When multifamily communities consider new software, how can they be sure the launch process will live up to expectations? HappyCo spoke with industry leaders to learn the must-haves of software training — from interface essentials to post-launch partnership.
"No matter what, some members of my team always fight me on new technology."
When hopes are high but pushback is powerful, it can be tough for multifamily teams to successfully launch the tech that improves operations. Luckily, HappyCo spoke with industry leaders to understand the key ingredients of successful software adoption.
An interface everybody loves
If software is too complicated to use, nobody uses it! Above all, multifamily managers stressed this message to us — that the best software leaves users absolutely sure of their next move.
Natural workflows, comprehensive features
In recalling her Inspections launch experience, SJA Property Management Property Manager Martha Berg emphasized the importance of an intuitive interface and features that span critical property needs. "It was immediately a no-brainer to figure out what the next step would be. And, it was so refreshing to have one program do what we needed instead of turning to separate systems to give us answers."
Rating sets built to get what you need
Meanwhile, having rating sets that were easy to create — and even simpler to answer from the field — was a must-have for Unified Residential Director of Operations Support Joellen Siddall as her team considered inspection software. In her view, the high points of their choice included: "color variety, how the rating options were structured, and the fact that you can copy different ratings sets at the same time instead of copying each choice one by one. That makes my job go from two hours to ten minutes per template!"
Reports that get teams talking
And, for leadership teams at Kriegman & Smith, it was essential that new inspection software offer real-time insights and thorough reporting — i.e. the opportunity to improve the make ready process, together. Partner Jeffrey Smith revealed: "Now, with Happy Inspector, I can understand from the required pictures exactly what's affecting unit downtime. It's clear instantly if the place came to us in really bad shape. That kind of access to our data really helps us collaborate."
Better still, detailed dashboards and assigned inspections have helped Kriegman & Smith more effectively acknowledge the on-site teams responsible for slashing unit downtime: "in that sense, the product gives us a great opportunity to recognize people's efforts in a tight turn even more than we were."
A launch team that's friendly and forthright
A thoughtful transition, post-contract
In Smith's view, it was unusual to experience a effortless journey from contract signing to software launch. Yet, as Kriegman found in selecting its new inspection tech, "the handoff from Sales was particularly smooth. We were never just cast off. We felt everyone was involved and interested."
Training that energizes the skeptics
From Smith's perspective, teams are only successful in adopting software if their biggest skeptics can be convinced. He stresses: "one of our concerns in pursuing inspection software was that we wanted it to work for everyone — from techs holding screwdrivers to execs at their desktops." Luckily, Smith says Kriegman's launch instructor "was really stand-out. He brought up dashboards and showed final reports in a way everybody understood, even the people less comfortable with technology in the group."
Timely answers to your questions
Martha Berg of SJA says she could already feel her smile "growing bigger" during her team's demo and welcome training, but that she was especially grateful for the timely responses she received to follow-up questions. "Our launch specialist has been fantastic in getting us answers — usually within the hour. Whereas, we've definitely heard 'I'll get back to you' from other companies and had to wait and wait, sometimes not hearing anything."
Continued learning with Customer Success
Joellen Siddall from Unified says while initial group trainings were "really helpful," she feels particularly grateful to be able to meet regularly with her customer success team. "I'll reach out to my rep on a weekly basis to discuss anything I need help with, but since they're teaching me so well, I have to bother them less and less!"
Faith your reps are industry experts
Meanwhile, TrinitySF Senior Business Systems Manager Jason Newland says industry expertise was a prime selling point when his leadership chose inspection software. In his view, "their industry experience helps us know exactly what the tool is capable of on the ground and how we can shape it for our business operations."
Early evidence the software solves what's broken
Thorough inspections, even in a health crisis
In SJA's case, the pandemic made the company unable to carry out mid-lease inspections. Luckily, Berg says, SJA felt hopeful that resident-led inspections could help the organization prioritize safety while collecting critical unit data. During demos, a mix of sales and launch team members "went over the fundamentals, how to adjust and make it work for us." From there, Berg says, "I mass-uploaded our unit information one Friday evening and quickly got back over ½ of those resident inspections — because we'd created a form that any resident could open up and say: 'I can do this.'"
