It’s fair to say that customer relationship management (CRM) software has outgrown its name, especially when it comes to lettings-specific solutions. The moniker implies that its focus is on keeping customers happy through dialogue – perhaps sending the odd email or letter at key milestones – and while that remains parts of its role, the wider CRM ecosystem is far more refined. Today’s client conversations are held across multiple channels at different times, and the services they receive will have a direct impact on those conversation outcomes. CRM software keeps everything that’s interlinked in sync and on time – vital when you consider that CRM is a driver of good customer service and staff efficiency.
CRM software is also moving in ‘joined-up thinking’ circles, ending the tiring process of logging in, maintaining, duplicating and monitoring multiple sources or services. In addition, the integration of apps, platforms and third-party suppliers is crucial in streamlining the job of agents and creating more instinctive workflows. After all, we know how quickly proptech that’s designed to ‘help’ can be hindrance if it’s disjointed.
Compliant – and maybe revolutionary!
For letting agents, compliance represents a challenge equal to that of keeping track of proptech but cutting-edge CRM software can tighten procedures and make processes less painful. Already more than a tick-box exercise, our new landscape means agents need the ability to carry on implementing regulations and abiding rules at any given point, whether they’re working in an office, at home or ‘on the fly’. Thankfully cloud-based CRM software is commonplace, so nothing slips through the net – Covid crackdown or not.
Having spoken to some of the property industry’s leading CRM software providers, it’s clear that letting agents can benefit from Open Banking, AI and intuitive automation alongside more recognizable CRM features, such as diary management and portal feeds. Emerging software services can, however, feel jargon-loaded and hard to implement. The language and propositions may push some outside of their lettings comfort zone but persevere, as these new functions are not only useful, but possibly revolutionary.
The integration of apps, platforms and third-party suppliers is crucial in streamlining the job of agents and creating instinctive workflows.
Personal demonstrations are recommended, during which the full breadth and scope of what’s achievable is brought to life in layman’s terms, using relatable real-life rental scenarios. And do note that providers will happily help you upgrade, migrate across or start afresh, while allaying any fears or worries.
The very top line? CRM software providers are working hard to bring everything under one roof to save agents time, stripping out arduous and repetitive tasks in the process. The products and providers you love most are in one place, so you don’t have to toggle between apps and websites and there are fool-proof approaches to lettings compliance, billing, VAT and property maintenance.
The CRM software choice is rich and varied – there are literally dozens of letting software suppliers – and our guide below is in no way exhaustive. It does give you a flavour of what’s available, including a snapshot of updates and additions.
The supplier: Focus Micros Systems
The product: RENT Letting & Management Software
The proposition: This cloud-based ‘single solution’ letting and management system spans residential, commercial and block management. The accounts, marketing, document production, web upload, diary and reporting functions are HMRC compliant, with a range of app integrations that include Making Tax Digital, VAT returns, web portal feeds and banking. The Focus Client Portal plugin gives landlords, tenants and trades secure access to strictly limited areas of RENT from their mobile phone, which cuts down the amount of enquiries an agent receives.
The update: “RENT is constantly being updated with fresh ideas,” comments Callum Samuel. “Our latest service launch is electronic document signing, allowing documents to be produced, signed, returned and stored online – no physical posting required.”
The switch: “Transferring to RENT is easy,” says Callum. “We install and set-up everything for letting agents. The Focus team provides staff training and all our support is in-house.”
The supplier: Dezrez
The product: Rezi lettings and property management
The proposition: Rezi claims to help agents manage more properties per person than any other management solution available. It gives staff control of their applications and data, and integrates with many apps and platforms, eg GOTO for online auctions and HomeOnFilm for virtual viewings.
The update: The Rezi Premium package includes Zapier, which allows agents to integrate with over 2,000 apps, including Xero, Sage, Mailchimp, Facebook and Google Docs. Richard Price says the focus at Dezrez has been on creating Zapier ‘Zaps’: “These are automated workflows that connect apps and services together with bespoke triggers and actions. The Premium aspect includes the capability to create custom forms and fields, giving agents freedom to build their own product.” Also new is Rezi Meet – an in-built video call facility that bypasses providers such as Teams, Zoom or Skype, and Rezi Anytime – a fully mobile, white-labelled 24/7 online client portal.
