The Ongoing Debate on the Merits of Centralized Apartment Leasing
From the efficiencies to the importance of personalized customer service, the industry weighs it all.
The debate on the merits of centralized leasing operations is legitimate. The topic stirs strong opinions as the apartment industry weighs its potential benefits and shortcomings.
From efficiencies to customer service and more, industry operations veterans took each side of the debate during the National Apartment Association’s Apartmentalize Conference last week in Atlanta.
Suzanne Hopson, President, Tricap Residential, said “specialization” is an even better word to describe the centralized approach.
“Today, so many employees have to wear so many hats, so why not create a specialization in what they do by having them handle what they do best,” she said.
Centralization allows that while having AI-based website bots virtual leasing assistants (VLAs) handle many of the mundane tasks staff members must perform.
Lisa Trosien, Apartment Expert, said prospective residents are making their most expensive decision and should receive personalized service from an onsite apartment staff member.
“It shouldn’t come down to what they learn about a property based on conversing with a bot,” Trosien said.
Hopson countered that VLAs are more convenient, as they are available 24-7, and inquiring prospects are never interrupted when pursuing information or having to schedule an appointment.
She said Tricap is seeing strong performance numbers when it comes to scheduling tours through VLAs.
Trosien questioned the knowledge of the bots, who might not have answers based on how prospects word their inquiries. Bots simply aren’t intuitive, she said. “You won’t see them asking, ‘Do you work from home?’ to the prospect, and many today want apartments that enable that.”
She added that consumers today like self-service operations such as VLAs, “but when you go to pay at a place like Target, there’s always a person standing at the check-out to help.”
The panel agreed that centralized leasing can work well in many situations. Trosien cautioned that sometimes it won’t work if it doesn’t fit the company’s culture.
“I’ve seen companies that totally pride themselves in personalized service try it and it just doesn’t work out for them,” she said.
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