Alfred Talks Tech: Next Generation Property Management, Innovation Through Tech
Watch our very first Alfred Talks Tech episode, Next Generation Property Management: Innovation Through Tech.
Today, we launched our very first episode of Alfred Talks Tech, where our CEO and Co-Founder, Marcela Sapone, and RKW Residential’s CEO, Marcie Williams, dove deep into how technology can be leveraged to make onsite property teams’ experience easier and more efficient.
In this episode, we explored:
- The best tools and resources to empower property managers and their teams.
- A framework to create an exceptional living experience for residents.
- Case studies on how operational and organizational efficiencies allow owners to get more out of their investment.
To learn more about Alfred & RKW’s technology and hospitality-driven property management solutions, visit our property partners page to schedule a free demo of our platform.
Britta: Hi! Welcome to the first episode of Alfred Talks Tech. My name’s Britta, I’m here with Marcela Sapone, CEO and Co-Founder of Alfred.
Marcela: Hi! I’m excited for everyone who’s tuning in. Thanks for joining us.
Britta: We’re also joined by Marcie Williams, CEO of RKW Residential.
Marcie: Hi, and welcome!
Britta: In this conversation we’ll be discussing how technology is transforming the way the real estate industry operates and the entire rental experience. For those tuning in and don’t forget to drop your question into the chat box. Let’s get started. To start us off, what would you say the state of the industry is today? What are some of the challenges we are currently facing? Marcela I’ll start with you.
Marcela: Well let’s start with real estate is one of the most exciting spaces right now to be a part of. Right now more and more Americans are renting for longer and for higher prices than ever before. And, the thing that’s really interesting about the space is that there is a lack of technology, and while there’s innovation it is extremely, extremely fragmented. As a result we are only seeing 1% of a property’s budget go towards technology. Comparing that to other industries at 10%, there is a lot of room for growth. There are a lot of changes that need to happen in the space in order to utilize technology to really change the resident experience in a profound, meaningful way. The industry still views the renter as a rent check. It’s time for a shift where landlords understand that the resident is the asset.
Marcie: I would agree. I would say rents are high, but at the same time renters are expecting more. That’s where technology can really change the experience. We’ve always had a great relationship with our properties, but that’s where technology can really come in and create efficiencies to create an even better experience. Where we are challenged in our industries is that there are a lot of technologies out there, but it’s very fragmented. The biggest challenge is not having a combined platform with the technologies integrated. That’s where we are unique. It’s not only easy for the resident, but for the owner.
Britta: Back in March, through Alfred’s acquisition of RKW, we became one team and are offering a single stop solution together. Marcie, what does the partnership mean for building owners?
Marcie: Ultimately, it’s going to be a game changer. For our organization and Alfred’s organization the goal is about creating one team. We’re combining our platforms to solve the industry’s biggest challenges. We’re thinking about how we can make owners, operators, and residents happier. We want residents to be more satisfied, to rent for longer, and to be more engaged with the property, their neighbors, the teams, and the community. There’s a statistic that says if a resident knows at least six people in the building, they’re 7% more likely to renew their lease. And, that’s really what our combined platform can do. We’re able to collaborate and make it better for our residents, uplifting the NOI for the property.
Marcela: NOI is definitely the name of the game. But, what I am most excited about in this collaboration is that we are now literally addressing what we spoke about. There are thousands of technologies out there that are trying to solve the industry’s biggest challenges, but they are not combined or compliment each other in the right way. We’re creating the end-to-end experience that is making a better experience for both the operators and residents. We’re the first in the industry to create a single-stop solution to combine the best technologies in the space. We bring together the technologies in an integration under a bundle for the owner and operator. For the first time ever, you have complete data on who is in the building, what makes them happy, who has the longest tenure, what amenities are being used, and what maintenance is being requested. This creates significant changes to the property and for the resident.
