There will not be a single business within the property sector that did not start the year in vastly different circumstances to the ones we now find ourselves in. As offices closed around the UK and staff got used to working from home under the strict Government guidelines, companies quickly had to adjust to the challenge of working remotely and re-evaluate how they use technology. As a result, estate and lettings agents are increasingly looking to artificial intelligence (AI) and business process automation as a means of better coordinating their dispersed teams and enhancing business processes.
Surviving the lockdown
Unsurprisingly, most property businesses were unprepared for the scale of change required during the Coronavirus crisis. Even those with remote access to business systems and team collaboration software still had significant gaps, with processes simply not available for many day-to-day tasks. Those heavily reliant on large workforces, rigid operational systems, and huge amounts of on-premise IT infrastructure, have found that processes were not particularly compatible with their new circumstances, so needed to quickly adapt.
At Roby, we have seen a huge increase in activity with requests from property businesses seeking a better way to operate remotely, manage teams and communicate with stakeholders in the most efficient and productive manner. What has become clear is that estate and letting agents faced a host of unforeseen problems that required changes to existing processes or brand-new ones. Here are just a few examples:
- One company had no way to distribute incoming mail, without either putting staff at risk or creating considerable overheads and time delays. We have been able to adjust Roby to prioritise and share incoming communications to relevant team members, while minimising human intervention.
- Another business had no oversight of response rates to incoming emails, making it impossible to measure performance, so we have been able to implement a single-view dashboard with automated monitoring. Using Roby’s AI capabilities, they now have full visibility of email response times and peace of mind that enquiries are not being ignored.
- Someone has used Roby to change how its automated telephone system is working. It was no longer possible to offer a comprehensive choice of options, but they still needed to ensure calls are rapidly connected to the most appropriate, available person.
Estate and letting agents have had to quickly look at new ways of handling activity that previously relied on an office-based function. Many also realised that with teams working remotely issues existed with internal and external communications, making customer, colleague and stakeholder engagement disorganised, ineffective and difficult to oversee. This has made them consider making better use of technology to manage their businesses remotely and accommodate new ways working moving forward.
Intelligent process automation
The Coronavirus crisis has underlined the need for greater technology adoption within the property management and estate agent marketplace. There is now a huge opportunity to streamline business processes – automating routine tasks and eradicating laborious activities – that free-up and empower staff to focus on the personal side of their roles to drive growth and increase profits.
Intelligent process automation can enhance a wide range of common workflows such as pre-tenancy paperwork, contract renewals, office reservations, maintenance requests, account reconciliation, credit control and retail enquiries. As much as 85 per cent of business processes can be automated, which means a property company can fundamentally change the day-to-day role of staff and maximise their potential.
Many tasks can be accomplished far more quickly. The average time needed to register a tenant deposit is 12 minutes, but an automated process would complete the same action in a matter of seconds. This is just one of the numerous improvements available, which can reduce pre-tenancy workload by typically increasing efficiency by over 60 per cent.
Roby itself is a complete software package that is totally agnostic, delivering bespoke workflow creation with customers having the ability to specify what and how they automate. It can replace existing accounting, CRM, marketing and appointment systems or alternatively sit on top of them to provide an advanced layer of automation.
Estate and letting agents need to be best prepared for when we reach the other side of this crisis, but we must also ensure we do not simply slip back into old habits and previous ways of working. We will need dynamic and innovative companies to kickstart the economy and take advantage of the opportunities that exist.