Let’s Keep the Multifamily Chatbot Conversation Going…

by Jun 27, 2018Apartment Marketing, Blog, Innovation

All this chat about chatbots can certainly be a mouthful! However, all the buzz is worth the chatter, especially within the multifamily industry.

What Is a Multifamily Chatbot?

A chatbot is a virtual companion (computer program) that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate two-way, human conversation and deliver answers to customer inquiries in natural language. Chatbots have the ability to answer the most pressing questions of your residents or prospects, instantly. Many apartment marketing chatbots also have the ability to pass communication to a live leasing agent at any point in time, allowing customers the choice to chat with you in ways that are most convenient for them.

Simply put, chatbots provide an instant response 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So, Why All the Chatter About Multifamily Chatbots?

Why is instant communication so important? Isn’t it better for your leasing staff to take time to respond to inquiries thoughtfully and accurately, as opposed to an impersonal bot responding right away?

Let’s pause for a moment and take time to consider the environment consumers are living in today. Our apartment prospects are the same customers being served by Amazon, Zappos, and the other big brands doing it “right”. They’ve been trained to expect (and get) instant answers, same-day delivery, and top-notch customer service. Our multifamily customers can seem impatient at times, but they’ve been groomed by other industries to expect the same from us. Their desire for immediate information and answers doesn’t change just because they move from browsing products on Amazon over to your multifamily website. The bar has already been set.

So how can we meet their high demands without letting go of the high-touch, highly personable standards our industry has thrived on for decades? First, we’ve got to be flexible in understanding that the majority of customers don’t particularly care who or what is delivering the answers to their questions. They value insight that is easy to collect, so they can continue on their path and make a buying (or in our case, renting) decision.

Although this thought process may seem new for our industry, it’s how members of our always-on society both think and operate. Individuals are always connected, sometimes on multiple devices. They also expect immediate responses. If you’re not delivering this experience, you better believe your competitors will be quick to join the conversation.

Consider how many apartment communities a prospect can research and contact while they’re waiting for a response from you. If just one of those competitors responds more quickly, they win the lead – not you!

We’ve been studying multifamily chatbot data for nearly two years now. So, what have we learned?

  • Most conversations with property chatbots are initiated by a prospect or resident after 9:00 p.m., with many of those late-night chats taking place between midnight and 1:00 a.m. More than likely, our multifamily customers have work/life schedules that run parallel to traditional leasing office hours, which limits their ability to do business with us in the 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. realm. They’re working and tending to other life commitments during the day, before finally jumping online and digging into their apartment search later in the evening when most leasing offices are closed. Also keep in mind, while some prospects might attempt to call the leasing office after hours (and might get your answering service, if you have one), there are still many others who prefer to do their business with you online, without a phone call. Ensuring customers can contact and do business with you in the ways that are most convenient for them (not you) is key.
  • The average length of time individuals converse with a chatbot is 2+ minutes. This timeframe actually mirrors the average length of a leasing telephone call, if the prospect called your office instead. Our research indicates prospects aren’t connecting to the bot and immediately clicking out or leaving. They are staying…and chatting. They are actually receiving answers to their questions and collecting the information they need. Those conversations move prospects one step closer to becoming a renter!
  • If you’re going to utilize a chatbot, make sure you can link to it from anywhere. What do we mean? Don’t house it on just one of your marketing platforms – like your website. You have customers who are reaching you from numerous marketing channels, so give them the option to chat with you from any of those places. Having your chatbot live only on your website is like listing your office telephone number only on your website and leaving it off of your ILS ads, Facebook page, and email signatures. You would never do that. So don’t do that with your bot either; otherwise, you’ll be leaving a whole lot of conversations at the door. Websites, social media posts and ads, email drip campaigns, and PPC campaigns represent some of the most successful places we’ve used the “message us” chatbot link. No matter how your customer finds you, let them do business with you immediately through your chatbot.
  • Without a chatbot in place, it takes leasing teams, on average, seven hours to respond to a customer message via Facebook.
  • Chatbots are converting prospects into leads 600-1800% better than websites. Yes, you read that right. Website conversion rates in multifamily tend to hover between 1-2% (1-2% of website visitors complete a guest card and turn into a lead the leasing office can then contact and follow up with). Chatbots are converting customers at rates between 14-38%.
  • Chatbots have quickly become one of the most affordable marketing tools available, with an average cost per lead ranging between $2-$6.

