Open APIs and Integrations

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Open APIs and Integrations

Open APIs may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world but they are crucially important in a forward thinking and technology enabled business. Businesses now are seeing the value of having technology enabled services that can make your business run better, keep better records, and allow you to have insights into your business. But what good is all of that extra information and automation if it’s costing you many man hours in order to get those systems running and keep them fed with the information they need in the form of manual data entry. Rather than this manual data entry, how is it possible to get these systems to talk to each other? The answer is APIs or Application Program Interfaces. These APIs establish a way for programs to communicate with each other and help them move data through them. They are are what allow programs to move your data around to where you need it. These are what make your program smarter than just putting all of your data into an excel table and calling it a day.

The next aspect of these APIs is making them open, or able to integrate with other software systems in order to transfer and organize that data. Many firms look for a one program solution to all their technology needs but this can be impractical. Some aspects of such a large, inflexible system are not the best solutions to your specific business needs. The next step would be to customize these systems or build your own proprietary software, but that can be time consuming and expensive as well. The solution and the best balance for a lot of these problems is to use another software solution that more closely meets your needs. Often by doing this however, you are losing that ease of integration and data that you had previously. Again, another work around is needed, this is where Open APIs come in. the fact that the APIs are open mean that programmers have access to figure out how their program can talk to another. These open APIs mean that after a program is set up to talk to another, the transfer of data is much easier.

Applying this technology to mobile maintenance and ServusConnect in particular we are seeing huge gains in time and data entry and exports from systems. Rather than printing out a work order(Export) and then manually reentering that data once its complete(Import), ServusConnect automatically pulls and pushes that data to and from your current system. Saving you time and paper while protecting the integrity of your data. After all, isn’t a new technology supposed to make life easier?

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Why Customer Feedback Matters and How to Effect It

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Why Customer Feedback Matters and How to Effect It

Google reviews, just this phrase alone can strike fear into potential leases and property managers alike. Googling a property and finding those reviews is one of the first thing a resident does when trying to find a property, even before they can visit and see it for themselves. It’s for this reason that uninviting google reviews can be a property manager’s worst nightmare. Bad google reviews can make finding tenants more difficult than it should be, meaning that you spend more time and money on marketing.

Staying on top of your online reputation can be a chore though, so the best way to do it? Let your happy customers work for you. Looking back at the big scary Google Reviews on your website, they are only scary because they are negative. Your overall reputation would be much more positive if only you could nudge those happy tenants to share their positive interactions online.

That’s why ServusConnect allows you to cleanly and simply solicit feedback and allow for escalation directly through text message (a medium that users read 90% of the time, compared to just a 6% click rate for email). Also by asking for feedback in text, ServusConnect allows both an easy outlet for positive experiences (Google reviews) and negative experiences (direct contact with Customer Service Rep) to be dealt with before the tenant vents his/her frustration on a public forum.  

Getting this instant feedback for your residents also gives you a direct sightline into how and what your maintenance teams are doing. Many of the technicians we talk to in the field often talk about the moral boost that they get when they here and see the comments tenants make after service. This force of workers that often feels unrecognized by the tenants now has a direct affirmation from them. The technicians also say that this reminds them of importance of the work that they do and that the work they do actually matters. Rather than replacing a cook top, they are now creating a cook top and allowing a mother not to disappoint her kids by cancelling Taco Tuesday.

Now that these maintenance technicians are seeing the results of the work, and the tenants feel that they are listened to, you have a much happier ecosystem.

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Dealing with the Seasonality of Maintenance Operations

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Dealing with the Seasonality of Maintenance Operations

Just as the bitter cold of winter breaks every year and spending some time outside seems more and more exciting, the maintenance department gets busier and busier. In the warm weather, it seems that residents get outside more and become more prone to entertaining guests. And with that, they want a unit that is well repaired and cool.

As the air conditioning units begin breaking it seems that everyone could use some extra time to get more work orders done on a daily basis. With the seasons, many maintenance departments know that what they will be doing on a daily basis is changing. The question is, how are you preparing for that change?

Going back to the air conditioning example, we know that the repairs are coming, a good way to prepare may be to retrain some technicians on common air conditioning unit issues and troubleshooting, this way, your maintenance technicians feel more prepared for the coming work orders and you could save time and money by not having to use an outside vendor, especially one that is swamped with other requests for repairs and replacements.

Additionally, using ServusConnects unit based repair tracking, maintenance supervisors have insight into what went wrong last year and can just look back and see what they need to get ready for. This preparation can range from buying enough parts, to working out a deal with vendors to do some preventative maintenance before they get really busy and their prices go up.

