Aspen Heights Partners is a vertically integrated student housing developer, owner and operator with over 19,000 beds under management across 35 off-campus communities. Since 2006, Aspen Heights has built its reputation on delivering a top product and exemplary customer experience from coast to coast.
Speed of implementation
Inspections 1st 2 months
Ratings collected 1st 3 months
Projected portfolio damage charges
Average per property damage charges
Property GM's time aggregating data
How HappyCo Helped
AHP turned to HappyCo for a real-time inspection solution that could deploy quickly, spur high user adoption, enable accurate data collection, and offer instant access to critical data through reporting dashboards. Within 3 weeks, AHP had worked with the HappyCo team to successfully implement the new platform portfolio-wide. Two months later, personnel had conducted almost 5,000 inspections; and after 3 months, AHP had gathered a total of 947,000 ratings on furniture and preventative maintenance items. Later in the year, AHP conducted 9,800 move-out inspections using HappyCo, generating $22,262 in higher average damage charges per property, projected at $780,000 in increased damage charges across the portfolio.
Dashboards and Inspection Photos Now Deliver Critical Visibility
Before onboarding HappyCo, Aspen Heights relied on a pen-and-paper process to inventory furniture at their student communities, assess needed preventative maintenance, and determine vendor orders in the lead up to Turn. But AHP’s rapid growth across multiple states produced a challenge familiar to many companies managing geographically dispersed portfolios with a manual or paper-based system: as the portfolio expands, visibility at the corporate office often deteriorates.
Lynnette Mouton, Director of Business Process at AHP, knew her company’s visibility and operational efficiency were jeopardized by the property data produced by their current paper-based workflow for Quality Assurance Checks (QACs). “Our regional managers had to haul paper inspection files back from site visits, and then either scan the documents into a shared drive that was cumbersome to navigate and rarely accessed — or convert the files to Excel spreadsheets. It then took several weeks, if not months, to compile the property data into a usable format, causing our visibility at the head office to lag significantly behind the time properties were inspected.”
Further limiting AHP’s visibility was the fact that inspection teams weren’t taking photos to document property items like furniture that might need to be repaired or replaced. Management couldn’t reference inspection photos to verify that expenses were warranted before placing orders. “We weren’t taking any photos during our QACs. We lacked the line of sight necessary to ensure teams were inspecting properly and documenting repair and replace appropriately, so many times our managers had to operate on trust alone,” Mouton says.
Mouton was acutely aware AHP needed a better inspection system. She recounts the sale of an AHP property to a buyer who used HappyCo’s Due Diligence solution to conduct the property walk and make the acquisition decision. “I saw what HappyCo brought to the due diligence process in terms of standardized data collection and real-time analytics, and I knew I needed those tools on the operations side of AHP for our preventative maintenance and furniture inspections.”
“I saw what HappyCo brought to the due diligence process in terms of standardized data collection and real-time analytics, and I knew I needed those tools on the operations side of AHP for our preventative maintenance and furniture inspections.” Lynnette Mouton Director of Business Process
As management evaluated the HappyCo solution, Mouton considered how AHP’s business leaders would leverage the data being collected. “I was especially excited to build operational dashboards to develop the visibility we had been missing.” HappyCo’s implementations team worked closely with Mouton to produce dashboards that visualized critical property intelligence — and allowed the corporate office, regional and general managers to remotely access inspection compliance, work orders, furniture repair/replace by unit, property, and portfolio.
“We automated the process of compiling our furniture inspection and inventory data using a dashboard module that shows us how much furniture is missing or needs to be repaired or replaced. With a hard deadline for furniture orders in the spring, we needed instant access to our data so we could optimize the cost and quantity of our purchases and turn beds faster. That was something we couldn’t do formerly, so the HappyCo dashboard became a big win for us.”
In addition to creating dashboards displaying furniture data both portfolio-wide and per property, Aspen added a Portfolio Overview dashboard to give managers a complete view of each property’s inspections for monitoring compliance. The template customization features in Inspections are equally critical, reports Matt Rinker, Regional Director: “The ability to edit inspection templates to fit each property while keeping the integrity of a company-wide standard helps us compare our sites in an apples-to-apples method.”
