Reduce Turn Time, Costs and Complaints: What Every Student Housing Operator Needs To Know About Using Software to Manage Turn
When you’re turning 10,000 beds, mobile inspections featuring real-time turn boards can eliminate thousands of hours from turn operations, reduce resident disputes and raise your damage recoveries, but how do you choose the best tool?
Read on or Download our Top 12 Must-Have Mobile Inspection Features Cheatsheet.
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Turning 10,000 beds within the tight space of a few weeks presents a monumental challenge for Student Housing operators, but Student Turn ain’t what it used to be. The arrival of tech that automates summer Move-Out and fall Move-In through real-time operations is transforming both on-campus and off-campus Management.
Student Turn is labor-intensive, to put it lightly. And big university cities like Boston are cracking down on Student Housing health and safety violations, holding property management companies accountable for regulatory deviations. Conducting physical inspections of every newly vacated living space, then cleaning, repairing, upgrading and re-renting thousands of rooms simultaneously is made even more arduous by depending on paper checklists and manual turn boards to track and schedule repairs. Looming over the whole enterprise of rehabbing your student housing is the pending move-in of an incoming wave of students in a matter of weeks. Time becomes a critical commodity.
That’s a lot of pressure. Paper systems further compound the pain by making documentation slow and troublesome and rehab costs difficult to calculate. Worse, manual workflows lack real-time visibility and severely limit your view of portfolio-wide operations, undercutting your ability to monitor property and unit conditions, move-out costs and net turn and manage quality and compliance. Resident satisfaction often suffers due to the operational impediments posed by paper — namely, slower staff response times to resident requests for repairs and returning damage deposits.
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“Turn season may present your peak workload, but during that seasonal rush and throughout the academic year, mobile inspection tools can significantly improve your efficiency, cut down on labor and maintenance costs, and reduce and resolve resident disputes while driving up satisfaction and helping you achieve lift on damage recoveries.”
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Turn season may present your peak workload, but during that seasonal rush and throughout the academic year, mobile inspection tools can significantly improve your efficiency, cut down on labor and maintenance costs, and reduce and resolve resident disputes while driving up satisfaction and helping you achieve lift on damage recoveries. From routine maintenance, documentation and Quality Assurance, to common area and amenity upkeep, to preventing apartment fires, bed bug infestations and slip-and-fall lawsuits, to energy and water efficiency, to standardizing property data across your portfolio, moving from paper-based processes to a mobile strategy drives more successful Student Housing operations.
You know you need an inspection solution for your organization to be at its best. But you might be wary of onboarding the wrong technology and inadvertently creating more work for yourself and your team. Traditional ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software can take months upon months to deploy — not the ideal situation when you need to get up and running quickly so you can manage turn operations. Organizational resources present another concern. Maybe you can’t commit significant HR to implement and support a new system. And what if your new system yields so much confusion among your teams that adoption rates are low — but you’re locked into an annual contract? The good news is that new mobile and SaaS-based (Software as a Service) platforms can get your teams up and running quickly on software without involvement from your IT department.
So how do you choose the right inspection software — a complete mobile inspection solution that serves you, your organization, your teams, your contractors, your residents and your bottom line? And how can you ensure your technology will transform your Turn from a slow and inconsistent paper-based process to a fast, accurate and integrated operation? There are more than a handful of considerations to choosing the best solution. Let’s take a look at some of the most critical factors and features to shop for in a complete tool.
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By rolling out HappyCo’s inspection software...
Mobile Tool: Student Housing properties typically endure heavy use and face a flood of disputes as parents question charges for cleaning or repairs, demanding proof for the damages incurred. Management’s new mobile-facilitated response? Immediately providing detailed reports with side-by-side photo evidence through the use of mobile inspection software — drastically reducing the number of disputes they face and quickly resolving those that do emerge.
Standardize your inspections across your operations with a Mobile App your teams can use on a tablet or smartphone to collect consistent, high quality data on any and all of your Student Housing communities. Whether you require periodic semester inspections, MIMO, common area checks, grounds & landscaping audits or other inspections, a mobile inspection app can enable your teams to document unit and property conditions, quality and safety standards, maintenance, staff performance and more.
Inspection software that isn’t intuitive can pose a threat to adoption. Be sure to consider the UI. Is the app easy for your teams to learn with a broad range user-friendly icons and color options? Can they add per-item comments during their walk? Good UI can mean the difference between a smooth rollout and a difficult one.
You need a perfect fit for your workflow, so look for an app that offers customizable forms that allow you to tailor audits to your operational needs, like end-of-academic-year turn. Rather than waiting for an IT team to edit your forms for you, choose a tool that enables you to precisely match the layouts for each unit at every property with the ability to customize items inspected, ratings and more on the fly. To quantify and compare conditions and performance between properties, you’ll need to take advantage of features like Scoring and the ability to assign per-item Costs for replace and repair — critical for management to be able to monitor turn costs across thousands of beds.
Time-stamped photos and digital signatures are two of the most important features for achieving significant lift on your damage recoveries – not to mention they yield significant time savings since staff no longer has to separately record photos, track down signatures, and upload them to a server or append to a paper file. And they reduce risk by providing irrefutable evidence in both resident and legal disputes.
