In the multifamily housing industry, we have seen a mass adoption of chatbots. The self-service technology is an accommodating way to serve renters around the clock, especially since they are perfect for answering questions, through AI technology, that are common in our industry. Despite all of artificial intelligence’s amazing possibilities and increasing sophistication, chatbots are about to become a lot smarter in helping us operate our communities and serve prospects and residents alike.
The chatbots of the future must replace the in-depth processes that we put prospects through to apply for an apartment. Much like applying for a credit card online, these chatbots will connect prospects with an array of services that deliver instant decisions. They should be able to build leases, secure signatures, collect payments, and transition leads to residents – all with very little human interaction. Add some smart-locks to your community, and your chatbot can even hand your move-ins their digital keys.
The Generational Movement
When it comes to their sheer usage of the technology, Millennials and Generation Z are leading the chatbot revolution. Currently, 40 percent of Millennials interact with chatbots every single day, and almost 60 percent of both generations use direct messaging in social platforms for their customer service-related concerns. Now, experts are focusing on a new generation on the horizon, known as “Generation C,” which is short for Generation COVID, who will continue to carry the torch of these trends and demand even more of the technology.
Some experts believe Gen-C will be defined by their behavior, values, and digitized lifestyle, not their age. They are a powerful force, and the sheer thought of them entering the market already has caused disruption. We can expect to see a good deal of Gen-Z’s characteristics mirrored by Gen-C, as technology continues to play a large role in their lives. Like Gen-Z, they will embrace on-the-go connectivity, smart tech, and other contactless ways of living. Their lifestyle will inspire a new segment of chatbots – and user expectations – in the tech market.
The Need for Instant Everything
If we merge all recent generational terms together, it would be very easy to combine them under a common phrase, the “Uber Generation.” This generation has helped normalize instantaneous digital transactions, such as tapping an app for a ride, food delivery, and even payments, like Venmo and Zelle. The Uber Generation made these business models possible, and in the process, they’ve caused mass disruption to those still using outdated methods, while transacting business.
Speaking of transactions, over 89 percent of Generation Z is now exclusively using mobile banking. In fact, their utilization of technology is rendering bank branches obsolete, to the tune of a 5 percent drop in the number of bank branches over the last three years. This means, 4,400 bank branches have closed permanently across the United States – the biggest decline in history. Since Gen-Z is now our second-largest group of apartment renters, reflecting a major demographic shift in our industry, it’s high time we cater to their preferences when it comes to how they would prefer to interact with your community.
The Move Beyond Chatbots
Multifamily is an industry of extremely involved processes and workflows, which do not always correspond with the expectations of next-gen renters. Though we cannot change every single mode of operation in our sector, we can shift certain practices to match those expectations. As chatbots have gone from nice-to-have to must-have over the past year, this noteworthy self-service tool can evolve even more deeply to not only keep communities leased, but also to become an actual transactional platform within itself.
Chatbots are already making it easier for on-site teams to work more efficiently and seamlessly. Well-designed chatbots, using mashup AI, can fully engage prospects in scheduling tours, managing time and date availability on your tour calendars, and communicating reminders and follow-ups – no human interaction required. They can even stream video conferencing capabilities for live community and individual unit tours.
AI technology has come a long way, which has continued to fuel chatbot’s popularity in the modern market. We can expect chatbots of the future to replace the thorough processes that we put prospects through to apply for an apartment – and make our jobs a little easier. Our success will hinge upon our industry’s ability to deliver the instantaneous decisions and services that newer generations of renters are actively seeking.
Learn more about leveraging the power of chatbots by downloading our latest whitepaper.
Kerry W. Kirby is a global entrepreneur, technology innovator, philanthropist, and the founder of 365 Connect, an award-winning technology firm within the multifamily housing industry. Over the course of his career, Kerry has been the recipient of an array of highly acclaimed awards, including the esteemed Louisiana Governor's Technology Award. He has been named to the Silicon Bayou 100 List of most influential entrepreneurs for nine consecutive years and has received a prestigious Titan Entrepreneur Award for his technological achievements. An acclaimed speaker, author, and award-winning podcaster, Kerry has appeared on the BBC Digital Planet program, NPR News, and various media platforms and outlets. He has contributed to an array of articles and studies on the convergence of technology in the rental housing industry.
Kerry serves on the Board of Advisors of Rainbow, a national nonprofit organization that provides service-enriched housing programs for affordable housing communities across the country, as well as the Board of Advisors of the Multifamily Women’s Summit, an event that allows women to strengthen their expertise, influence, and professional network in the multifamily housing industry. He is Chair of Technology Initiatives for the Multifamily Innovation Advisory Council, a private, members only group focused on assisting owners and operators of multifamily communities identify pain points and explore innovative solutions that will drive change across the industry.