What a Summer!! Turns are behind us and now, it’s time to assess what we did, how we did it, and how we can improve the process and resident experience for next time. Here at FacilGo®, we experienced a lot with property managers over these last few months and wanted to share some of that knowledge. We’ll share the insight to various methods customers used to solve such issues as:
- Sharing inspection information to drive turn activities
- Sending orders to your suppliers easily and accurately
- Ensuring turn expenses are on track and within budget
- Coordinating work amongst suppliers and staff
- Capturing resident charges for damages
While these issues are much more difficult to solve within the student housing market, all property managers experience some degree of frustration with their turn process.
Sharing inspection information to drive turn activities
When you find a problem during an inspection, it usually leads to some sort of action. Perhaps your staff can fix the issue. Possibly, there are services and supplies required from a supplier and maybe you need to charge the resident for damages. Each of these resulting activities require your staff to take action based upon the inspection results. We’ve seen property staff execute inspections then separately regenerate the data to send to suppliers or service vendors. The efficient ones use solutions that allow them to reuse captured inspection data to either purchase an item or task a service supplier. Turn season is very hectic, but fortunately there are different approaches to support the process; each with its own set of pros and cons.
Sending orders to your suppliers easily and accurately
Your inspection results reveal if it’s necessary to buy supplies or task a service provider to perform work. Perhaps a ceiling fan needs replacing or carpet installed or an apartment needs cleaning. From here, your staff needs to figure out which ceiling fan, what supplier, how much should it cost, and when should it be delivered. We’ve seen dog eared catalogs and sticky notes with prices to help people through this process. It’s great information, but it also requires a bit of planning, research and data entry. If your staff is relatively new, getting them to do the right thing takes a lot of oversight which nobody has. But if you use an integrated solution that guides the staff through the process, the results could be different.
Ensuring turn expenses are on track and within budget
Turn activities ramp up quickly, and it is often difficult to track the cost associated to each unit turn. Knowing whether turn tasks are performed within budget is even more difficult. The only way to know is to compare your estimated turn costs against your budget before your committing. Without providing your team access to this information, it is difficult for them to make the right decision. We’ve seen some companies try to address this challenge by creating massive spreadsheets with links to different standardized products and services. Populating these spreadsheets can be partially done with data from the property management system, but also requires a lot of manual updates. Again, integrated turn boards can automate such processes, but only if the company is using an integrated maintenance and turn solution.
Coordinating work amongst suppliers and staff
Allocating work to service suppliers, knowing when they are doing it, and when it is done, requires a high degree of coordination. Sometimes, suppliers are told conflicting directions which causes delays, unnecessary costs, and extra effort. Keeping the entire team (staff and suppliers) up-to-date on what is being done is challenging but can be accomplished by having information online where people can easily view the data. The importance of real time information is increased when large amounts of work is needed in a short amount of time. Sometimes with a spreadsheet or a PO-based process, tasks might be repeated for the same unit across multiple days. We’ve seen non-necessary orders verbally communicated to suppliers due to miscommunication amongst the property staff. Turn season is hectic, and can be even crazier if the staff is not using the same information.
Capturing resident charges for damages
After the turn is completed, you still need to assess charge backs to residents for the damage they caused. We’ve seen some companies not charge back residents due to the difficulty of conducting an efficient process. Many state ordinances require a high level of documentation if you are to charge residents, and compliance to such laws can be more time consuming than it is worth if relevant documents (invoices, pictures, work orders, inspections, etc.) cannot be readily accessed when creating resident charge back statements. The key is accurately capturing charges at the time of inspection, being consistent across your portfolio, and easily consolidating all charges with pictures in a single document pushed to your accounting system to support the resident security deposit discussion.
Different methods to help your turn needs
- Paper + spreadsheet processes: Inspections are done on a paper form. Orders are phoned in and typed on a spreadsheet for required supplies. Invoices are typed into the accounting system. Turn schedules are kept in a spreadsheet. Sometimes, spreadsheets offer cost and scheduling data.
§ Familiar process to both old and new employees
§ Flexible, in that personnel have the independence to use whatever means to get the job done
§ Very labor intensive. Requires extra manual effort typing and tracking information.
§ Error prone. Due to the human element of typing information, errors of omission, or typos can cause coordination problems. The same work can be done and charged multiple times.
- Non-integrated application + spreadsheet processes: Often, companies work on solving individual parts of the turn process. Applications from their existing software providers or single function applications are added in a piece-meal fashion to make incremental gains to existing processes.
§ Leverage some technology to replace manual effort
§ Can be implemented incrementally
§ Better ability to enforce processes
§ Labor intensive. Requires extra work typing and tracking information as users navigate between separate systems.
§ Costly. Purchasing, managing and training separate non-integrated modules and applications is more expensive and time consuming.
§ Typically, no data transformation from inspections to turn matrices or work orders or purchasing or charge back capture occurs.
- Integrated solution process: Using a next generation solution that supports the entire maintenance and turn process can provide greater options to those companies trying to break out of the pack.
§ Easy to implement, train and support since users are guided through the process and turn matrix information is automatically updated.
§ Can be implemented incrementally instead of all at once.
§ Very efficient. Work orders (service requests), orders and resident charge back information can be created based upon inspection results, so staff does not have to think about what to do next or retype data and all transactions are tied together.
§ Next generation functionality is not currently provided by the big-name property management software companies, so if you are only comfortable working with them, this option is not available to you.
§ Staff may be reticent to change from familiar processes.