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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Digitizing Apartment Repair Records

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Digitizing Apartment Repair Records

Walking into a lot of different maintenance offices we saw this...

Binders of Work Orders

A headache for many maintenance departments. However, in a world where we can do everything from banking to watching TV on our devices, we figured that changing the way these stacks of paper were managed would make everyone’s life easier. Moving a paper-based work order system to the cloud makes your whole system more organized, efficient, and auditable.

The first thing we wanted to get rid of was all of the paper that could easily be lost or destroyed. Service Technicians (techs) are busy dealing with the elements (water, damage, wind) and the downside of being so active is that the paper doesn’t stand up to the abuse these guys give out.

By instantly locking all these actions into the cloud, we found that it helps keep site managers and their techs much more integrated and plugged into working together. Additionally, moving digitally has the advantage of automation. The timestamps that are put on these service requests let the techs keep hyper-accurate records of what they do and allow for extraordinary depth on information (e.g., comments, photos, videos) to be recorded within a single work order.

Talking to our techs, we have found that they love to use the app because it eliminates their worst nightmare, paperwork. Rather than wasting their time filing out 2 work orders (one to leave and one to return to the leasing office) and entering them into the system, record digitalization is giving the techs more time to do what they need to do - keeping residents happy. Having such a digital process eliminates many of the possibilities to introduce errors from the old system: reports of lost or damaged work orders, illegible handwriting, and typos when re-entering the data.

Once all of these processes were digital, we found that everyone was happier without the hassles of paperwork. This isn’t just about feelings though; this digitalization is saving a lot of time. Techs in the field are saving 5-7 minutes per work order just on filling out paper work. Courtesy of auto-populated fields, the technicians are now only filling out the pieces of the work order that they need to. Entering the back office, we see the service managers saving time by not having to re-enter all that data.

The only thing worse than manually entering a work orders into the system is having to look through those same stacks of paper to find and report on your work orders.  But often times looking through those work orders is the only way to get the information you need. That’s why the instant digitization of these work orders allows to you save unprecedented depth and resilience in your data. Not only is this data richer, being in the cloud makes all of it way more secure and searchable from wherever you are, and also makes immediate feedback and searches possible.

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ServusConnect’s Partnership with MRI Software

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ServusConnect’s Partnership with MRI Software

We’ve Got Big News!

The ServusConnect Team is excited to announce our partnership with MRI Software to integrate ServusConnect with MRI’s Residential Property Management platform.

This partnership enables MRI multifamily clients to put MRI’s service request ticketing into the palm of service professionals’ hands. The service professionals out in the field will be able to complete service requests digitally using ServusConnect’s intuitive iOS and Android mobile maintenance apps.

 

What’s the Big Deal?

Apartment management staff have a lot on their plate. Even though new technologies promise to make their jobs easier or improve the resident experience, most staff find it difficult to adopt and stick with technology systems that are not connected to a core unit-record software.

By integrating ServusConnect directly with MRI (i.e., the systems talk to each other), we’ve removed this barrier.

When the apartment staff create and assign a service request in MRI, it immediately shows up in the ServusConnect app of the assigned-to technician or vendor. When it’s completed, repair details, timestamps, and technician comments are applied back to the MRI ticket and it’s automatically closed.

This is a huge timesaver for maintenance operations staff!

Speed & Resident Satisfaction

Speaking of saving time - one of our core values is to help multifamily operators deliver exceptional maintenance experiences to their residents. Our approach is simple: reduce the bottlenecks and speed up the process. Tactically, ServusConnect Mobile Maintenance does this by:

●     Delivering service requests tickets directly to a technician or vendor’s mobile device

●     Significantly reducing printing of service request tickets

●     Saving on trips back and forth to the maintenance/leasing office to pick up new tickets

●     Making it extremely easy and quick for techs to richly document repairs

●     Automating resident follow-up and satisfaction surveys

●     Preventing Work order forms from being lost or damaged by saving them to the cloud

Simply put, if we can speed up getting a resident service request into the hands of the front-line technician or vendor who is going to do the work, odds are it will get completed quicker. In fact, our data proves this! (More on this in a future blog post...)

