A Publication of WTVP

Several of our clients are looking for real differentiation so their product or service has a better value proposition than that of the competition. One recent trend is to provide highly customized access to key customer information on a round-the-clock basis. Here's a story of true payback from a top and bottom line as well.

One of our clients is a medium-sized property management firm that wanted to attract the higher end clientele that traditionally could only be serviced by very large companies with significant resources and staff. This firm handled hundreds of properties and more than 22,000 residents who had myriad needs, questions, and constant issues that need attention. Additionally, they had many large boards, owners, and outside firms that were contracted to provide snow removal, plumbing, and other services that required someone to come help them quickly.

From an administrative standpoint, they had to have customer service reps available to answer the phones and a call forwarding service for after-hours needs. The client found they needed 11 customer service reps to handle the workload. This was significant overhead given the low margin of the business. The property management firm decided to strategically offer something that would change their business model.

We designed a Web portal that allowed controlled access to landlords, board members, support organizations, and residents. The site had newsletter capabilities, area for frequently asked questions, and online instant messaging so meetings could be held online and customer support could directly respond to questions and comments. A paging system was also connected so if a resident had an immediate plumbing issue or a question on snow removal, they could get a response from a handheld device used by the plumber or snow removal crew. The site is set up to have 15-minute updates from the service crews so the residents have a good idea of when the crews will be by their location.

Originally, the property management firm set this up to have a competitive advantage in attracting a lucrative new market, which has dramatically increased sales to a new market segment. An additional benefit of reducing the customer support calls was that the metrics dramatically improved. It went from one customer rep per 2,000 residents to roughly 3,000 residents per rep-a 50 percent improvement. The net bottom line is that with the same support staff, the firm can support a 50 percent increase in business, up to 33,000 residents. Their customer satisfaction rate is high, and the property owners are excited to be able to access payments, work orders, and other documentation.

We deploy a similar model here, as well, for both clients and staff throughout the firm. With worldwide projects in several different time zones, it's a huge benefit to have online messaging, shared project details, and access to status reports any time of the day or night. Customer portals can be very beneficial in creating value to all parties. IBI