Predictions for the property market in the coming year vary widely. The end of the stamp duty holiday and ambitious government targets for building new homes are set to make for an interesting year. Property companies will continue to focus on customer service as a differentiator. Abbie Heslop at EBI.AI takes a look at how to improve customer experience (CX) using conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) and virtual assistants.
Spending more time at home during enforced lockdowns has prompted people to question what they really want from their homes. According to homeowner and ‘buyhavioural’ data agency TwentyCi, the residential property market is at levels not seen for a decade and the market continues to enjoy a ‘post pandemic surge’. There is positive news for the rental market too as experts like Hamilton Fraser anticipate the coronavirus crisis will lead many to view renting as ‘a preferred option’ to home ownership because it makes it easier to move on when circumstances change.
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Now, there is more emphasis on how people use their properties and what is required. That may mean an extra room for a new working from home (WFH) regime, undercover or heated outside space or investing in cosy interiors. It’s a trend that’s set to continue and offers huge opportunities for property agents and landlords to improve the customer experience and drive competitive advantage. Through automation and machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) combines efficiency with empathy. Implement the latest solutions to:
1. Help customers self-serve their entire move experience – with quick and efficient answers, from the moment they start looking for a property to when they finally pick up the keys. For example, a prospective buyer could ask their smart speaker assistant “to find an estate agent near me” or “show me 3 bed houses in my postcode under £220,000” and then look for information on the local school catchment area, broadband speed or nearest train station.
Next, use AI to support tenants as they settle into their new homes. Take the example of Get Living, the largest operator in the UK’s build-to-rent sector. Their Get Living AI Assistant called Evie is already welcoming residents of 500 new homes in Stratford, East London with information about their home, their appliances, utilities and surrounding amenities. Programmed to answer more than 150 queries, residents are able to ask questions from: “How do I set up an account with my energy supplier?” to “Where’s the nearest pizza place?” and “What’s happening around here this week?”
Like all AI tools, the more the Get Living Assistant is used, the smarter it becomes while the inbuilt feedback functionality is crucial for understanding residents’ needs to deliver a more personal service and improve the rental offer.
2. Create genuine sales and lettings leads for agents – pent up demand for property means higher customer expectations and greater competition among agents and landlords. AI is able to sift through and analyse unlimited amounts of data to provide real value to estate agents and landlords looking to stand out from the crowd. For example, a prospective customer can use online queries or voice commands such as “I want to view flats that have a communal garden in my area”, “how much is my home worth?” and “how do I get a mortgage?” The AI assistant would qualify and then book the customer in for a viewing at their preferred choice, give an approximate home evaluation or offer basic mortgage advice. All this information, along with the customer’s contact details, are visible to the property agent who then has valuable insight into the customer’s situation and buying preferences.
3. Encourage self-service guided advice – at EBI.AI we have seen how property organisations are beginning to create a truly immersive experience using Alexa-style AI assistants that offer advice and visually show customers how to work the heating systems or reset the trip switch. Expect to see more of this type of ‘guided advice’ as innovations in AI power live video chats between digital assistants and customers to enrich the end-to-end property experience.
4. Support efficient problem capture – things go wrong even in the best managed buildings. A tenant who has just moved into a new flat might turn to an AI assistant to ask what to do if the washing machine breaks down or the oven fan doesn’t work. To offer quick service when things go wrong, commercial and resident property estate agency JLL launched “Property Bot”. Tenants use the AI to report maintenance and repair issues via the website or app. After reporting the fault, tenants receive an instant reply. This gives them advice about how to remedy the fault or direct access to an engineer or handyman to book a visit. Good for tenants and good for promoting local businesses and services.
5. Automate routine tasks – and save precious time and energy. The AI technology at JLL takes just 30 seconds to deal with an issue. Because the bot can take on more routine tasks like maintenance requests, contract information and booking an appointment with a tradesperson, it frees up busy property managers to concentrate on providing a better rental experience for customers.
Now is the time to gear up to a positive, post-pandemic future. Use the benefits of AI automation and machine learning to improve the customer experience in the property market and boost competitive advantage for forward-thinking companies. For more case studies, ideas and inspiration, visit www.ebi.ai.
Abbie Heslop is Commercial AI Analyst at EBI.AI. Established in 2014, EBI.AI is among the most advanced UK labs to create fully managed, Enterprise-grade AI assistants. These assistants help clients to provide their customers with faster and better resolutions to their queries and liberate front-line customer service agents from the dull, repetitive and mundane.