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Chatbots Add More Intelligence, Flexibility to Leasing Automation

Recap from MICA’s Leasing Automation: Battle of the Bots Roundtable

Click to watch the full Leasing Automation: Battle of the Bots Roundtable

Key Points:

  • Chatbots handle top-of-market funnel functions and support onsite teams with leasing automation 
  • Different types of bot technologies help owner/operators achieve leasing goals and boost conversion rates 
  • The goal isn’t for chatbots to replace humans, but to complement leasing staffs

The pandemic rapidly ushered in a new era of technology innovations for multifamily communities that changed the nature of leasing forever. Chatbots have been at the forefront of these new tech solutions, and the value of implementing bots into the leasing process is undeniable to owner/operators.

While chatbot technologies are always advancing and still have some areas to develop, they have made an immediate impact on the customer experience and are helping leasing teams drive occupancy and boost conversion rates. Bot technologies may vary, but at the core they share a primary goal: to help leasing agents.

Todd Katler, CEO at Anyone Home, discussed the benefits and learning curves of chatbots in a recent session at the virtual 2021 Multifamily Innovation Conference – Atlanta (MICA). Katler provided an overview of how chatbot technology in general can greatly enhance the customer experience.

“Like any effective chatbot in the industry, Concierge provides another avenue to create really good engagement,” he said of the Anyone Home product. “Prospects want to communicate, whether it’s automated or with another person, and chatbots provide the instant message-type interactions craved by many renters as they seek their next apartment home.”

Through automation, chatbots free up time for leasing agents to focus on other things, like serving prospects who are close to making a leasing decision and driving renewals among current residents. With so many leasing inquiries arriving from different platforms, bots alleviate the upper-market-funnel burdens on leasing agents and provide information to prospects through quality engagement while also collecting prospect data.

Katler and the other panelists also detailed some of the challenges of chatbots, which include the difficulties natural language processing presents in terms of security questions that concern Fair Housing and liability.

Other panelists included Larry Gorman (president of LeaseHawk), Robert Turnbull (founder, president and COO of BetterBot) Ellen Thompson (founder of Respage), Perry Shmukler (CTO at Diffe.rent), Stacy Holden (senior director & industry principal at Appfolio), Mat Nieves (growth and strategic partnerships at MeetElise) and Paul Yount (industry principal, multifamily at Yardi). Dennis Cogbill, managing director of Joshua Tree Conference Group, moderated the session.

Another critical question was posed to the panelists during the session: Is the goal for bots to replace humans?

Katler agreed with other panelists that bots could not and should not replace humans. Consumers should be given the opportunity to choose the type of engagement they want, and when bots and leasing agents are utilized jointly, conversion rates increase.

Consumers should be given the opportunity to choose the type of engagement they want, and when bots and leasing agents are utilized jointly, conversion rates increase. When Anyone Home clients utilized both guided tours and self-guided tours, conversion rates increased by 38%.  

“The right way to look at this [for a supplier partner] is not focusing on your customer, but your customer’s customer,” Katler said.

“That’s how you create the best situation. Concierge doesn’t necessarily replace a human, nor should it. Once one of our top clients employed Concierge and had 24/7 human contact and 24/7 chatbot contact, the conversion rate from tour to lease increased almost 16%.

While the natural language processing behind chatbots may still have room for improvement, different bot solutions already are making a significant impact on lead management and leasing strategies. Accordingly, as the MICA panel made clear, they are here to stay.

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