Navigating the changing landscape brought about by Covid-19 has certainly been a challenge for property managers. However, it has also brought into stark relief the critical role that property managers play on behalf of landlords, and highlighted a few essential operational capabilities that will become non-negotiable in future.
“Most property managers have never worked as hard as they did during those first months of lockdown,” says Johann van der Merwe, Managing Director of WeconnectU Intelligent Property Management Software. “The new regulations around tenant movement, paired with increasing numbers of tenants in financial difficulty and tenant payment strikes, made property managers’ legal and negotiation skills absolutely invaluable to landlords.”
As a result, Van der Merwe says property management teams not only had to cope with adjusting to a brand-new remote work dynamic, they also had to handle record numbers of urgent enquiries, sensitive negotiations and – in irreconcilable situations – help landlords prepare to take legal action.
“From a customer relationship perspective, this has been an incredible opportunity to prove their worth to their clients,” says Van der Merwe. “I don’t think a single landlord regretted having a property manager on his or her team over this period of uncertainty. However, lockdown also clearly demonstrated the flaws in old-school, analogue property management processes, most of which became impossible the moment lockdown began.”
Property managers who had already embraced technology found themselves with a distinct competitive advantage, however. Cloud-based technology platforms like WeconnectU enabled their teams to continue to work seamlessly from home, leveraging the same processes, operational efficiencies, and collaborative capabilities they’d enjoyed in-office.
Perhaps even more importantly, they were able to maintain critical lines of communication between team members, management, communities, landlords and tenants.
“In new and unusual situations, the ability to work as a team, support one another, and easily engage with management and clients on critical KPIs is priceless,” says Van der Merwe. “Having access to a platform that supports and encourages this kind of transparency is a huge service differentiator at the best of times, but even more so in a crisis.”
Lockdown also made it clear that transparency needs to be backed up by measurable standard operating procedures if business owners and/or managers are going to successfully ensure deliverables are met.
“When your team isn’t in the same office, it can be tricky to tell whether things are running smoothly or balls are being dropped,” says Van der Merwe. “Having clear SOPs in place, and being able to monitor their progress, empowers management to keep service levels high and ensure KPIs are consistently met without having to be elbow-deep in all day-to-day proceedings.”
In this, Van der Merwe says a top-notch team is also worth its weight in gold.
“A poorly-trained team just doesn’t have the knowledge and flexibility to deal with unusual situations without help from management,” he says. “I think a lot of business owners learnt this the hard way when they were suddenly called into the thick of every crisis and every negotiation during lockdown. An experienced and highly-trained team may have steeper overheads, but they pay for themselves through speed, efficacy and the ability to get things done without the need for micromanagement.”
According to Van der Merwe, its realisations like this that will stand the industry in good stead as it prepares for the future.
“The importance of being tech-enabled, moving away from old-school, manual processes, and creating an agile, measurable and manageable environment has never been clearer than it is today,” he says. “While we certainly hope to never see a crisis like Covid-19 again, the momentum it’s created to drive our industry forward will stand us in good stead as we adapt to this and all future ‘new normals’.”