Mobile Facilities App Helping Camden Improve Lives One Experience at a Time
Approaching its 35th year in business, Camden launched a customer-focused project to build better, long-lasting relationships with its residents in 2016. As with what every apartment owner explores while seeking the greater good – higher occupancy, better retention and the best return on investment – Camden’s plan was no exception.
The company began exploring how to boost customer sentiment over the company’s portfolio of 153 U.S. apartment communities. Meanwhile, the maintenance team was about to realize a dream that would make the day-to-day handling of service requests more bearable.
And as the long-awaited adoption of a maintenance mobile facilities app manifested, two very formidable forces meshed: operational efficiency and satisfied residents.
“It really wasn’t intended to be that way, but this project became the first initiative in that customer-focused, broader mission for us,” said Camden Director of Asset Management Travis Oden. “That was the most powerful thing.”
App makes positive impact on maintenance, with residents
The adoption of mobile facilities management software is not only making a positive impact on Camden’s maintenance teams but also with residents, Oden said.
Last fall, Camden began a pilot program and quickly saw the app’s potential to improve time-consuming maintenance processes and workflows. Maintenance teams were able to respond more quickly to service requests and drastically cut down on time and paper expense by eliminating manual updating of resident records at the end of the day.
Camden’s maintenance teams lobbied for mobile technology in recent years, but a number of obstacles existed. However, enhanced app functionality plus greater acceptance of smartphone usage among technicians made adoption more appealing.
In mid-January, Camden launched a full-scale rollout that included arming maintenance teams with 500 mobile phones at its 153 properties. Every property was online by the end of February, and within 30 days the maintenance workflow had improved, Oden said. In fact, Camden received a greater surprise as its customer sentiment ticked up 2-3 percent.
“The biggest positive of this application has been the ability to put a tool in the hands of our maintenance staff that empowers them to better serve our customers and also do it more quickly,” he said. “That’s been our biggest win – -true alignment with the customer-focused initiative. We were trying to improve the lives of our maintenance teams and how they did their jobs, but it became more about our customers as we started doing the rollout.”
During one particular Denver cold spell, a new resident got a little warmer much faster than she expected. Within minutes of making a service request about a draft in the apartment, a technician who had just completed a work order in a nearby apartment saw the request on his smartphone and appeared at the front door. It was so quick, in fact, the resident was caught a little off guard, Oden said.
“She actually thought the technician wasn’t a Camden employee,” he said. “He had to show the phone to her and explain what he was doing. She couldn’t believe he was able to respond so quickly.”
The technician sealed a drafty window and took a few minutes to ask the resident about her move-in experience. She shared that this was her best service experience in her 10 years as a renter.
“She is always going to remember her experience, regardless of how long she lives at a Camden property,” Oden said. “The immediate response time, customer service and interaction with residents have become very powerful, and are factors that can lead to a renewal decision.”
Time savings translates to reducing costs
Mobile functionality has proved to be a timesaver simply by eliminating the 5-7 minutes required to manually update each work order at the end of the day. Oden estimates the savings to be significant over a year’s time. The functionality also allows maintenance technicians to become more efficient with their time.
Adoption of the technology during training was swift, Oden said. Within the first week, about 80 percent of Camden’s maintenance team had adopted and embraced it. He expects that number to climb as everyone gets used to using the app.
Oden expects additional savings when Camden begins using mobile technology for move-out inspections or managing preventive maintenance. Technicians will save time documenting the condition of the apartment and have the ability to manage any necessary preventative maintenance tasks in the palms of their hands.
The app’s photo feature alone is a big timesaver. Technicians no longer have to use a company camera or other device to take pictures and spend additional time downloading at the end of the day into customer files. Once the photo is taken within the facilities app, it’s automatically filed appropriately.
Building a tighter bond with residents a true test of technology
The true test of the technology will be during Camden’s busy summer months, Oden said. But so far he likes what he sees, especially with the greater potential of building a tighter bond with residents.
“It really is taking the extra time now available and developing the relationship with residents, and understanding their needs, as opposed to just walking into the apartment and trying to solve the problem,” he said. “We’re trying to improve their lives, one experience at a time.”