United Kingdom

On the Road

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A tight schedule, many routes, and don’t forget anything: field representatives of housing companies need to be well organised. It’s nice to receive some support – like that provided by the 360° Field Worker solution. This digital solution gives staff a panoramic view of all their issues and tasks – mobile and effectively networked.

The cellar door lock is broken. Could you replace it? – When’s the lift scheduled to be maintained? – The new tenant wants to paint the walls himself. Can you please make a note of this in the handover records? – There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask for some time: my daughter is moving to Birmingham to study; do you have apartments for rent there, too?

Anyone who works as a field representative for a housing company often has to “field” a lot of questions. In the past, visits to tenants had to be painstakingly prepared in the office before the car was packed to the gills with various files and ring binders. And even then the representative might discover that important documents had been left behind when the tenant asked unexpected questions or the neighbour was waiting on the stairs for a “spontaneous” appointment. While such situations still arise, Aareon’s digital 360° solutions enable field representatives to handle them as effectively as possible.

Field Worker
The platform for sales representatives provides a complete overview of all information and upcoming activities.

Everything in view
Field representatives can call up all applications on their tablets via a single interface to get a 360°, panoramic view of their work. If they have come for an apartment handover, they can immediately record damage and take photographs of it, look at the contract documents or show floor plans of other rental properties. “Our 360° solution is a collaboration tool. Up to now, staff from housing companies generally had clearly defined remits and drove to a tenant or a housing complex to carry out a very specific task. Other staff had areas of responsibility on-site. This meant that tenants might have to make several appointments and have multiple contact partners,” explains Greg Johns, CEO of 1st Touch, Aareon’s UK subsidiary.

The 360° solution is a platform based on apps and portals that seem almost identical for both field representatives and tenants. This has several advantages: specific processes relating to repairs, for example, are important for both parties even if the field representative naturally has particular responsibilities. And since the staff are familiar with the workings of the tool, it is easier for them to help tenants use the new channels as well. So while the new mobile control centre greatly simplifies the work of field representatives, tenants receive much better customer service from an expertly structured company. Moreover, the company’s costs are reduced because it uses its resources more intelligently, and the increase in work process efficiency means that its employees have more capacity to visit tenants. The figures that Greg Johns cites speak for themselves:

  • On average, field representatives spend 40% of their time in the office, preparing visits and following up. 360° renders this unnecessary; the field representatives can now do all of their work out of the office.
  • It costs the housing company approximately £50 when a field representative needs to make an extra visit. The digital 360° solution makes such follow-up appointments unnecessary because employees have a 360°, panoramic view of the tenant and can answer all questions and handle all requests on the spot. Without this mobile solution, a tenant may need to receive several visits from different employees of the housing company, depending on the matter in question.
  • As experience shows, 6 months after a tenant portal is rolled out, the number of telephone enquiries at a housing company falls by around 75% because tenants independently call up information online or communicate their concerns directly through the portal. As a single call costs around £6 - £10 and 1000s of calls are received in any given month, this can save the company a lot of money.

A market in a state of flux
Digital solutions like these have a great deal of potential in the United Kingdom because the British market is in a state of flux. The government has adopted an efficiency agenda to expedite digitalisation. By law, housing associations are required to reduce their rents by 1% per year until 2020. This is forcing companies to be more efficient and digitalise their business processes. They are also reviewing their costs. Greg Johns gives a commonplace example: “In the UK every property has a boiler. Through the data analysis in the 360° Field Worker solution, we can find out which boilers are particularly cost effective and durable and are also the cheapest to maintain.” The management can then purchase the corresponding equipment for renovations and new properties.

Greg Johns is pretty optimistic about the future of the 360° applications. He believes that a key point in addition to the internationalisation of the product is its potential for integrating other processes and for networking partners: “The digital 360° solution can combine tasks, processes and information from a large number of sources, be they ERP systems, utilities, contractors or other external partners.” Alongside field representatives and tenants, potential users in his view are also management, back office, contractors and third-party providers. Integration into big data analyses is also conceivable, he says. If, for example, an administrator is able to predict which of the tenants might run into financial difficulties, he or she can take action at an early stage before serious problems arise for both sides.

The 360° solution increases the efficiency of workflows and simultaneously improves tenant satisfaction. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Photos: Nils Hendrik Müller

Aareon Smart World Cockpit

In Germany, 360° Field Worker will be launched as the Aareon Smart World Cockpit. While efficiency enhancement is also an issue here, Germany’s real estate sector does not see the same immense cost pressure or digitalisation incentives as the United Kingdom. Particular attention is instead paid to providing better service for tenants – a topic that has potential; as the study Servicemonitor Wohnen 2016 conducted by Analyse & Konzepte shows: according to this study, more than two-thirds of the 1,000 German tenants surveyed were unable to confirm that their landlords dealt quickly with their enquiries in a straightforward manner.

Aareon Smart World Cockpit is setting new standards by connecting customer relationship and building relationship management processes. Like a pilot in the cockpit, staff from the real estate company can “fly back and forth” between different applications across systems and without media breaks, call up customer data, schedule maintenance, check the technical equipment of a housing complex etc. “ERP integration is behind this,” Susanne Lichtenberger explains. “In the future, we also want to offer a dashboard especially for managers and to incorporate partners – for maintenance contracts, for instance.

Other major issues are the energy supply and predictive maintenance.” As team leader of Digital Solutions at Aareon, Lichtenberger is responsible for digital solutions in the German market. She explains the process, which spans numerous boundaries: “If a product is interesting for other markets, an international solutions team will be formed, primarily to develop products together and provide mutual support. Everyone works on the same technological platform, but its features differ from country to country. The solutions cannot be simply taken over – the markets are too diverse for this,” she reports. Legal requirements naturally also play a major role: “Data protection in the UK, for example, is not half as strict as in Germany, which allows for completely different approaches.” An international company like Aareon has a clear knowledge advantage in this respect and can leverage synergies in the interests of its customers – regardless of where they live.