the tenant signs electronically that the issue has been resolved. Finally, they record a voice message about whether they’re satisfied with the process.
That might sound banal, but it removes the friction for both the tenant and the facility management.
CHOOSING TECH PRODUCTS IN A FRAGMENTED PROPTECH LANDSCAPE
There are a lot of PropTech start-ups and new products in the market. We ask Kubacek: How does Heimstaden decide on the ideal tech products for their operations?
“Innovations in property technology need to make a return, a yield on the cost that can be measured. Obviously, not everything can be measured immediately like the implementation of a chatbot or virtual Q&A software. But it can be measured by reducing our number of staff in physical client centers. It can be measured through quicker processing of maintenance works,” he remarks.
“We try to break it down to our P&L: Can we save on costs somewhere, and drive further revenue somewhere else? If not, it should at least be for client satisfaction. Finally, you experiment. You invest a little, you experiment within a property, or within a radius to see if it works and if the client likes it. You do a survey. For example, when we invested in a tech product that offered virtual viewing of our free apartments, our clients enjoyed it. It replaced physical viewings to a certain extent, or at least reduced the number of viewings before we rolled it out. To try out tech products, first, you try to have a financial reason for it. Then, second, you experiment, step by step.”