The Importance of Tenant Engagement
Why you need WaCommunicate!
From the dawn of mankind, humans have found it necessary to orient themselves within their environment and understand who and what is around them. As a result of this process of orientation, space would quickly become organised so that the community that formed in a locality could utilise and work with and amongst their surroundings. As areas grew to be more formalised and spread out, and ultimately urbanised, their populations ballooned, and a rental economy emerged. Communication between parties – especially between tenants and landlords – became more and more difficult as technologies failed to keep up with the expansion.
There developed a lack of ability to broadcast the needs of local tenants to those with the power to make changes to the surrounding space, which was a problem felt by all involved, whatever side of the agreement one was on. Tenants struggled to communicate with one another or raise problems, and building managers and landlords struggled to answer them. Surprisingly in theory, but not to anyone who has ever rented or let a property, it remains an obstacle to this day.
But engaging with tenants has long been understood by experts as an essential part of the letting process – to ensure that issues are identified and dealt with swiftly and effectively, and the places that people live are able to be lived in happily. It is also considered important for those letting the properties that they listen to what tenants want so that they can improve their services and make more marketable their assets. Yet despite its accepted importance, the majority struggle to actually implement tenant and community engagement processes in an effective way, and the perennial problem continues.
That’s why we took on board feedback from countless actors in the property world; from those selling and letting to those buying or renting, and created our collaborative, collective and communal platform, WaCommunicate.
At Walulel we not only pride ourselves on the extent of our data, but also on our citizen- and community-focussed outlook, which seeks to offer anyone access to our information, while allowing them to influence and create it for themselves. This process revolves around engaging with and understanding the needs of a locality on a human level, listening to and platforming the ideas, desires and wishes of a community to those with the power to make changes to their lived environment. It is these ideas that form the basis of WaCommunicate.
WaCommunicate is, at its core, a simple means of allowing people to chat. Though where it differs from any other form of conversational tech is in its specificity to the built environment and geographical location. Our work with communities has left us resolute in our belief that geography and proximity are the predominant catalysts for a cohesive community. The pandemic has also shown us that communicative and mutually understanding communities are the building blocks of our countries, and that is reflected in the workings of our Geosocial Communication software.
Like other experts, we understand that engagement between building managers and tenants – and by extension the local community that the building resides in – is key to ensuring the best possible outcome for all involved. Yet, simple lines of communication between service providers and service consumers; facility operators and facility users; landlords and tenants; within the residential property world are conspicuously absent. According to the tenant engagement experts Tpas, there’s a belief amongst some organisations that they themselves are the sole professionals and therefore consider spending time and money seeking advice from tenants – who they consider non-professionals – to be an inefficiency they can do without. They are losing out because of this mindset.
But for managers of all portfolio sizes, understanding the needs of tenants is always important. This is not only for the satisfaction of providing a good service but because, as consumers, lots of tenants have the ability to vote with their feet and move elsewhere should the housing that they are renting and the environment around it prove inadequate. This always leads to unnecessary costs for landlords that could have been avoided.
Speaking of costs, asking those who occupy a building about it can also help landlords’ money be spent more efficiently. According to Mike Owen, the CEO of Merthyr Valleys Homes, ‘tenants are best placed to help landlords find ways to cut bills’, and asks ‘why do we shun their involvement?’ Why indeed.
Even when there is a strong desire to integrate those who live in an area into the process of building management, the technology in place to do so can be somewhat lacking. Many have found that texts, calls and emails can be unreliable, easily lost and difficult to log, meaning that much of the landlord or manager’s time is taken up with admin, and the tenants’ with chasing up. These frustrations have never been conducive to a productive relationship between parties, and may even hinder the chances of an enjoyable, frictionless stay for the tenant and increase the chances of the landlord or building manager developing a poor reputation, or being unable to continue attracting tenants if other local properties do listen to their occupants and make changes accordingly.
This has become all the more apparent as the Covid-19 pandemic has raged on, with the rise in mass homeworking meaning that fewer people are seeking to rent closer to their place of work, and residential property managers have effectively taken on a chunk of the role once occupied by the commercial real estate sector. Potential tenants, therefore, need more encouragement, such as viable workspace, improved insulation to keep energy bills reasonable, local retail to avoid travel etc, to move into a property as other options become more viable, and in many cases necessary. These requirements can only be conveyed if there is a robust line of communication between the tenant and those who can make the changes.
So when the benefits of having a transparent means of communication between the housing provider and tenant are so obvious, how come some fail to engage with their occupants effectively? Well, as alluded to previously, the simple reason is that it is just difficult to do so!
WaCommunicate makes this process a whole lot easier. It allows tenants and building administrators to seamlessly, digitally enable a pre-existing space, and takes on the heavy lifting of managing and maintaining not only the building and its environment but the working relationships between those who occupy and manage it.
The platform exists as a digital noticeboard, providing all the local lines of communication one could need. It allows for conversations to take place openly amongst those who occupy a certain geographic community drawn out by the building manager. What constitutes the community can be incredibly varied, and as small as a single building or the size of a whole neighbourhood. These areas ensure that discussions can happen publicly and transparently, but also that they remain restricted only to the groups that they are intended, and the issues are seen and interacted with by those they actually affect – the people who live there.
By letting these conversations occur in a forum in which individuals can be confident their points will be heard by those with the power to implement changes, while also having the option of being supported by the community around them, or remaining anonymous should they wish, it will empower those whose voices are not often heard within these realms and who may not have had the confidence to raise issues before. Building managers will therefore be able to observe any problems that their tenants might not have been willing to talk to them about in the past.
The platform has specific sections that can facilitate discussions around local or building news, general conversations, and offers, which can help residents find out about their local conveniences and receive deals exclusive to them or offer items, skills, workshops or classes. They also let people request help from the community, whether it be sharing a lift or moving some furniture, offer recommendations for things such as tradespeople or shops, and provide a space for reporting suspicious or potentially dangerous activity in just a few clicks.
Many also find the opportunity to meet face to face with other local tenants, building managers and landlords a difficult endeavour for a number of reasons, and during the pandemic this has only become harder. Therefore, a Town Hall has been built into WaCommunicate which operates as a meeting place and public forum to discuss matters over a state-of-the-art video chat system. Much like a real-life town hall, the meetings are requested by local users and scheduled by the building manager or their administrator, and give those who live in the area the opportunity to meet others face to face in a protected environment.
The platform includes a number of other convenient features that will help develop the working relationships between the providers and consumers of housing facilities. These include geotagged voice notes, spaces to upload key documentation for simple perusal or signing, as well as areas for transparently cataloguing problems with a property which will allow you to be connected to a local registered tradesperson who can swiftly sort out any maintenance issue that should arise. We have also developed advanced machine learning algorithms that can establish and present to the user a prevailing sentiment amongst board members that will help you understand and respond to the needs of the community even before an issue has been raised!
Our WaCommunicate platform should be the first port of call for any housing provider who truly wishes to innovate and exceed in today’s uncertain world. To investigate WaCommunicate and to see what’s coming up in the future, or just find out a bit more, visit our website or get in touch with us directly at email@example.com.