Maintenance Mayhem: How to Take Back Control & Increase Efficiency

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Have you or your staff ever been unable to take a vacation, missed out on a family event, or woken up in the middle of the night because of a maintenance issue? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone. Maintenance is a major pain point for many property management businesses, and weeks of time are often wasted due to poorly optimized maintenance operations. 

Whether you use vendors, keep things in-house, or blend the two approaches, maintenance process efficiency trickles down to every aspect of your business. Resident and owner satisfaction, property values, and your own sanity can all arguably thrive or tank based on the state of your maintenance operations. If you’re tired of letting maintenance dictate your day-to-day, then maybe it’s time to streamline your processes and regain control. Read on to discover three ways you can take back your time and boost efficiency for your maintenance operations.

1.) Put Automation to Work

Maintenance issues often occur off-hours in the middle of the night or on weekends, and need to be addressed immediately. However, if you’re not around or are unable to respond right away, then the issue can become more costly or even hazardous for residents. Automation and artificial intelligence can help you respond instantly and establish a standardized set of protocols for different types of problems, so you can get issues resolved quickly and efficiently. By using automation to collect, track, and monitor all maintenance requests, you can also reduce the amount of errors from manual processes.

For example, with AppFolio Smart Maintenance, you can intelligently manage maintenance requests that come in — no matter the time of day or night, and all in one platform. Smart Maintenance responds to service requests on your behalf, via text, phone, or online portal, according to your pre-set instructions, providing your residents and team with a great experience. The service also enables three-way communication between the vendor, resident and property manager, which expedites scheduling and repairs, and eliminates the “messenger” role your team often has to play.

Within Smart Maintenance you can create customized steps and rate the level of priority to be taken to address specific issues, such as a slow-leaking faucet as opposed to a burst pipe. This not only gives you more control into how maintenance issues are handled on an individual basis, but also helps to maintain visibility and control over  exactly what is happening for various repairs.

2.) Integrated Work Order Management

Manually tracking and managing work orders with paper and pen or even disconnected tools can lead to things falling through the cracks, like an unpaid contractor invoice or a missed maintenance request from a resident.

Gain more oversight into your maintenance operations by moving all of your work orders online. When you have a single, integrated system to manage and track everything — from vendors to billing — repairs get done faster and correctly. 

For instance, Tony Hillis, Maintenance Director at Total Maintenance, LLC has been able to eliminate errors and gain more oversight by using technology to manage work orders for their 587 units. “Having my property management software in a mobile app allows me to put in work orders in real-time when I see issues in the field, says Tony. “We can log receipts, expenses, hours, photos, and notes for each work order. I can also look at inspections done after a tenant moves out to create the tenant damages report,” he says.

Along with managing general maintenance work orders, move-out inspections are another critical workflow. However, if the inspection is conducted using paper and pen, things can go overlooked or get left out of the final report, once you’re back at the office to enter your notes. By implementing a software with mobile inspections, like AppFolio Property Manager, your team can manage the inspection right on-site complete with notes, photos, and descriptions. In addition to mobile inspections, AppFolio also offers Offline Inspections for iOS users, which enable your team to have the same capabilities they do with a mobile inspection, but without wi-fi or using your cellular data. Once you regain connectivity, you can upload the information to your AppFolio Property Manager database.

Unit turns are another area that can quickly lead to wasted time and a loss of revenue if not handled efficiently. Make your unit turns as efficient as possible by implementing solutions, like AppFolio’s Unit Turn Board, that help you manage all tasks and work orders related to turning over units, improving communication, visibility, and efficiency overall. Innovative features like this can give your business a competitive edge during leasing season. In fact, we surveyed our most successful AppFolio customers and 62% agree that unit turns are faster to do on our software than other solutions.*

*April 2021 TechValidate survey of 500+ satisfied AppFolio customers

3.) Offer Ways to Self Serve

Having to go back and forth responding to residents who call and leave messages about maintenance issues eats up your time and can be frustrating for everyone involved.

You can improve the experience for all parties by offering a way for residents to self-serve with maintenance requests. This eliminates the friction often caused by having to call or come into the office to facilitate a repair, and gives your team back valuable time. In addition, AppFolio Smart Maintenance comes with three-way communication via in-app messaging and tracking that allows you to effortlessly communicate with residents, property managers, and vendors about the repair and keep them updated on the status. These communications are stored online, so you can easily go back and reference them or even use them as proof if necessary.

Responding to maintenance requests isn’t the only task that takes up your team’s time, physically having to drive to a unit and conduct a move-in walkthrough is equally inefficient. You can speed up the process by letting your new residents conduct the inspection themselves. With a solution like AppFolio, residents can submit walkthrough inspections right through their online portal complete with notes and pictures.

Today’s innovative tech tools can make a world of a difference when it comes to overcoming maintenance struggles. Automation, digital systems, and self-service features not only eliminate inefficiencies and provide a better customer experience, but they also help you gain better internal control and focus on what matters.

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