Here’s how I use five excellent digital tools for managing customer service (I mention these in Chapter x, “The Top 17 Digital Tools for Real Estate Management”).
I use Zendesk to handle all incoming email communications for Serene Communities. Anyone who sends us an email—an online software we’re using, a vendor, or a resident—all of those emails get sent to a central repository (instead of a specific individual). Zendesk provides this, and it’s critical because you don’t want to have one person in charge of receiving digital communications and they get fired (or sick). In that case, you’d have to change where all your communications go.
So you want to set up a single email address for all communications. Then, you can triage those emails to the appropriate people.
Zendesk can also handle live chats through websites, phone communications, and other customer and communication services. I recommend setting up as much as possible through Zendesk’s services.
Also you’ll want to use Zendesk for managing work orders for residents. Always ask your residents to send work orders in written form. (Always have a paper trail, something tangible you can refer to, but don’t use paper!). I encourage residents to email or fax us work orders and we store those orders in our database. This gives you timestamped data and a reference point in case there’s a dispute. We have all of these communicates come into one place. That’s why you should set up an email address like “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” for managing these.
If you have a larger budget, use AppFolio, which incorporates the whole system of work orders, everything from receiving to responding to requests. This tracks the phone call, work order, and vendor repair orders. You don’t have to leave this ecosystem of one software. This software is designed specifically for real estate management. If it’s not in your budget, you’ll just need to use a few programs to coordinate work orders.
3. Ring Central.
If you don’t use Zendesk for your call center, consider Ring Central for phone calls. I use this and it’s great because you don’t have buy phones for your team. It’s a cloud-based application your team members can download for their smart phone. It’s a phone system on their smart phone. It’s like you have a phone system, all through cell phones. It offers many services including call transfers, conference calls, extensions, direct lines, and faxes.
4. Traveling Mailbox
For incoming mail, I suggest using Traveling Mailbox, so you don’t have to open all your snail mail. Again, I believe in a paperless system—even if you have paper trails for work orders and such. This means that you’ll scan your mail for your files. Traveling Mailbox receives your mail, scans it, and uploads and sends it through email to you!
Use this for sending out resident letters! For more details on this and the other tools mentioned here, review chapter x and check out their websites as some services and products may have changed by the time you read this. All these tools will save you loads of time, and you can get back to what only you can do—scaling your business.