The switch: “Our migration team works closely with agents during the data migration phases. This is often completed at a time that works best for the agent’s business,” adds Richard.
The supplier: Tilt
The product: Origin
The proposition: Origin is a cloud-based lettings and property management solution that helps PRS professionals manage their tenants, landlords and sub-contractors. It also helps agency owners manage resources thanks to a full audit trail that can track the activity of staff members. In addition to offering real-time data feeds to Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket.com and multiple other portals, Origin integrates with Fixflo, Docusign, Tenant Shop and RentProfile.
The update: “We’ve recently introduced a free version of Origin,” comments Brian Murphy. “As an agent’s business grows and they require additional capacity and features, they can progress onto our paid-for plans, all of which are available on a pay-as-you-go basis, with no setup fees or minimum contract period.”
The switch: The Tilt team provides a data load spreadsheet in which the agent can enter a snapshot of their current data and balances. The date is then imported into a new Origin account.
The supplier: Arthur Online
The proposition: Billed as a customisable end-to-end workflow management solution, Arthur’s cloud-based software enables property managers, landlords and agencies to control their portfolio using a dedicated suite of apps and full mobile functionality. Arthur integrates with many third-party apps, including both Xero and Quickbooks, as well as portals. There’s an embedded automation module that informs users of any potential concerns before compliance issues arise, and easy-to-use features for handling financials, reporting applicant viewings and managing lets.
The update: “We recently unveiled two new tenant functions in response to the recent pandemic: the Covid Profile and the Vulnerability Profile,” says Marc Trup. “Tenants now have an accessible platform to inform property managers of any health or wellbeing issues that need consideration when scheduling viewings or third-party work, eg a disability, or simply that a tenant is living alone.”
The switch: Agents share their data with the Arthur team as an Excel file. Once the upload is complete, Arthur then integrates the pre-existing data into additional products that may be required.
The supplier: VTUK
The product: Openview Enterprise
The proposition: This cloud-based software with blockchain connectivity is a collection of sophisticated tools and facilities designed to streamline tasks and manage individual properties. Repairs, viewings, regulatory submission dates, rent collection and much more are brought under the Openview Enterprise banner, with Task Manager included – a 24/7 maintenance reporting application. The built-in ‘Toolbox’ services are also designed to reduce the need for third-party integrations.
The update: “We have just released LetZone to work alongside our main CRM compliance model,” says Peter Grant. “Letzone delivers documentation, transparency and regulation, which then feeds into the tenant portal system using ‘active management’. This ensures issues are pre-empted beforehand and creates a solid base for each let.” Also newly launched is 360° e-sign integration, while at development stage is AI and machine learning – designed to reduce the need for unconnected staff to be deployed on anything other than cognitive tasks.
The switch: Onboarding is managed by a dedicated team. This is complemented by robot technology to complete the process where a cloud system is in use, or no access to the database is apparent.
The supplier: LetMC.com
The product: agentOS
The proposition: agentOS is a cloud-based operating system that connects agents, via open API, to proptech solutions. Integral to the offering is Open Banking, making paying landlords and contractors much slicker. Integrations include Fixflo, Van Mildert, Touch Right and Inventory Base, to name a few, while a recent integration with Zapier now helps agentOS users connect to even more third-parties. Facebook, Mailchimp and Google Calendar were the first to go live.
The update: “Our newest launch is the agentPay app,” comments MD, Glyn Trott. “This automates rent service payments, such as paying landlords and reconciliation tasks, so agents can focus on growing their business. We’re now pleased to be in the position of offering our client accounting services to non-agentOS clients.” A new product is a mobile app, connecting them to all the agentOS software functions – highly useful for extended periods away from the office. “Staff can complete a tenancy application with viewers there and then, manage landlord logins, access email inboxes, see when tenancy applications are ready and much more while working from home or on-the-road,” says Glyn.
The switch: This begins with a pre-booked online demo of the agentOS software.