AHP also worked with HappyCo on property-level dashboards accessible to each community manager. The Work Order dashboard module displays all items marked as work orders during inspections with links to associated photos.The Photo List dashboard component provides General Managers (GMs) with the visual verification tool needed to ensure maintenance staff have correctly designated items as “replace” (versus repair). “With HappyCo, our General Managers can now verify repair and replace costs by checking photos before placing orders,” Mouton says. “We have more checks and balances now.”
“Getting visibility very quickly across the portfolio on how much furniture expense we’re going to have for our August move-ins was probably the most beneficial outcome from moving our QAC inspection process over to HappyCo. The quality of the data we’re now able to collect, aggregate, visualize and leverage to make key decisions is much higher; and we can do it with much greater speed.”
Rapid Global Deployment Powered by Swift Staff Adoption
Aspen Heights first approached HappyCo with Student Turn fast approaching, aware there was a limited window of opportunity before the company’s resources would be dominated by the wave of student move-outs and move-ins occurring in July and August. To add to the pressure, a hard deadline for furniture orders loomed in early spring. AHP needed a solution that could replace their outmoded pen-and-paper inspections fast, and accurately collect and aggregate data on all of their furniture. A swift rollout was imperative.
The HappyCo team quickly took the lead on the implementation process, importing all of AHP’s unit details into Manage — the inspection management component of the platform. The swift implementation positioned HappyCo apart from other ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software vendors by achieving a full rollout in less than a month. “Implementation portfolio-wide took only 3 weeks — including dashboard development. I’m thrilled with HappyCo and what we’ve been able to accomplish in the short time we’ve been working together,” says Mouton.
The approachability of HappyCo’s software sped AHP’s transition from their old system and lightened the burden of change management. “We tested other data collection platforms before testing Inspections. Once we used the service, the ease of use, user interface, and technical support blew the competition away,” shares Rinker. Mouton moved to train her managers and their staff, who adopted it quickly with overwhelmingly positive feedback. Maintenance Supervisor Tony Meyer was thrilled with the new software: “My favorite part is the ability to take pictures within the app, so everything is in one place instead of having to reference a paper form and store images in a separate location or share them via email.”
Two months post-deployment, property personnel had conducted almost 5,000 inspections using HappyCo. And after three months, AHP gathered a total of 947,000 ratings on furniture and preventative maintenance items. “That we got so many ratings in such a short period of time is a testament to the app’s ease of use. It doesn’t require any special technical knowledge beyond how to use a smartphone, and the app’s thoughtful design walks you through each step.”
Mouton says the HappyCo platform’s customizability was key to their rapid enterprise-wide deployment. “As soon as our general managers gave us feedback, my business partner and I had the control to hop into the system and make changes. That’s one thing that really sets HappyCo apart — we don’t have to wait for a support or development team to update our forms or properties for us, we can do it ourselves — that’s highly beneficial.”
“I appreciate how easy it is to see the quality of our inspection walks on thirty properties across the country, in real time, from my remote office in Austin. With the risk of subjectivity in unit inspections and damage charges without adequate support, this tool was extremely helpful in maintaining consistency across the entire portfolio.” Demi Sterling-Kinney Vice President of Operations
Automated Turn Board and Higher Damage Charges at Move-Out
The new mobile inspection strategy worked so well for QACs, Mouton decided to standardize AHP’s move-out inspections on mobile as well: “Collecting damage charges at move-out has been a pain point for our company since I started. And I’ve tried many different solutions that were not ideal, so I was excited to use HappyCo this year for our move-out inspections.”
With HappyCo, AHP was able to collect much better data during move-out, and could manage data quality in real-time from corporate or the control center — onsite at the property where the GM would view inspections in Manage as they were being completed by her inspection team. “I appreciate how easy it is to see the quality of our inspection walks on thirty properties across the country, in real time, from my remote office in Austin,” reports Vice President of Operations Demi Sterling-Kinney. “With the risk of subjectivity in unit inspections and damage charges without adequate support, this tool was extremely helpful in maintaining consistency across the entire portfolio.”