Marcie: We want residents to live their lives, seamlessly, like they’re living it everywhere else. They want to be able to push a button and have access to everything they want immediately. Now, our services and our technology are going to be able to give them everything they want.
Marcela: It’s the complete living experience that is rewarding and seamless. We’re creating a one stop shop that is a remote control for not only your building, but your life. Whether it’s access control, home cleaning, signing your lease digitally – we’re building everything into one place. Our community events and programming and services, that are extraordinary, support the local economy and activate the property. All of that is happening in one place. In the same exact way, in one portal, for owners and operators, they have access integrated, making their teams more efficient. This all makes the resident experience more seamless, as well as making on-site teams jobs more enjoyable.
Britta: Marcie, for the communities that have launched recently, what has the feedback been from residents so far?
Marcie: The residents have loved it. Now, I will tell you we have been rolling out Alfred’s technology and platform in a thoughtful manner, approaching every property uniquely. We already have experience as a management veteran at our properties. We actually want to work together with the on-site teams to transition them through new training for the AOS technology and hospitality, because this all involves how to connect with residents. And at the same time, we want to make sure that the owners understand the value this all has for them. In fact, in one of our communities, we had 95% of the community sign up for the Alfred app because they resonate with the technology. So what that shows us, is that residents are excited and they’re excited to interact with one another in a new way they find everywhere else.
Britta: Marcela, any insights on how residents are using the app?
Marcie: Today, one of my favorite features in the app is the forum. It is a quick and exciting way to build momentum in the onboarding experience. It is a place where people will start the actual conversation and people are organizing different clubs and activities and they’re connecting with one another. They’re organizing tutoring and babysitting, dog walking, and composting in the buildings to be more sustainable. And, as residents get all these solutions, it’s really wonderful to see the communities start to form, and bonds start to form. Neighbors can become friends. It’s extremely powerful and it’s highly utilized in the Alfred app.
Britta: Marcela, what are some of the results we’ve seen where the Alfred Operating System is fully integrated into a community? Where has this approach had a positive return on investment?
Marcela: We’re not here to talk about Alfred, we’re here to talk about how technology transforms property management. We’re here to talk about what the future is for real estate. What we were able to do during COVID is to work with a property manager at their property to manage it end-to-end, implementing our technology, our hospitality, and our services. In just a few days, we were able to create efficiencies that changed the way the onsite team operated, completely changing the way they approached the property and residents. It changed the bottom line and the top line of the property. If we look at the results, without spending any money, we saw an uplift in NOI. That is truly remarkable.
Marcie: And, what we’re looking at doing is how we can help replicate that. But, at the same time as we’re rolling out phase by phase, we really are looking at what technology can do to enhance what the teams are doing onsite. We’re utilizing the data to prepare and staff our properties to better enhance the residential experience.
Marcela: As we continue to roll out the Alfred Operating System in a thoughtful way, it’s really about learning. Now, for the first time ever, we have a property management team so we can focus on the things that truly matter. So I’m excited to do that across RKW and beyond.
Britta: A new metric RKW and Alfred are using is the net promoter score. Marcela, can you explain a bit what it is and why it’s so important to measure?
Marcela: I feel that in the last five years, there has been so much newness and where it’s thinking about property management as a hospitality business and really caring about that experience of the resident. So that being said, to move into the next phase of property management, we have to view property management and the day-to-day experience of a renter as a best in class consumer product. When you look at what consumer products people love, whether it’s Warby Parker or Sweet Green Salads or the Tesla in your garage, you really have to look at their NPS scores as a north star. The Net Promoter Score is really a measure that can go from negative 100 to 100 that really looks at whether or not your brand is recommended by consumers. In our space, the baseline for buildings’ NPS is at negative 11 which is equivalent to the DMV.
Marcie: But, not RKW properties. Let’s say we’re at level zero and we’re elevating our properties.