Faster turns with real-time insights
Kriegman leadership teams had long wanted to know about make ready obstacles the moment they happen. Fortunately, Smith says, the company sensed during demos that Inspector's real-time dashboards could shed light on the roadblocks faced by on-site crews — paving the way for less unit downtime. Smith says the launch process that followed helped key stakeholders learn exactly how to gain the the immediate answers they want. "As an exec, I'm now easily able to see the turnover process for an apartment several times a day if I want. Because I can see obstacles with my own eyes, I'm able to give feedback instantly and see the progress that results."
Easier inspections, better accountability
Meanwhile, Siddall of Unified suspected that a seamless integration between her new inspection and PMS systems could improve accountability in significant ways. Luckily, what she learned during launch paid off quickly; dashboards now show her instantly "what's scheduled, what's past due, and more." This, Siddall says, has improved turn teamwork across the board. "Our crews can come in Monday and easily understand what they need to do. Now, we can delegate tasks and set expectations and make this our 'year of accountability,' just like we planned."
Templates spanning key property needs
For TrinitySF, it was important that any new inspection software could help improve oversight and efficiency for a range of property processes, beyond the classic case of turn. Jason Newland says his leadership team was excited about the editing and rating possibilities it soaked up during launch and follow-up one-on-one meetings. Now, the company uses what it learned about required photos and customized ratings to carry out thorough daily inspections for property safety and cleanliness.
Advocates that hype the upsides
Above all, multifamily leaders emphasized that launches only have a shot of succeeding if internal team members rally around the software, sharing clear-cut evidence that the solutions on offer truly make work easier. Here are some of the ways these software advocates proved successful.
Highlighting time savings for on-site crews
Berg says teams at SJA were a little too accustomed to changing software. By the time leadership considered resident-led inspections, several staff were "reluctant" to make the switch. However, Berg says "we convinced them by making clear how much time they'd save — all the driving, filling out notes. They were looking at two hours per property. But with resident-led inspections, we showed how they could get all the answers they needed in 3 days, just by sending the right forms to the right people."
Sparing regionals technical headaches
Siddall says her busy regionals were especially concerned they might encounter technical issues when adjusting to new reporting workflows. It's why Siddall demonstrated how tough it was to mess anything up in the company's new inspection solution. "I got in there to show the regionals how it works. They're super busy, so I told them: 'once you get in there, it's so easy that you can't break anything. I proved it because I tried, and I didn't."
Including end users in tech conversations
Starting right from the launch process, TrinitySF encourages end users to give feedback on the technology they're trying — what's working, what isn't, etc. By establishing this open dialogue early on, Newland says, the organization helps on-site crews feel a sense of agency in software choices. In a collaborative culture like Trinity's, Newland says he often sees this kind of conversation unfold: "People working on site start to say things like: 'we're using this tool already, why can't we use it for this?' And we say, 'absolutely, please, drive change! Keep on giving us suggestions.'"
A partnership that gets stronger every day
With the pandemic ushering in a whole new era of remote collaboration, multifamily leaders stressed the importance of forming a genuine post-launch partnership with software vendors — so that your on-the-ground needs are taken into account as solutions evolve.
Shape the growth of a "one-stop-shop"
In a world growing increasingly "paperless," Siddall says a comprehensive property tech stack "is a must-have." As she puts it: "since this is our new normal, maintenance teams need a one-stop shop for their day-to-day. That's how our teams feel now, signing directly into Happy Inspector to understand what's due for the day."
Opt for a team with tight communication
Newland says tight communication and an innovative spirit were must-haves for the organization's new inspection software partner. Fortunately, his teams at TrinitySF have not been disappointed with their choice. "We always have regular communication with our vendor team as new features come online — just a great back-and-forth as they let us know exactly how releases can improve the ways we work."
Partner with the vendor seeking feedback
Finally from Berg's perspective, it's essential that customer success managers demonstrate they're making end users' needs a high priority. Luckily, she's delighted by her HappyCo rep's approach with SJA. "When we meet with him to check in, he asks: 'is this working for you? Is there a filter we can apply to make things even more clear for your teams?'"
Glennis is a writer/producer from San Francisco. Taking the city’s trains and buses with riders of all ages and backgrounds inspired Glennis to go into journalism and share people’s stories for a living. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 2013, she worked at CBS San Francisco as a program coordinator, public affairs producer, and ultimately full-time news writer for the KPIX 5 Morning News. She’s excited to enter the bustling startup world and tell HappyCo’s stories across channels.