Chatbots offer an easy solution to the challenge of providing current and prospective renters instant gratification. With that being said, chatbots also have the ability to seamlessly loop in your leasing team to further nurture the lead (so we can be high touch and highly personable, just like we’re used to!). With the right multifamily chatbot technology in place, lead information can be captured and passed into your lead management system for accurate attribution.

Now, Let’s Chat About the Results

Chatbots were a hot topic of conversation at a pair of key multifamily conferences this year: AIM Conference and Apartmentalize powered by the National Apartment Association (NAA). The Apartment All Stars’ very own Kate Good shared her experience with chatbots during her session at Apartmentalize, “Sales and Marketing to Get Past Ghosting.” She specifically chatted about how the technology is helping her team convert more leads to leases.

Kate and her team ran a Top Line Chatbot on an apartment community in Houston, Texas (Vargos on the Lake) during a lease-up. Between April 5, 2018 and June 13, 2018, here are the results they achieved:

  • Individuals interacted with the multifamily chatbot on an average of 11 times per week
  • The property averaged 4 leads per week from the chatbot, with the cost per conversation (or initial lead) set at $2.43.
  • For high quality leads, which 30 Lines defines as passing contact information to the leasing office,  the cost per lead came in at $6.51 per lead.
  • Overall, the multifamily chatbot for Vargos on the Lake is converting at a rate of 38%.

This is just one example of a chatbot in action. UNITS Magazine, published by NAA, detailed the strategy and success of Christopher Beckwith-Taylor, vice president of marketing for the Franklin Johnston Group. Christopher and his team coordinate their multifamily chatbot with Facebook advertising, spending approximately $150 to place an ad on Facebook which funnels users into a single property chatbot run on the backbone of Facebook Messenger.

“We figured this was a low-risk strategy and said, ‘Why not?’ let’s try it,” Christopher said, speaking as a panelist at the 2018 AIM Conference in May.

With this chatbot strategy, the Franklin Johnston Group has seen a conversion rate of 14% and registered a $2.17 cost-per-lead mark. Read more about this method in UNITS.

30 Lines Chatbot

Facilitate an always-on customer experience. Our chatbot service, which runs on the backbone of Facebook Messenger, can instantly engage with your current and prospective customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Learn More

Are Other Multifamily Marketers Missing Out on Opportunities?

In 2014, D2 Demand Solutions published a study focused on how effectively properties were using email marketing. The study monitored the response time for lead submissions for 31 different communities, and reported that 19% of the communities applied an automated drip campaign. The same company initiated a study in 2017, expecting to see improvement in response rate and number of drip campaigns. The 2017 results, however, took an unfortunate step back with a decline to 17% of communities applying automated drip messaging. Of the 31 different communities contacted, 30% issued no response in 2017.

“While personal contact from leasing associates is obviously the most engaging and effective form of contact, it is both unreliable and inconsistent,” wrote Donald Davidoff of D2 Demand Solutions. “Automated drip campaigns provide greater control and consistency, and ensure higher levels of connection.”

Engagement is another factor to consider, as multifamily chatbots have the ability to hold a conversation with prospects and collect additional information (i.e. number of bedrooms desired). This information then passes directly to your leasing team, resulting in direct insight into the prospect’s needs.

Automated messaging does not have to replace personal contact from leasing associates. Instead, it has the opportunity to enhance its thoughtfulness and ultimate effectiveness.

Let’s Simply Start This Conversation, Then Keep It Going…

If you want to see a chatbot in action, strike up a conversation with Linus, the 30 Lines chatbot. He’s a bit of a showoff and would love to show you a demo of our Top Line chatbot.