Marcela: Well, Marcie, that’s the reason why we decided to partner with RKW. But, what I love to see is a property with low NPS, in just 3-6 months 30+ boost because of building technology, that is seamless, and actually works and is used by the residents. That is what is getting the consumer excited. As Marcie said, there is this pent up craving for technology. As property increases their rent, there has to be added value for the renter. So it’s really critical right now, for the health of the industry, to make meaningful differences. They are not a rent check. This is a consumer product. It’s not just the property that is an asset, it’s also the renter. I’m really excited to transform this industry together. NPS everyone needs to measure it. You heard it here first.
Britta: Marcie, On the property management side, how do you prioritize which tech to include in your day-to-day operations?
Marcie: Well we know that there is a lot of tech out there. But, the first thing we look at is what is going to make the residents’ lives better and easier. And then, how can we implement that technology to make the building more efficient. With the Alfred Team, we’re able to vet the best technology out there. Whether it’s integrated and aggregate in AOS, we’re using it to implement real change. The priority is always the resident. For some of the technology that’s out there, when we tried to integrate, it was just a stop.
Marcela: One thing we’re really focused on here, specifically with our Engineering team is looking at the other PropTech companies out there to make sure what we’re doing is working. We’re making the investment to bring together the best technologies under one platform. There are 3-4 options in digital lease signing, there are 20 options for digital locks and access. But, what we do is negotiate for the best pricing and the best technology together to make a bigger difference. We’re bundling technology across every vertical. We’re really becoming the technology partner to an owner and to an operator. That doesn’t mean we’re just selling everything to you. It means understanding how each technology is going to speak to you and create a single platform that has data in a differentiated way. So I’m excited there’s so much going on in our space that we often make these things talk to each other.
Marcie: And that’s another good point. It’s really about utilizing the data of the technology to understand how we can make residents’ lives better and easier. And, owners and operators are using the data so they can make informed decisions on what’s working at the community and what they can utilize in the next property.
Marcela: Right. And, asset owners are very sophisticated and they have new ways of looking at data. So we want to get to them in a way where they want to drill down on what’s going on in one of the bedrooms across my portfolio that has this format versus this format. And what does that mean and what do your retention rates look like with this type of demographic in my building? And where are there pockets of population and job growth that look like that demographic? We’re talking about data and insights that can make a real difference in how asset management is done in a profound and expansive way. Data that has never been used in the value chain before. Back to being disruptive. It’s about giving people data with actionable insights.
Marcie: Data in operations.
Marcela: Oh, I love that.
Marcie: It happens a lot. What we think people are actually utilizing, just from seeing them in the building, is just what we think is happening. We might say that everybody uses the fitness center and mostly the treadmill. But now, we have the data to actually back that it is informative and insightful, so we can make better decisions.
Marcela: And so you can better operate, right. You can staff the fitness center at the right times, get better equipment if something isn’t being used. It’s the small stuff that really begins to add up in a big way and make a difference.
Britta: Are you guys ready to jump into some audience questions?
Marcela: I would love that.
Britta: All right. So we’re gonna start with a fun one. What is the best feature in the Alfred app? Marcela, we’ll start with you.
Marcela: So my absolute all time favorite feature is the Alfred button, it’s the chat button. It’s the ability for a resident to kind of break glass any moment in time and ask a question, 24/7. Oftentimes, we’ve heard the question before and oftentimes have a direct service to satisfy the need. But ultimately, it’s our way of learning constantly and inherent what residents are focused on. And honestly, I mean, every single day we’re hearing something a little bit different. So we have a direct pulse on the resident community and we can understand what residents really value. We’re an expert in being able to bring residents’ voices to the industry.
Marcie: My absolute favorite is really the Alfred Marketplace. For me, again, I really love just seeing residents engage in their community. It makes it a better place to live overall. It just gives residents a single stop solution to find the best of the best within the community.
Marcela: 70% of what’s in our marketplace really are locally sourced services and goods. It’s not just the building, it’s the community you live in and to know what the offerings are and what the best small businesses are. And you think that’s really profound and people focus on that right now.
