Staying competitive in the multifamily market isn’t easy. It requires successfully differentiating a property to potential residents. Location is no longer the ultimate determinant, people are gravitating towards properties because of the experience they will receive. This trend is supported by recent discussions from the National Multifamily Housing Council. Property managers must stay ahead of market demands so their buildings are equipped to meet their customers’ expectations, which goes beyond glitzy amenities. Consumers today want amenities and features that cater to their needs, such as package handling and smart home technology. As those in the industry know, what’s a differentiator today will be customary tomorrow.
Today, much of this is being driven by services. Anything can be requested through an app. Groceries can be ordered and delivered, dogs can be walked, and repairs can take place almost immediately. Properties don’t have to offer these services, but they will need to make sure they are possible through the right technology and products.
A new set of services will need to be ordered and managed through mobile devices. Even still, one of the big barriers is getting through the resident’s door. How will the dog walker get in while a resident is out? How does a resident know the plumber has arrived, or left, when he said he would?
The attraction to many of these services is the convenience they offer residents, freeing up their time. But without a means to allow the services into the apartment that doesn’t require manual participation, these can quickly become an inconvenience. When the service provider needs to be buzzed in, the resident must react upon their arrival. Otherwise, if the resident isn’t going to be home, he or she must leave a key, which presents security risks. It comes down to a decision between convenience and security.
Package delivery is an example that has been a big topic for multifamily properties. Many have turned to the use of delivery lockers. These give residents peace of mind knowing that their packages are delivered in a secure location when they’re not home. On the positive side, delivery lockers are more secure than a package sitting in the lobby, and they beat sitting home all day waiting for the delivery man to pull up. But it’s not always an ideal solution. If someone orders a dresser, it might not fit in the locker. And when people don’t pick up their packages right away, lockers begin to pile up—especially during heavy shopping seasons. Gaining direct access to the apartment is optimal. Of course, this comes with risk if the right technology isn’t in place.
It’s clear that residents want these services, but they need the technology to make them happen. Recent research has shown how comfortable residents were letting strangers into their apartments with their current hardware. Depending on the services, many identified themselves as hesitant to very uncomfortable granting strangers access. But, when they were asked if they would let strangers in with smart technology in place, everyone grew more comfortable with the idea.
For this to happen, residents need to be able to issue temporary credentials. The easiest way for this to occur is with mobile technology. Whether the best way for this to occur is through an email, mobile app, cloud-based platform or some other solution continues to be discussed. For example, if the resident emails a dog walker the temporary credential to download, the walker needs to check her email at 3 p.m., when she is supposed to be there to walk the dog. It will only stay active during the time of the walk, then deactivate. The resident receives peace of mind knowing that the dog walker cannot get into the apartment at a later time, and the technology tracks exactly when the person arrived and left.
While email works for that scenario, managing hundreds of UPS drivers and thousands of emails would be a challenge. A mobile application would simplify this, though coordination would need to take place to ensure the lock and the UPS driver’s application communicate. Despite how the credential is issued, the goal is the same: temporary mobile access.
Technology has made life easier in many ways and continually evolves to address today’s challenges. New features and devices are created to meet expectations—the most successful of which satisfy needs consumers don’t realize they need until it becomes part of their routines. There was a time when a mobile phone was a luxury. Today, people cannot remember the last time they left home without it. Smartphones are means of entertainment, GPS and our source of knowledge. More importantly, they’re convenient. We don’t have to use separate devices because everything is efficiently packed into pocket-sized computers.
However, convenience isn’t enough because these devices must also be secure. There has to be a balance between the two. The same is true for mobile access in multifamily. If residents are going to use their mobile device to coordinate these services to occur, they need a solution that is proven secure and accountable. Otherwise, the convenience-aspect of it won’t be achievable.
It is important to deliver an experience that balances security, convenience, and compatibility. The goal should not be to develop one piece of your puzzle but to strive to operate as an ecosystem partner. There are a lot of systems in motion in a big building, and property managers shouldn’t have to worry about the compatibility or reliability. While there are many point solutions available that achieve pieces of the market need, the industry needs to look at the experience as whole. It must be intentional, balancing a deep understanding of security models and best practices with innovative ideas to deliver a better resident experience.
Technology is put in place to solve problems and make life easier. Regardless of how innovative, if PropTech is causing more work or headaches for property managers, the system will flop.
While residents are accountable for the security of their individual units, property managers are ultimately responsible for the overall safety and security of the complex. Unleashing temporary mobile access technology without any rules or oversight could result in unintended consequences for residents and property managers alike.
The right solution offers property managers a balance between deploying these services while still maintaining the overall rules of engagement. This is achieved by combining technology and a strong ecosystem of partners to ensure property managers maintain a level of control over the system and how it is used.