These timesavers, combined with giving residents a voice regarding their satisfaction with a repair, allow apartment operators to limit and isolate negative experiences before they fester into damaging negative online reviews. As a bonus, this can have a tremendously positive impact to your portfolio’s online reputation. (I’ll write about this in the coming weeks as well!)

 

The Future is Bright!

As I said at the beginning, we are excited to be part of MRI’s PartnerConnect program. MRI’s commitment to delivering open and flexible technology solutions to their clients is unmatched in the industry, and we’re honored to work with several great MRI employees to make this integration happen.

That being said, this is the tip of the iceberg! We’ve got many more great features planned in the coming weeks and months that will help further streamline apartment maintenance operations and make ServusConnect a must-have for every apartment operator!

Best,

Jamie Wohlschlegel

Founder & CEO

ServusConnect, Inc.

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ServusConnect™ Raises $350,000 to Grow Maintenance App for the Apartment Industry

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ServusConnect™ Raises $350,000 to Grow Maintenance App for the Apartment Industry

RALEIGH, NC

ServusConnect, the developer of a mobile maintenance app for the apartment industry, this week announced it has raised a $350,000 seed round of funding from tech venture fund Cofounders Capital in Cary, NC.  The company will use the funding for customer acquisition and to further develop its mobile and web-based platform.

ServusConnect is a B2B software-as-a-service platform that mobilizes maintenance operations for the multifamily apartment industry. The company likens their software as a “digital hub” for apartment maintenance operations, transforming paper-based, manual service processes still employed by much of the industry, into collaborative digital workflows accessible from any device between management, staff and vendors.

Early customer feedback indicates ServusConnect has a dramatic impact on improving efficiency of apartment maintenance teams, while providing apartment operators with actionable insights into not only how their teams and service vendors are performing, but how residents feel about where they live.

Michael Kendall, Special Projects Director of Richmond, VA-based General Services Corporation, offers major support for the startup. General Services Corporation own and manage a growing portfolio of 17,000+ apartment units across in Southeast and Western US.

ServusConnect gives us better visibility into maintenance operations than our current software, and more importantly, gives us near real-time feedback on how our residents feel about their maintenance experiences on our properties.
— Michael Kendall, Special Projects Director of General Services Corporation

Founder & CEO, Jamie Wohlschlegel, notes “the apartment industry spends $25 Billion annually on maintenance & repair operations but is massively behind in applying technology to this area. We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to bring a very useful and easy-to-implement technology to this market.”

David Gardner, general manager of Cofounders Capital agrees:

 “The ServusConnect team has identified an exciting opportunity in commercial property management, specifically multifamily housing. Based on size of the market and lack of technology, the potential for growth is considerable.”

About ServusConnect

ServusConnect is a purpose-built, software-as-a-service platform for the multifamily apartment industry that brings apartment maintenance online. Their innovative platform extends the reach of existing maintenance-ticketing systems, allowing apartment operators to interact digitally with field staff and external vendors via ServusConnect mobile and web apps. This, combined with their unique Resident notification and survey capabilities, and intuitive reporting, make ServusConnect a must-have for every multifamily operator. For more on the ServusConnect, visit www.servusconnect.com.

About Cofounder’s Capital

Cofounders Capital is an early-stage seed fund focused on software ventures in the Triangle. Cofounders Capital is managed by serially successful entrepreneur, David Gardner with a team of over seventy advisers and volunteer mentors who are all investors in the fund, eager to support entrepreneurship in the Triangle and to help portfolio companies and entrepreneurs succeed.

Contact Information

Jamie Wohlschlegel, CEO, info@servusconnect.com

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