As I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, I was recently offered the chance to speak to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. I was able to focus my presentation on two things. The first half of the presentation was on key trends across the property management industry and you can read about that in my previous post.
The second half of the presentation focussed on technology – particularly consumer technology – and the impact this is having on business in general and the property management industry specifically.
Consumer technology has, of course, moved on immeasurably in recent years. Smart phones, tablets, watches, televisions and so on are all developing at an incredible rate (the iPad, which feels as if it has been with us for a generation at least, is not even four years old).
However, whilst there will always be a market for gadgets and technology, it is the access that these devices bring which are shaping consumer expectations – not the technology itself.
We are all sharing our updates, our opinions, our lives on Facebook, Twitter and an ever growing number of social media platforms. We watch videos of everything on YouTube – I was able to fix my washing machine recently following video instructions – and we don’t go anywhere without reading reviews in advance.
This has brought us instant gratification, instant knowledge and a set of expectations that the slower moving world of business is not quite in tune with.
The B2C world has begun to embrace this – we have apps for shopping, for banking and a range of other activities; but it should be remembered that supermarkets still need to deliver real food. And our money might only exist in notional form within a bank’s software most of the time, but it’s still possible to go to a cashpoint and touch real money. The technology might make things easier, but it’s not a substitute for real life.
And so this will be in B2B and the property industry. One example is a couple of great looking devices for controlling your heating. Hive from British Gas is a phone app that allows you to turn heat up and down whilst your away from the house; Nest from Google goes one step further and learns your heating preferences. These might come under the banner of technology in property, but the customer touch point is still real – it’s still about their house being warm enough when they get home.
In a similar vein, the presentation went on to talk about Qube’s self-serve portal. You can read about that elsewhere on the site, but it is about using technology to provide tenants and leaseholders with instant access to their information – echoing the point made earlier about consumer expectations.
This, and the heating apps, and the Business Intelligence and everything else that is slowly being adopted by property managers to meet their customers changing expectations are great at the moment – for those that are using them, at least. But it must be remembered that soon this technology will become the norm.
So, critically, it’s how property managers use the time and resource that this technology provides them that will be the differentiator. Just as now, it will be the customer service that you provide that defines your business.