And a mobile app with 100% offline forms means your teams can perform inspections without access to cellular data or WiFi, allowing for uninterrupted workflows and saving you from having to buy data plans. Also ensure your mobile tool includes automatic backup to the cloud and instant availability to management so you don’t lose your data and can immediately follow up on any urgent items.
Web Console: As soon as your teams have collected property-level data, a Web Control Center can give you visibility into your operations portfolio-wide, so you can manage multiple properties effectively and in real time. Look for anytime access to inspections, the ability to edit forms and dispatch updates instantly; as well as the ability to schedule inspections and manage users and permissions — so you can identify and resolve issues the moment they’re spotted on the ground.
A control center that is web-based rather than a desktop app offers you two distinct advantages. One — you don’t have to constantly update your software because updates and new features get added automatically. Two — you can use any internet-connected device to sign in, meaning you aren’t dependent on a single computer or tablet.
The real-time visibility and control your web console offers will be your gateway to driving higher inspection compliance and ultimately higher resident satisfaction and better property conditions.
Reporting: Once your data has been collected with a mobile inspection solution, Operational Dashboards empower you to use the data instantly by helping you spot trends. This analytics side of your new inspection software aggregates and organizes the data you’ve collected across each bed or unit in real time so you can act on issues immediately, enabling you to make data-driven decisions for achieving key performance indicators. Look for the ability to automatically generate Turn boards from mobile inspections and monitor move-out costs.
With dashboards, you can monitor quality standards, benchmark property performance and examine policy compliance as well as identify global trends over time or across locations and create an actionable report that red-flags problems. Your capacity for preserving brand equity, resident loyalties and premium rents is only as strong as your ability to monitor quality compliance and maintenance performance through data insights. Choose an inspection solution with solid analytics and you’ll also save big on repairs and retrofitting by spotting patterns instead of patching isolated issues.
Now that we’ve covered the three main components of a robust inspection platform, let’s talk about the foremost concerns of most corporate teams regarding implementing new software.
Speed of Deployment: Today’s non-monolithic mobile-first and cloud-first applications can be deployed in a matter of weeks. Unlike typical ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning software) offered by incumbents like IBM, Oracle, SAP, ReaPage and Yardi Systems whose rollouts typically take a minimum of 15 to 20 months, new mobile and SaaS-based (Software as a Service) platforms offer speedy deployments due to easy learning curves, high end user adoption and minimal involvement from your IT department. As you shop for software, keep an eye out for a great SaaS and mobile-first vendor that can demonstrate a rapid and smooth implementation.
Cost: Unlike ERPs that traditionally require a very large capital investment from the outset, mobile and SaaS platforms don’t require large investments in hardware nor the IT staff to maintain and optimize that equipment. Since software updates are automatically pushed to end users on mobile through MDM (mobile device management) or the Apple App Store or Google Play Store — and for web applications, updates are automatically delivered by the software vendor you select over the Internet, — sky-high professional services fees typical of ERP software are eliminated. The trend toward BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) wherein employees use their personal devices on the job, disposes of the need to invest in new compatible devices, but be sure your new software works on both iOS and Android. A mobile, SaaS strategy can be just the ticket for lower cost, higher value software.
Security: You may feel that software needs to be self-hosted to ensure security. This misconception is based on fair concerns about compliance breaches and data leaks. But the truth is data has never been more secure. Cloud storage facilities are also being subjected to the highest standards of security and are required to fulfil certain criteria to be eligible for their ISO certifications. These include building secure datacenters that are independently audited, and adhere to standards such as Soc 2 Type II. As you consider solutions, look for bank-grade encryption for your sensitive data and ensure automatic backups to the cloud.
Integration with Current Systems: Adopting new software makes for a headache when it has trouble “speaking” to your existing mission-critical technologies. Thankfully, advances in software communication have made integrations between corporate applications and databases easier and faster. If you want seamless workflows and reporting, you should look for a vendor offering an API (Application Programming Interface) based on gRPC, a secure modern communication protocol open sourced by Google that bridges the gap between software platforms, simplifying client-server coding and speeding up implementation.
End User Experience: Software usability, functionality and visual appeal impact your organization-wide adoption rates and so determine the success or failure of your new software. Your employees have come to expect software that is easy and delightful to use because of the mass penetration of mobile apps. Smartphone penetration in the U.S. is 80% today and is forecast at 93% by 2020 , in just 3 years. Your team has become accustomed to great software and will no longer adopt clunky, difficult-to-use products. The best mobile-first software delivers a well-designed and approachable User Interface that results in positive feedback from every organizational level.
Human Resources Commitment: With a mobile-first, cloud-based strategy, small teams can fully manage the service lifecycle of your new platform with minimal IT support. Choose software that integrates best-in-class solutions with plug-and-play simplicity , so that you can have the leading mobile operations solution without sacrificing the simplicity of a single platform. An excellent customer success team and approachable support resources also boost your ability to implement with speed, grace and minimal commitments from your human resources.
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Managing such a labor-intensive process with a paper-based system delays your ability to make prompt repairs and security deposit refunds, impacting student and parent satisfaction. But the massive annual turn inherent in Student Housing Operations doesn’t have to leave you with inaccurate data, labor inefficiencies and lapses in damage documentation. With the right mobile inspection solution, you’ll capture standardized data to drive ever-higher compliance, tremendous time savings, resident loyalty and lift on damage deposits recovered.
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