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Getting rid of paper work orders and enabling mobile/digital service response for your maintenance teams will speed up service, provide precise repair documentation and significantly improve resident experience.
These alone are great reasons to make the move to mobile, as significantly more and more multifamily operators are transitioning, according to a recent Multifamily Insiders survey.
That being said, there are several tactical items for operators to decide on that could significantly impact success of the initiative. The most important of which is: Will your technicians actually adopt (and use) the software?
This isn't without risk; at the end of the day we're asking a predominately non-technical group of users to completely abandon a well-worn way of working (paper work orders, minimal documentation & tracking) and migrate to a completely digital/mobile process.
Let's face it, technician adoption of your digital/mobile maintenance initiative is your baseline key to success. Given that, we've assembled the Top 5 Factors that will ensure successful adoption, based on direct feedback we received from multifamily maintenance technicians located all over the country.
1. Please Make It Easy!
So what does EASY mean?
In one word: MINIMAL. Minimal menus, buttons, input fields, typing, navigation.
This is in complete contrast to our motivation as operators & managers - we want as much data as possible as to the who, what, where, when & how of every request our staff handles and how that translates to a positive (or negative) resident experiences. We might also be interested in how much we're spending on maintenance services with outside vendors.
The danger here is implementing a solution that forces our staff to provide all of this input. This is a recipe for non-participation, shortcuts and ultimately really poor maintenance data.
A well thought-out mobile maintenance app should extrapolate every bit of the who, what, when, where, how & how much and still present a simple user interface & user experience (UI/UX) for your technicians. This is the most important key to success! If your mobile maintenance app isn't extremely easy, the technicians won't adopt it willingly.
A mobile maintenance app should empower technicians; it should take the burden of paperwork and liability off their shoulders, and ultimately simplify the reporting-aspect of the job.
If you'd like more on the topic, here is a great article: 15 Key Ingredients For A Successful Mobile App.
2. Mobile Web Confuses Me - Don't You Have a Native App?
There are some distinct differences between mobile web and native, although they can be made to appear very similar in styling and functionality. (Here is a blog that talks about some basic differences between the two).
Time-and-time-again, we hear multifamily maintenance technicians express frustration with mobile web-based systems. Here are the most common issues:
- requires an internet browser and persistent data connection
- technicians need to remember to bookmark a specific URL
- mobile websites require frequent logins (technicians are notorious for losing/not-remembering passwords)
- mobile website UI/UX tends to be cluttered and poorly designed for small screens on mobile devices
- no push notifications for mobile web so they have to check frequently for new tickets & updates
At the end of the day, this comes down to simplicity and making it as easy as possible for your maintenance technicians and vendors to digitally interact with service tickets. Here are a few reasons why technicians prefer native app experiences:
- apps are purpose-built for the job; simple to understand
- push notifications, sounds & visual indicators let users know there is something new
- apps remembers the technician's passwords - they just click the app icon and go!
- apps typically work offline and manage poor connections better, allowing tech to still use the app with low/no internet connection
3. I Can't Strap a Tablet To My Belt
Tablets can be appealing for multifamily operators to deploy because they are cheap and have a lot screen real estate. However, based on direct technician feedback, given the option of doing digital work orders from a tablet or a smartphone, tech's prefer a smartphone a 99% of the time.
Operators who have deployed tablets for mobile maintenance see them sitting in the maintenance shop, left in hot vehicles or apartments, or with broken screens from being dropped.
Multifamily maintenance technicians are on-the-go all of the time; in and out of units, in tight spaces, etc. Their hands are full carrying tool bags, power tools & parts. This is pretty simple - if they can't strap the device running the mobile maintenance app onto their belt or stick it in their pocket, they won't use it.
*TIP - if you are providing smartphone devices for your technicians, or even of you aren't, offer to buy your maintenance team members phone cases with belt holsters. You can buy them for around $10-$15 on Amazon.com for pretty much any phone...and your technicians will love you for it!
4. We Want To See Resident Feedback!
We're all familiar with statistics related to how much more likely someone is to escalate a negative service experience versus a positive one.
This certainly holds true in when it comes to resident services requests in multifamily - typically residents don't call the office to tell you how amazing your technicians are, but they will certainly call if the job wasn't finished or their issue persists! The net result is that the job of a multifamily maintenance technicians can feel like a thankless one.
But the reality is that when given an easy opportunity (and medium) to provide feedback in close proximity to their service request being completed, on average, residents provide positive feedback over 70% of the time!
Receiving this feedback is huge pick-me-up for maintenance staff and significantly empowers them to ramp up their customer service skills. A good mobile maintenance app will not only score and report resident sentiment to managers, but directly back to the technician who did the work.
5. Is It In Spanish?
According to 2016 Census data, Hispanic, Spanish-speaking individuals make up 17% of the US population. In states in the southwest and southeast, this percentage gets closer to 30%.
Apartment operators in these markets not only support a large populous of Spanish-speaking residents, they employ a large number of Spanish-speaking technicians.
Additionally, in a competitive job market, it is extremely difficult for operators keep maintenance technician positions filled with 100% English-speaking individuals. As a hiring manager of a national apartment operator recently told us, "we'll provide the training and the tools for our techs to be successful, frankly, we just need people willing to do the job."
A good mobile maintenance app should minimally support Spanish and dynamically adapt to the user-selected language of the device, empowering Spanish-only-speaking technicians to read your work orders and digitally document their work.