 Even with preparation though, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with the increasing number of work orders when the seasons change. One way to remedy this would be for your maintenance team to get more done. But how? They are already running as fast as they can. And you are right, your maintenance team works hard, the issue is with the system that they are using. Especially with outside work orders like air conditioning repairs where keys are not needed for apartment entry, maintenance techs that do not have to return to the office can get more done in less time.

With the spike in work orders though, sometimes it’s difficult to manage all of your service technicians as well as your vendors and tenant expectations. Rather than relying on individual management to coordinate calls, vendors, and service technicians, moving all that to a cloud based software allows easy insights into what is happening and allows multiple people to coordinate work flows.

Even with your maintenance team continuing to work hard, the changing seasons can often put a strain on even the most well-oiled maintenance departments, that being said, adequate preparation and the application of technology can help you get more done, and have happier tenants.

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The Importance of Simple Processes (KISS)

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The Importance of Simple Processes (KISS)

“Imagine how stupid the average person is, now remember that half of people are stupider than that!”- George Carlin. 

Most people will get a little chuckle out of the above quote, and for the minority, it probably rings a little too true. In designing and implementing business processes, we have found that the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) philosophy is often the best way to do things. Of course this is not to insult the individuals that end up using whatever process is implemented but rather that they are busy, rushed, stressed, and would rather have things be intuitive and easy to use.

The ease-of-use and the ability to be intuitive both highly correlate with being simple and straight forward. Rather than berating a user with selections and unique processes, systems should be set up to feel simple, even if they are not. If there are 9,000 possible paths to complete a task, a user should feel that they found a simple and easy solution to their problem.

When this intuition and ease-of-use phase happens we found that it often leads to other externalities. These include better documentation or process completion by users, more complete data because fewer things that are being lost.

In terms of improving your business, these processes can make your team more efficient, by saving time, and more enabled, by having more complete and richer data sets.  All of these increased capabilities and efficiencies transfer to your bottom line in ways that you may not even realize, such as having happier employees that are more willing to go the extra mile, business processes that are easy to follow so that management can more quickly understand and make better decisions.

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The One Maintenance Metric that Matters- Service Cycle

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The One Maintenance Metric that Matters- Service Cycle

Big Data is a hot topic in business right now. Because for the first time in history most organizations have too much data and now need to come with ideas on how to dissect it and make sense of it all. All this data can be important and meaningful to your business but sometimes you can get lost in the noise. The key is to find the one factor that cuts through all the noise and fluctuations and best correlates with what you want to improve or a derivative of that.

This process often takes trial and error, wading through opinions, and finally deciding what is best right before your model blows up. I have been through this process many times and as a result hope to pass on some of our findings to you.

 Our search for the perfect variable came began when we first started dash boarding for clients on ServusConnect. We now had so much granular data that we could not see the forest for the trees, we found that managing the small actions, like individual work orders processed was not what mattered in this scenario. We needed to consolidate.

Looking a little further downstream we decided that our goal was to found some consolidated variable that was a great measure of how the maintenance team was performing and one where we couldn’t go any higher up without muddying the water with other factors that were out of the preview of maintenance operations. The variable that we decided on was the time the data of how long a work order was out before it was completed. At the end of the day, what maintenance operators want is something that allows them to see how much work the actually office is doing and to motivate them to do more whole at the same time ensuring a great experience for the customer. This time to complete a work order was then the perfect variable because it tracked a metric that the maintenance department could track and could see the changes driving the bottom line in the form of vacancy rate and percent of turn overs. However, we couldn’t go any higher because then turnovers and vacancy rate could have many other factors that play a role creating a very cloudy data picture.

 Once we had our one variable nailed down, we had to decide what we were going to do with it, we immediately needed to start to understand what this variable was supposed to look like and how it was doing to behave, in short we needed to baseline what is going on and how the variable responds. Once you have a good understanding of the variable and what it does you really need to start setting goals and metrics to achieve in order to improve the variable and track to them.

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Making life easier for Your Service Professionals

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Making life easier for Your Service Professionals

When they are out on the property managing service requests, your service professionals become the face of your business. In addition to the fact that you want to make your coworkers lives easier, making your service professionals as happy and efficient as they can really elevate the level of service that they are going to provide.

One of the easiest way to help your service professionals reach their peak performance is by empowering them. In this case its electric power but the same concept could potentially apply to a mobile app J. Many garden style multifamily housing complexes can span tens of acres, not a very walkable distance for even the most determined service professional. However, by giving them an easy means to transport themselves and their tools you have a happier and more efficient maintenance tech which results in a happier more efficient customer.

