By Lauren Shanesy (MultiFamilyExecutive.com Article) — Imagine an employee on your property management team who can do it all—collect rent, renew leases, communicate with residents about the status of work orders, sell renters’ insurance and other products, answer your phone calls and emails, and build relationships with tenants.
But there’s a twist—she’s all digital.
Technology company Zego created the AI-powered digital assistant Millie to make the day-to-day interactions between property managers and residents much easier.
“Most residents don’t want to interact with their property manager very much. We’re seeing a similar shift in the apartment space as we did with online banking, for example—it’s too much friction to go to the bank branch, and so consumers are doing everything on a mobile app,” says Adam Blake, CEO of Zego. “Residents want to handle all their apartment needs via mobile, on their own time, and would rather communicate via chatting with Millie than in person or talking on the phone to a property manager—and Millie is available 24/7.”
We spoke with Blake about how Millie is changing the way property managers and residents interact.
MFE: How would you describe the modern renter’s relationship to technology?
Blake: Most renters today utilize very little technology in the relationship with their apartment. They may have found their apartment online, but, after that, the vast majority of experience is through traditional forms of communication—mailing paper checks and meeting property managers in person to get keys and sign documents.
But modern renters want to utilize technology in their apartment like they do in other areas of their life. This means interacting digitally via smartphones, engaging on their own time line, and having all information at their fingertips.
MFE: What are apartment residents looking for and expecting from smart-home technology?
Blake: From a smart-home technology standpoint, renters have similar expectations and interests as homeowners. They want the convenience (i.e., remotely unlock doors, turn off lights, control thermostat, etcetera) and the cost savings from lower electric bills. There’s a higher expectation of service required for smart-home technology in apartments, though. Similar to how residents spend little time maintaining an apartment and expecting their manager to repair things like a leaky faucet or broken door knob, apartment residents don’t want to spend a lot of time managing smart-home technology.
MFE: What can residents use Millie for?
Blake: Right now, Millie is mainly benefitting property managers by automating a lot of the interactions with residents. Residents often don’t even know they’re interacting with an AI, because Millie’s communication is typically limited to asking specific questions or prompting the resident to do something (such as renewing a lease, writing an online review, or making the resident aware they can add an Amazon Echo device to their existing smart-home system). Millie is trained to answer a wide variety of resident questions and is based on real conversations between tenants and property managers.
MFE: How does implementing Millie benefit property managers?
Blake: Millie aims to eliminate a lot of the mundane tasks property managers do every day. Some examples include collecting data that might be missing from a resident’s lease file (for example, vehicle information, roommate contact information, emergency contact information, and so on); prompting happy residents to write online reviews (we know which residents are happy based on sentiment analysis of their written communication and how active they are in the Zego app); communicating with residents about lease renewals; tracking renters’ insurance policies to make sure they’re active; and more. Utilization of Zego’s technology also allows property managers to attract and retain higher-quality talent because a lot of the painfully mundane tasks are eliminated.
MFE: What has the feedback been from residents who have Zego at their properties?
Blake: The most common (and surprising) feedback from residents is that they don’t have to call their property managers as much. For residents who have smart-home technology in their apartments, the most popular feature is the ability to no longer carry a key. They can open their door with their phone or a code on the keypad.