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Navigating the new normal: Property management during COVID-19

Our day-to-days are changing. New trends are emerging. But business will continue to move forward. Earlier this week, SMS Assist’s president of residential services, Adam Love, and a panel of property management experts discussed how they are navigating the new normal during a webinar hosted by REI INK magazine.

Early action to prevent spread

As community spread of the novel coronavirus began to increase in the U.S. in March, the residential property management industry had to make early pivots to help prevent the spread for the safety of their residents. “We notified our residents in mid-March that we were going to begin to defer non-emergency work orders,” said Todd Gorelick of Gorelick Brother Capital Management, the company that owns GOAL Properties. By deferring services that did not affect life safety or safeguard the property, companies could minimize human interaction that could potentially spread the virus.

But not all companies took the same approach. “There doesn’t need to be an interruption to service,” says Adam Love, “[some] clients wanted to keep business as usual, and we found a way to do that [by properly preparing and having the right systems and processes in place].”

Whether or not you defer non-emergency work orders, there are services that need to get done. So how did the panelists keep their operations moving forward?

Transparency and communication are crucial

Communication—with your employees, residents, and vendors—is key to navigating this pandemic successfully. But this can be a challenge, especially with a remote workforce and daily developments. The good news is that as everyone navigates working remotely—some for the first time—we are all getting used to virtual communications and the tools, like Zoom and Slack, that make them possible. Make sure you are being transparent with your team about your strategy and what is being communicated to residents and vendors.

This is also essential for continuing vendor management. Steve Paton of SingleSource Property Solutions pointed out the importance of communicating with vendors and tweaking how you interface with them to ensure you’re “being considerate of their circumstance and working that into your scheduling.” By having full visibility into the situations of everyone involved, we can continue to navigate this pandemic together.

Technology aids in that transparency

Many in the industry have needed to make adjustments to their processes and technology to accommodate the current social landscape. “We immediately reconfigured our questions and our scripting to understand if [residents] were exhibiting symptoms, “says Adam Love, “so we could feed that information not only to our clients, but to a vendor who might be going there.”

It’s also important that your technology allows you to efficiently update your reporting. For SMS Assist, that meant creating capacity scorecards that identify where vendors may be constrained due to COVID-19 risks and which vendors are willing and able to enter homes that are potentially infected with COVID-19 for emergency services. “As long as we’re still inputting accurate information based on COVID-19 risks, [the dispatch] process doesn’t need to be interrupted.”

With consistent communication—supported by configurable technology—the industry can successfully navigate the changes and uncertainties brought on by COVID-19. Thank you to REI INK and each of the panelists for putting on this incredibly informational webinar. In case you missed it, you can still listen to the webinar in full.

Moderator: Jeffrey Tesch, CEO, RCN Capital

Panelists: Todd Gorelick, Managing Partner, Gorelick Brothers Capital Management

Bob Hansen, Head of Sales, Second Nature

Bryan Jenkins, Principal Broker, AHI Properties

Adam Love, President of Residential Services, SMS Assist

Steve Paton, Vice President of Field Services, SingleSource Property Solutions

What is SMS Assist?

SMS Assist is on a mission to transform the facilities maintenance industry by delivering unprecedented transparency and control. More than 186,000 commercial properties—like retail stores, banks, restaurants, and more—and residential rental properties leverage our cloud-based platform to connect to more than 20,000 service providers and our operations teams that are available every second of every day. It’s a new approach for an industry in need of a better solution.