Customer relationship management in integrated property management software solutions
This article was written for real estate management software professionals and customer relationship management business process owners in property development or social housing industries. It is also would be useful for everyone involved in Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) solution design or implementation.
I will cover typical lease (or sale) opportunity management scenario including tenant-landlord (or buyer – developer) interaction activities and modern property management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software requirements (to make this interaction as comfortable as possible). I will also share my experience of automating those business processes using SAP software suite.
Step 1. Purchase or lease enquiry
In commercial property management or development environment, sales or lease opportunities are coming from various sources (for example, from marketing campaigns). Typically, the customer is making an enquiry by either browsing landlord/agency website or making a phone call.
At this stage, the customer wants to know about available properties, suitable to his needs. Initial enquiry details include basic contact details, property location, type, size and price. If the demand cannot be fulfilled immediately, it is still important to keep track of it, as this information can be subsequently used for marketing or business development purposes.
Modern IT solution should be able to capture this request and provide as much information as needed to be able to answer this enquiry immediately.
There are two common outcomes from this request:
- No suitable properties or there is a suitable property but it is not available immediately. As we cannot proceed with the sales or lease deal, this information should be saved for future opportunities. It also can be shared with the business development team for property stock development or lease-in
- There is a suitable property, and it is available for a lease or purchase
In residential or social housing industries, this enquiry entry even more important as it may need to be recorded for two reasons:
- For audit purposes. A company or organisation might need to report on all property enquiries
- To build a ‘waiting lists’. There are lots of examples where social housing companies or government bodies run waiting lists to record citizens property needs(houses, flats, allotment plots, land parcel requests etc) and allocate them according to certain priority
In addition to typical CRM system capabilities, SAP Real Estate software has so-called Search Request functionality. This is a very useful feature because it is not only capable of recording enquiry details but also give an immediate answer to property availability. This is something not all out-of-the-box CRM systems can do. Saved SAP Real Estate Search Request can also be used to build up waiting lists where applications are saved and sorted by application date, urgency etc.
Useful software requirements for this step are:
- Ability to save customer enquiry details
- Ability to provide an immediate answer on property available for lease or sale
- Web portal compatibility with accessible digital storage content (property pictures, video records, floor and 3d plans)
- Ability to auto-generate correspondence (confirmation email or letter, for instance)
- Ability to perform unstructured full – text search would be useful to have
It is quite straightforward to build this kind of integrated solution using SAP Real Estate software as a property database and SAP Cloud for Customer software to keep track enhanced customer interaction activities (if required).
It is worth mentioning a few words on a spatial search. Sometimes it is required to perform property search in a specific area, which can be quite tricky, for example, search area forms a non-convex set (where certain parts of the area excluded from the search). In most cases, this type of search can be done using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) only. Luckily, the GIS system can be installed to the same SAP HANA database as your SAP system (due to embedded HANA GIS capabilities) and integrated with SAP Real Estate management software for enhanced property analytics.
Once the search is performed and saved in the software it becomes either business ‘lead’ (if no properties are available) or existing ‘opportunity’ to lease or sell a vacant property, for a company to proceed with.
Step 2. Detailed lease or purchase negotiation
As soon as the detailed lease or sale negotiation started, it is important to keep a central record of all customer interactions. Without doubt, most modern CRM systems have the ability to store customer interactions (emails, phone calls, internal notes, and documents) but in integrated property management software environment, it is important to link this negotiation to a tenancy (or contract) master record in the software. This allows to maintain a single source of the data and use available software tools to simplify and automate the business process. For example, commercial agreement type or contract amount can ‘drive’ certain workflow path in the software, payment/lease schedule etc.
Within this step I would note the following useful software requirements and features:
- Ability to record all customer interactions and reflect them in the software commercial agreement master record
- Ability to store multiple document versions
- Ability to perform unstructured full – text search would be useful to have
- Ability to automatically generate digital and hard-copy documents (tenancy agreement, purchase agreement etc) based on master data, and media content stored in the software
- Ability to trigger pre-defined workflow scenario based on legal agreement type or value
- Mobile handheld device and digital signature support
SAP Real Estate management software introduced Contract offer master record functionality designed to store draft contract information. Contract offer can be automatically created based on SAP Search Request details and keep contract-to-be attributes (terms and conditions, property/equipment details and references, financial details and many more). As soon as SAP Real Estate Contract offer data updated in SAP the user as able to share it for review and approval using predefined workflow path including auto-generated PDF form attached. Embedded workflow and status management functionality is used to monitor the negotiation and approval process and measure its progress. It is essential for business process standardisation and future optimisation.
Step 3. Agreement sign off
Once the draft contract has passed multiple reviews and approval steps it can be signed off. It is a usual practice to use two – three-tier workflow approval procedures for purchase or tenancy/purchase agreements. As soon as the final agreement approved it can be saved in the software and shared with the tenant/buyer. Based on the type of legal agreement this milestone triggers either periodical lease payments or sets up the purchase payment schedule.
In SAP this is the step of Real Estate Contract creation. Once SAP Real Estate contract saved and activated financial payments can be transferred into Finance module.
Thoroughly designed integrated CRM – real estate management software solution can be a powerful tool in experienced property managers’ hands or a ‘lifebuoy’ for someone who just starting this career path.
I case of the leasing scenario the tenancy agreement sign off is just a starting point for a wider ‘tenant relationships management’ business process. It covers lots of various tenancy lifecycle events: expiry, termination, change, rent review etc. Due to the size and complexity of these processes and interactions, I will cover it in a separate article.
If you need any advice or experience challenges in the integration of your property management software with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software please feel free ask a question in Q&A area with (area links below)
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You also more than welcome to leave your questions, comments or thoughts in the article comments section and contact me for more information.