With any new technology, there is often fear about whether that technology will ultimately cost people their jobs, and the rise of self-guided tours is no different. But as we learned at the NMHC OPTECH Conference, roll-outs of this new technology has a great opportunity to work with leasing consultants, not against them.
Before I dig into the solutions shared at OPTECH, let’s first face the fear. I asked the Multifamily ShareSpace community if they were interested in implementing self-guided tours. The overall results came out to 145 saying “no” and 130 saying “yes”. (I Recommend reading all the comments in the discussion)
Now, to be fair, just because someone says “no”, it doesn’t mean they are saying no out of fear of losing their job. For example, some had concerns about security relating to unsupervised strangers walking around the community:
Other responses were about the expected effectiveness of the service:
But when we talk about effectiveness, that will ultimately bear out with data. For example, Tour24 noted an average closing ratio of 33%, as well as a high demand for Sunday tours, which represented 27% of all self-guided tours. (Notably, tours between 6 to 9pm was the most popular appointment time representing 27% of all tours.)
When we talk about off-hour or Sunday touring, it appears that self-guided tours may not be the replacement that many are worried about, but rather a supplement. Our leasing offices simply don’t cover many key times prospects would like to tour, and self-guided tours offer an ability to cover those touch points without losing the prospect. As one can imagine, this also becomes more necessary if a community’s comps are using self-guided solutions (or simply have extended open hours) – if a prospect can tour other properties and not yours, that will reduce leases, no matter the success rate of those self-guided tours.
The Bozzuto Methodology
As I just discussed, there appears to be a middle ground with self-guided tours to help supplement touring after hours. During the OPTECH panel discussion, Khushbu Sikaria, vp innovation and product development at Bozzuto, shared a different type of middle ground. Bozzuto began piloting self-guided tours 9 months ago, and they implemented a process of using self-guided tours exclusively for return visits from a prospect. This approach gives them both the human touch with the prospect, but also the flexibility for the prospects to view their potential home with a bit more privacy and time on the return visit.
As for success rate, Khushbu noted that at a lease-up property 90% of returning prospects elected to take a self-guided tour and they got a 75% conversion from the 2nd tour to ultimately lease. Granted, that is not to say that their self-guided tours have a 75% success rate, mainly because those that come back for a 2nd visit are self-selected to already like the community. However, that does show that the self-guided process wasn’t a negative experience to prospects.
A few other notes about Bozzuto’s strategy:
At the end of the OPTECH session, the panelists stressed that the self-guided tour process was about providing a choice to prospects, not replacing their leasing consultants. Self-guided tours were seen as a flexible option to provide better service and more options for prospects, as well as freeing up leasing consultant time, rather than having to re-tour certain prospects over and over.
I’d love to hear from you all – if you have implemented self-guided tours, what is your strategy? If you haven’t, are you considering rolling something like that out to your communities?