Britta: What are your predictions? Does technology replace onsite teams?
Marcie: I mean what we do is so hospitality focused. We want to be able to serve the residents the way they want to be served by their best technologies or whether that’s through coming down to the office and talking about what’s happening in your lives or you know, they want to come down and talk to us about a social class. We need our teams. The teams are paramount to what we do, what technology will do for us in the future. It’s just to make it easier for us to do our jobs, some of the things that we might not like to do, but some of the things that we have to do for asset preservation. We can utilize technology, but we will always be.
Marcela: I think one of the really powerful combinations of what we’re proposing irrespective of the technology is to really focus on the onsite team, the hospitality experience. If we can make it easier for people to do their job and just focus on the highest quality interactions and focus on the relationships with the residents. That means you have a more fulfilling job. And one of the things we want to see in the space and I think it’s going to be a true differentiator for our platform upon basis is we are going to retain our teams. We are going to have long standing, expert people, who are getting to do their job in a more meaningful way and focus on the things that really count and allow technology to be a tool to assist in the rest. And it means changing jobs to communicate for the better.
Britta: Marcela, what other companies do you look at for inspiration?
Marcela: Well, I have to say there’s been so much innovation in the past several years within our space. There’s a ton of early stage founders out there that I really admire and respect in our space. But I love to look outside of our industry for inspiration and I am not ashamed. It is a shame. But I really think that Tesla is a very good analogy for what we’re doing here at Alfred. Because Tesla took an old school industry’s entire values day and said how can we do this in a better way it changed everything from the core function of the car work, how supply chain works, how cars were sold. And as a result, we’re able to make a profound change that was not only better for the environment, but a completely different consumer experience around owning a car. I think that was really hard to do and it took a long time, but it’s changed the entire industry. So it’s really you only saw Tesla. Now, everybody’s gonna do all the parts and all the car companies are doing it.
And, I think that’s what a combined RKW and Alfred platform creates: to take technology and the see change as we shift the entire value chain, and change the experience and really make this a consumer product. And I think that will help the entire industry move this way and that is what that’s what we need to do.
Britta: And Marcie, what are you most excited about in the industry?
Marcie: I’m ready to evolve. I’m ready to do something that the residents are not even ready for. They’re not even really thinking about yet. That’s what I’m so excited about. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, taking care of residents. What I’m really excited about is the next step in property management and really creating a high-tech, resident-centric platform, rather than just being a management platform. Really just again, taking care of the residents the way they want to be taken care of. I’m excited, I’m ready for change.
Marcela: And change that we didn’t even know was possible. We’ll look back in a couple years from now and it’s really proposing innovation that the industry isn’t even speaking about yet. That’s going to be really exciting.
Britta: Marcela, what other predictions for the future of the industry?
Marcela: So one area that we’re really focused on and I’m excited that the value chain has focused on as you know, equity and debt lenders are really starting to look and add a true scorecard for ESG and that means you need to change behaviors and how systems are working within these buildings. So, we’re going to be offering a complete ESG solution that really looks at how can we change the residents options on site for waste or how they use the least amount of electricity and how we’re moving behaviors to really take a net zero approach to building life, as well as a lot of what we talked about that Community Engagement Services, really focused on the diversity of our onsite teams, and creating a true quantitative way to report back to investors. Here’s the changes that we’re making that are going to benefit the entire industry.
Marcie: And what I really liked about that is that that is over all asset types and throughout this industry, what we’re doing is not just for all the people that are paying the highest. One could expect the most for every single one of our residents. ESG, technology, these things are not just for the top, A++ community.
Marcela: It’s the new industry standard. And, we have to start taking real action now to those in the regulation and that’s so exciting for the industry.
Britta: I think that’s all we have for today. Thank you guys so much for joining us and stay tuned for the next episode of Alfred Talks Tech.