Maintenance tech efficiency, always feeling swamped with work orders maintenance techs always want to get more done in less time. By decreasing their travel time by 2 or 3 times, maintenance techs have more time to actually service their requests. This adds up to real gains for the customers and the bottom line. If a golf cart can travel at 15 mph and a person walks at 3 mph, if the maintenance tech needs to walk half a mile each way to a service request, walking costs them (15 mph/ 60 =.25 miles per minute= 4-minute total travel time compared to (3mph /60 minutes= .5 miles per minute = 20 minutes walking time). Not only did your service tech just waste 16 minutes’ worth of time on just getting to the work order they are now tired and less likely to give all their energy to the service request. This energy snowballs into better repairs and better reviews.

But why stop with golf carts, continuing to make you technicians lives easier by giving them the tools they need in order to complete work orders more easily. This will pay dividends in more efficient and harder working technicians. These are tools and practices that companies like Toyota have been practicing for years. Isn’t it time that you enabled you work force as well?

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Regaining Control of Your Make-Readys and Renovations

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Regaining Control of Your Make-Readys and Renovations

One of the greatest puzzles of multifamily housing management is how to speed up and automate turns and renovations. From lost rent revenue to increasing costs, they can be cause a major change to the margins that you are operating under.

This area of the business is also one where technology has not been applied yet. Make ready boards and personal responsibility remain the glue that holds these projects together. However, unplanned absences, oversights, and things like having the magnets fall off the board! A simple technology solution could save a lot of time and energy in this department. Taking the process to the cloud allows seamless communication and automation among maintenance operators, service technicians, and vendors. All this coordination allows people to follow up on completed jobs faster, allowing you to get that unit rented out again.

ServusConnects Project functionality can allow you to actively manage projects while also having a set it and forget it approach to decrease lag between jobs and allows the system to push the project forward if you forget to check in on it.

The project functionality of ServusConnect can begin based on an output from your current ERP (a move out date or new renovation project) or can be started manually by a project manager. Once the project is created, the project manager can assign all the tasks that need to be done for that project to the various vendors that they want to accomplish those tasks. The project can then work in a waterfall work flow without the intervention of the project manager unless they want to.

For example, as soon as the painters were done and completed their task through the Servus App, then the flooring professionals would be notified that they were then able to go into the unit and do their job. This lack of lag time really helps speed up the turn process and helps prevent tasks and projects from slipping through the cracks.

Another added benefit of the increased control and data you have over turns is the insights that it can offer you into your property and can offer a comparison across properties. For example, if one renovation costs significantly more than another, you will have a record of why so that you can try to prevent something like that from happening in the future. This increased accounting also allows you to track more closely against your budget which can make planning for next year and any discussions about budget changes that much easier.

Enabling property managers to control their turns and renovations proved to be a tough problem. But at ServusConnect, we know the software that we have created will allow your maintenance team to run faster and smoother.

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The Importance of Insights into Maintenance

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The Importance of Insights into Maintenance

Imagine trying to hit get a bullseye, or even hit a dart board in a pitch black room. Even if someone gives you a general direction or you have a “Feeling” about where it is, the odds of you being accurate are pretty low. The same thing can be said with managing your maintenance budget. Often times your maintenance budget can lag two months behind with late invoices, accounting practices, and general controls.

Eliminating lag time on your maintenance budget can allow you to better understand what you did and what you have the ability to do in the future.  This is becoming increasingly critical to have these insights in order to make the best management decisions possible.

Between vendor invoicing and internal processes it can take months for expenses to hit your properties general ledgers. Rather than trying to drive your car from where you were 200 feet ago, having good situational awareness of what is happening now allows you to better track to your number and increase your advantage over your competitors.

With the increased insights into maintenance you can more quickly curb costs that are too high rather than waiting until December when all your vendors decide that now is the best time to invoice you.

Additionally, with more immediate tracking of the data, your data has more meaning and more accuracy. For example, once all the invoices are hitting in the months they actually occurred you can much more easily see any seasonality trends that exist and better prepare, plan, and budget for them.

More insights into the maintenance operations can also mean that management can make better decisions, with ServusConnect’s extensive data collection and custom dashboards, management teams are seeing the connection between maintenance, renovations, turns, customer satisfaction and online reputation.

Another benefit for management is their understanding of what their service teams do on a daily basis. Having metrics that are easy to understand and impact the business give management a reason understand and really care about what maintenance is doing. In this way, good leaders can work with and enable their maintenance teams, which leads to happier tenants and healthier bottom lines.

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