Although the inspection took longer than when AHP used paper forms, the data quality was much higher, leading to higher damage charges assessed per property and even higher staff satisfaction. “Inspections was crucial to the success of my property’s most recent turn,” reports Portfolio Manager Morgan McCommas. “The ability to have a live look at unit inspections, including images, made it possible to schedule vendors and order supplies more effectively than ever before. Most importantly, it saved time — the most precious resource during student housing turn.”
With better quality data collected, damage charges increased significantly by an average of $22,262 per property, projected at $780,000 in increased damage charges across the portfolio. “The ability to monitor our on-site teams’ progress and inspection quality remotely allowed us to control if a property was over or under-aggressive with damages,” shares Rinker. “This resulted in a better resident move-out experience while optimizing income for the property.”
Other process efficiency improvements resulting from using HappyCo for move-outs will add to AHP’s NOI (net operating income). With HappyCo, AHP can now process FMOs (final move-out statements) immediately; before corporate employees would fly to each property to help process the move-out reports — a shift that will reduce travel costs for Turn. Another key process improvement outcome is that AHP can now generate a global turn board automatically using HappyCo. As each move-out inspection is completed, all of its property condition details are automatically pushed into an aggregated portfolio turn spreadsheet used for monitoring repair and replace numbers by unit. Mouton reports: “Before HappyCo, each property’s General Manager manually had to input paper inspection data into one huge Excel turn board document — it was easily a full solid day of work for each of our 35 GMs. With HappyCo’s automated integration into our turn board, we’ve saved 280 hours of GM time across our portfolio, so critical during Turn.”
Moving forward, Mouton will continue to expand AHP’s use of HappyCo functionality for their inspection processes. Mouton says she will take advantage of the item cost feature when configuring AHP’s inspection forms to save time on next year’s furniture audit. “Right now we still plug our costs into Excel, but we intend to use HappyCo’s costing feature to automatically calculate our furniture expenses.” Mouton also looks forward to using new Inspections features recently released for their next turn season, features like required fields: “The new required items feature is going to be huge for our next Turn. One of the biggest problems this year was skipped items, as that left fields blank in the turn board, requiring staff to update those inspections and then re-push the data, which could take up to 30 minutes each time. So preventing that from happening next year with required fields will save a lot of time and pain.” Mouton concludes with the responsiveness of the HappyCo team to her needs. “The HappyCo team has been wonderful to work with! Their efficient rollout was key to our success before turn season really kicked into gear.”
"With HappyCo’s automated integration into our turn board, we’ve saved 280 hours of GM time across our portfolio, so critical during Turn.” Lynnette Mouton Director of Business Process
The Road to Success
Paper inspections produced subpar data quality with little to no visibility at the regional and corporate levels
Replacement purchases were ordered without verifying furniture conditions
Damage charges were under-reported due to poor documentation, and revenue leakage was high due to under-collecting on damages at move-out
Corporate and regional managers could not access or aggregate critical data quickly
A limited window of time existed to deploy new software due to turn order deadlines
Inspections mobile app ensures standardized, consistent, high quality data capture
Integrated inline photo feature provides timestamped, visual documentation for furniture, preventative maintenance, and move-out inspections
Real-time access to inspection data through Manage dashboards give regional managers and head office critical intelligence for better and faster decision-making
Automated integration of move-out inspections into global turn board increases overall turn efficiency
Full deployment across all 19,000 beds in 3 weeks from first template creation
Phenomenal user adoption with almost 5,000 inspections collected in 2 months and 947,000 ratings gathered in 3 months
9,800 move-out inspections completed in first Turn using HappyCo
$22,262 in higher average damage charges collected per property, projected at $780,000 across the portfolio
One full day saved for each of 35 GMs, equivalent to 280 hours of GM time during Turn
FMOs (final move-out statements) are now processed immediately, reducing travel costs for corporate employees during Turn