Coronavirus: Working around the pandemic.
In just a few short weeks of Coronavirus officially impacting the UK, we are already seeing many businesses forcibly adapting & making changes to their everyday operations. Sadly, for some businesses these contingency plans include reduced opening hours, letting staff members go or having to close completely until further notice. A typical lettings agency manages a portfolio, conducts viewings & undertakes valuations- all actions which require a physical presence.
In a climate where unnecessary contact is not advised, how can we adapt our processes to ensure our survival? Almost every letting agent operates from an individual office space or multiple offices. Due to the nature of the work at hand, it can be tricky to find a work around for this. In a pandemic where the future is uncertain, what small steps can agents take to ensure a smoother transition through this rough period?
Luckily, the lettings industry has come on leaps & bounds by adopting tech to its everyday processes. This means that most portals used for the everyday running of an agency can easily be accessed outside of the office space.
By base being a forward-thinking, tech embracing agency we are better equipped than most. Here are just some of the ways that we have continued to operate as normal:
We are lucky to use a cloud-based central CRM system from Zoopla through which we facilitate the core operations of our business. Jupix is easily accessible via any web internet browser for multiple users. Here our staff are able to remotely gain access to all enquiries, property records, contact records, maintenance issues (via PropertyFile) and generate tenancy documents.
Another huge bonus of using Jupix is PropertyFile, our landlord portal & tenant app. Landlords can access key information or tenancy documents at any time. Our tenants can access key documents, review their rent ledger and report maintenance issues via the portal. This simply limits phone calls asking for certain documents to be sent over and means we can access maintenance issues remotely.
Our portals and enquiry processing solutions ensure leads get to us and are processed quickly & efficiently at all times. We make good use of a company named LeadPro, who is a lead generator maximiser. They are able to do this by automatically responding to enquiries with a link for applicants to ‘pre-qualify’ themselves. Again, the process is sped up by almost double when we have this information to hand.
EyeSpy360, our virtual & hosted tours operator, accompanied with professional photos & floorplans minimise the need to physically attend properties. As a result this reduces any unnecessary contact. EyeSpy360 have just stated that they will be offering agents 3 months free usage of EyeSpy Live (which enables you to walk someone through a property- like a video call- but for a virtual tour!).
Facetime & WhatsApp gives us the ability to conduct live video viewings & property inspections. Our tenants are very kindly offering to accommodate FaceTime or video inspections which mean none of our members of staff need to be present at the property. However, we are still able to update our landlords on the condition of their property as normal.
For referencing we use a company called RentProfile. They are our online referencing partner and again, this platform can be accessed from any PC or laptop. Not only is this one of the most straightforward referencing platforms we have used, it is also incredibly fast (we can have referencing turned around within 24-48hrs max!).
In a bid to ensure we are avoiding unnecessary waste, we use an online platform called DocuSign for all document issuing & signing. This has really helped much more than we could have expected. Not just for time saving, but for ensuring all of our tenancy processes are unaffected by recent events, regardless of where we are working from. We have been using Docusign for some time now and according to them we have also helped to save 323 million kg of wood in the process!
In order to ensure a smooth end of tenancy process, base use a streamlined platform called The Depositary. This is an end of tenancy platform taking tenancies from notice to refund. This facilitates requesting a slot for the check out, deductions, negotiating, deposit return & even holds important information from both inventories. This makes check out a virtually stress free process for any staff, landlords who want an update and tenants who need to see when their deposit is being returned (or, what needs to happen before this can be done). Then, we follow up with Please Connect Me- this will facilitate the closing of all of our concluding tenancy utilities (and sometimes even set them up for a new tenancy).
Our amazing contractors are working with us to do their best to deliver a seamless service in these challenging times. We continue to review our processes during this uncertain time to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible service. Though, thanks to our great suppliers, not an awful lot has changed.