Converting Leads Into Residents: Conversational AI through the Prospecting, Sales and After-Sales Process
Step One: Prospecting
A joint survey by Apartments.com and Google found that 90% of home buyers searched for properties online at some point in their buying process. 72% of respondents generally turn to the Internet first when starting a search for an apartment. 71% consider the Internet to be the most up-to-date source for apartment availabilities. 70% of respondents have rented an apartment found online.
According to the same survey, more than half of respondents searched for an apartment between two weeks to three months or 14 to 90 days.
Additionally, one-third of respondents generally first start an online search with an apartment listing site. Another third begin online searches with a search engine like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.
So here’s what we know so far:
a) Your prospects are all looking for their next home online.
b) Their search is rarely impulsive and includes research and comparison.
c) Their searches are spread across thousands of apartment listing sites, local sites, management company sites, and countless search engine queries.
How can you use conversational AI to stand out?
Put yourself in the shoes of your prospects, who spend hours upon hours combing through hundreds of listings looking for their next perfect home. Upon visiting your site, most will probably give up pretty quickly. In fact, HubSpot found that 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on your website.
Now imagine what happens once you provide these prospects with the ability to easily converse with a virtual assistant in their natural language and cut through the noise to find exactly what they’re looking for.
In an interview with Databox, Wiley Company’s Head of Content and Social Media Nicolina Savelli revealed that upon deploying a conversational AI solution to their website, their bounce rate dropped from 64% to only 2%.
A conversational AI solution enables visitors to use voice or text to search for properties by dozens of different attributes, such as the number of bedrooms, square footage, amenities, and more. Prospects can compare a select few properties that match their exact specifications, settle on the best option, schedule a tour, and input their contact information for further correspondence.
Rather than go through the first search -> then filter -> then find -> then try to reach the realtor or owner to schedule a property tour, ordeal—your website visitors can complete the entire journey in a span of one quick conversation with an AI-powered virtual assistant.
Step Two: Sales
So you've converted a lead into an opportunity, you've got a tour scheduled in the books, and your prospect seems excited about the property. However, keep in mind that in all likelihood, the same prospect has arranged to see several other properties at the very same time. According to realtor.com:
"The average home buyer will visit 10 homes over 10 weeks' time before they find "the one"—that special place that inspires an offer."
At this point, proactiveness and communication are crucial to sealing the deal. Comprehensive research of customer feedback and reviews conducted by AskWonder in 2017 concluded that 'poor customer queries handling' is a severe pain point for prospective tenants. One customer feedback highlighted in the report reads as follows:
"If you tried to call her (the real estate agent) she would never answer, she would reply to emails barely, and if you tried to text her you more than likely would not get a response or a rude response."
Furthermore, Zillow's 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report found that 71% of renters who inquire about a listing expect to hear back from the landlord or property manager within 24 hours, but only 51% of renters say they receive the timely responses they expect.
Although rudeness and downright poor customer service are hard to excuse, with realtors sometimes showing no less than 40 properties a week, it's easy to see how communication can go awry.
Keeping in touch with your prospects through conversational AI
A conversational AI virtual assistant provides your prospects with round the clock customer support, which means constant availability and handling of questions and requests. Should your prospect require any further information or even would like to reschedule their tour, a designated virtual assistant can automate the entire procedure and update the appointment on any CRM.
But conversational AI isn't limited only to incoming traffic; when harnessed through mediums such as SMS messaging, it can become a proactive channel of engagement and lead-nurturing. Even if your prospects are not interacting with your onsite virtual assistant, you can continue the conversation through text messages; sending them updates, images, videos, and any other marketing collateral that might help convert them into residents.
Step Three: After-Sales
You've attracted, engaged, and converted your lead into a resident, congratulations! But now the after-sales work begins. As per the 2017 American Renters Survey, tenants with good onboarding are twelve times more likely to love their rental, and nearly three times more likely to love their property manager. The same survey found that 83% of tenants would give, or have given, a referral or review for a property they've lived in if they've had a positive experience.
In many ways, the quality of the after-sales service you provide your tenants translates directly into new qualified leads and prospects in the future.
Provide constant high-quality after-sales service through conversational AI
In my previous blog post, I've listed the various ways conversational AI can streamline the tenant-owner relationship and stressed the importance of having an accessible, fluid channel of communication between the two parties.
- Rent Payment: In less than a few seconds, a virtual conversational AI assistant can automatically remind a tenant when rent is due, collect the payment and even respond if the tenant expresses a problem to pay or requests an extension.
- FAQs - Frequently asked questions regarding rent, utilities, maintenance, and more can all be instantly addressed by a conversational AI assistant. In case of urgent requests or issues that require human attention, the conversational AI assistant can trigger a live handoff to the landlord or a designated customer service representative.
- Maintenance and Repairs - Using conversational AI, tenants can enter their repair requests via voice or text, add pictures and videos, and receive an estimated time of repair according to the problem's severity. The landlord sees these claims in real-time and can prioritize and manage tasks appropriately.
- Documentation Submission & Search - Through a text or voice command, a tenant can quickly pull up any information at any time and upload and send any needed files directly to the landlord.
- Conversational Intelligence - The queries fielded by tenants through a conversational AI assistant transform into valuable conversational insights on tenants' status across all properties. By digging into AI-tenant conversations, landlords can identify developing patterns, tenant preferences, and overarching maintenance issues, all in real-time.
Working Step by Step
28% of real estate businesses already use conversational AI. The U.S. alone boasts 50,000 residential property management companies and 70,000 lessors of residential buildings and dwellings. As companies compete for an edge in this highly competitive market, conversational AI is expected to be deployed on a massive scale. As consumers continue to get savvier and desire a more consumer-centric service approach from any and all providers, AI-powered conversational interfaces can match and even exceed these expectations almost instantly while reducing customer service costs along the way.