Resident Portals – What's The Rave?

Resident Portals – What's The Rave?
Websites, technology, internet, social media – gets confusing doesn't it? Now enter the elusive "Resident Portal" that has been touted as a must have for the last several years. The issue is; how does one define it?

The big software companies have their version and specialty website shops have their own. The only common thread is all of them have something different. Some are login only, have 2 or 3 things a resident can do once behind the locked door. Some are in the open with a community calendar, local weather, service request and some links to other service related sites (rent payments, utilities, etc). Then there are the combinations – those that have services in the open and only require login to authenticate the resident for certain features, usually communication or secured transactions.

So what is the right Resident Portal for your community?

That question runs you in many directions, but here is a good start to head in. First of all, who is your typical resident? Are they 25 years old, have an iPhone tied to their hand or are you running a senior community that has more social gatherings than online chatter? The other question is; what part of your office can you place online to make your operation more efficient? What are the things you can tie an expense to that would save you money if you could shuffle that task to a more streamline effort? Example, if most of your service request came in on the internet, typed out by the resident, permission to enter checked, would you say that would save you money?

We did a little survey recently, interviewed some managers. This is what we found. If they don't have to sit on the phone and write out a service request, they can be showing a unit, ordering supplies or dealing with other task. The majority also stated it takes a lot of issues out the mix when the resident sends a service request, time and date stamped in their own words. No more he said she said in other words. Further, being able to deliver mass notices and couple other services inside the Resident Portal was important. Like having a newsletter and other relevant content available online, eliminated managers from moving paper all over the place – one said they felt it was the "Green Thing" to do.

By order of importance, we sorted it down as follows:

Services: Managers like online service request; that was a very common thread and made it tops on our list. Many felt that other services such as online rent payments, utility connections, etc. were great convenience items to deliver to residents.

Communication: Managers liked the ability to email an individual resident, or all of them at once. They also want to be able to deliver important information, events they are planning and even things happening around town. They felt it made a "Community Connection" for residents.

Content: Managers want a source to assist in pushing content on the Resident Portal; they want the site to always look updated, even when they cannot get to it. They also felt that it was important for residents to be able to find local information. They stated they are always asked where the nearest schools and Starbucks are, etc. When asked about video, they felt video content was a great feature, pointing to the success of YouTube.

Ease of Use: Managers stated that a system that is not only easy for them to use, but for the resident as well; is of great importance. They want to have something that holds resident contact information for fast access, ability to update information with "Point and Click" features and easy to follow navigation. They want a system that has some "Auto Pilot" like features.

So based on the survey we did, there you have it, the top four things we were able to pull out of community managers when it comes to the elusive Resident Portal. So, do a little research before you leap into this must have techie item. The cheaper version might not be the best version. You need to look at the pieces and see what you are getting for your money. Does it have communication, delivers content and does it really act like a part time employee for you? If it does, then add the costs up that you would pay for the parts it can do and see if the scale tips in your favor financially. Then weigh the "Amenity Factor" of being able to offer such a service to your residents. I think you will be surprised with what you will find.

Now back to building the greatest Resident Portal on earth………

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