What Property Managers Can Learn from Uber - Property Vista

June 04, 2015

What Property Managers Can Learn from Uber

Have you heard of Uber? If not, or even if you have, see why its disruptive model acts as a cautionary tale for property managers.

The taxi industry is currently going through a remarkably fast-paced example of how technology can topple the status quo.

Uber is a “peer to peer” ride-sharing company. Its smartphone app matches customers with nearby taxis, via GPS. Customers also pay the cabbie through the app, so there’s no need to count out bills or dig for change. It’s easy and convenient — and passengers love it.

In many ways, the Uber story isn’t about cars and drivers, but about technology. If you aren’t in the taxi industry, it might be difficult to get a sense of how cloud-based technology and Uber in particular is seriously ruffing feathers as younger passengers bypass traditional taxis and flock to Uber in droves.

So, while cabbies protest, even Toronto’s mayor, John Tory is on the books as saying, “Both (Uber and the taxi industry) are going to have to adapt themselves to the reality of a fair and fairly-regulated industry that focuses on serving the public better as opposed to suiting themselves.”


So, how does this relate to property management firms, you ask.

Uber filled a void. Customers were tired of randomly waving down taxis on the street or having to pick up the phone and speak to the dispatcher to arrange a car. Customers wanted another option that fit their lifestyle, and maybe saved them a little money.

Here in Canada, property management companies are still very much “bricks and mortar.” Companies continue to collect cheques and require paper work order requests for maintenance that have be dropped off at the office. Yet the customer —the resident— is craving another option.


Differentiate or die

Forward looking property management companies will adopt cloud-based solutions that will allow their customers to pay their rent online or through their debit or credit cards. Or snap a photo of a maintenance problem and then submit the request through their phone – 24/7. Apply by paper and pen? Those days are gone.

Web-enabled technology for property management firms can change the way that industry professionals work – streamlining showing the property, paperwork and resident communications.

Never mind the fact that new technology can help save property management companies time through automation of marketing tasks, online applications and credit checks, the fact is that soon residents will start to demand it. (The very act of payment through a series of cheques belongs in the Jurassic era of rent payment.)


New expectations of convenience

Customer expectations have been changed by new technology that they use everywhere else in their life – at the bank, shopping online or listening to music. Those property management companies who are first adopters to web-enabled technology are quickly rising above those who wait.

At the end of the day, if a prospective renter has to choose between two units with similar locations and physical amenities, with one offering convenient online payments, easy 24/7 communication, SMS reminders and a better customer experience will be the one that has an edge over the competition.

Just like Uber, there is a need in the marketplace for a new way of doing business with residents and prospective renters. Ignore it at your peril. It’s not going away.

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Jack Beaton Sterling Karamar, Property Management
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