Do You Use AI?

Have you been asked this question recently? Have you asked someone this question recently? I’ll bet the answer is yes to at least one of those questions, but what is artificial intelligence?

While AI is not a new concept by any means…

Star Trek Artificial Intelligence

Image from Nerdist

…It’s implementation within multifamily is something that has really picked up within the last 1-1.5 years, in large part due to the pandemic in early 2020.

This is exciting! New technology is often a good thing and I am a big supporter of multifamily leveling-up our understanding and usage of new technology. In order to get the most out of these new trends we need to understand what we are talking about.

I have been in computer science for over a decade and technology is something near and dear to my heart. As a “tech-guy” in multifamily I consider it part of my duty to talk about it to everyone else out there 馃槈

So that’s our goal here, let’s clearly define AI and provide you with some clarity around AI + AI ‘like’ solutions that are offered to you within multifamily.

Artificial Intelligence vs. Machine Learning vs. Automation

Okay so these three terms…. I see them used interchangeably all the time. I think for our sake we should really break them into 2 categories.

1) Artificial Intelligence
2) Automation

Hear me out on this. Is there a difference between machine learning and artificial intelligence? Absolutely. Does it matter to you? Not at all. My technical background leads me to care deeply about these things, there is no reason you should. If you want to learn more, you can check out a short article here, but the point remains, for the folks in multifamily operations, the definitions don’t matter, what matters is what we are really looking for by using these terms.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

The real question here is: “Why should I care about artificial intelligence”. We can give you the text book definition of AI but that isn’t going to leave anyone better off than when they started reading this post, but I might as well do it anyway.

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: the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

This definition provides very little value without the “why”. So let’s rephrase this questions. Let’s talk about why we should care.

Why Should I Care About Artificial Intelligence?

This question makes much more sense. The answer to this question will also provide us in multifamily with much more value.

At its core, artificial intelligence offers deep insights into truths that otherwise remain hidden.

When we talk with someone on the phone, our brain makes 1 billion calculations per second. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you aren’t smart… (link to dense research article if that’s your thing) We are constantly feeling out the situation, taking information about context into consideration, listening to the tone, frequency, and cadence of someone voice, thinking back to past similar experiences we have had and leveraging those learnings to be more successful in the present. We’re being human to put it simply. It will be a very very long time before a computer can do this.

The point is, we make subconscious decisions all the time to better understand what is going well and what isn’t. These same subconscious decisions are being made by onsite teams as they go about leasing apartments (okay back on topic).

If you asked anyone why they did or didn’t do something during a sales call, there is a good chance they can’t give you an answer, “it just felt right” they might say. But the fact is, there is data behind the decision that was made. There is a reason you said what you said, when you said it, and the way you said it. In other words, there are truths we know and understand (whether consciously or subconsciously) that motivate our actions.

So back to AI. Consider this question:

What if we could measure why we make the decisions we make and program our systems to follow the same patterns?

What if we could analyze historical data, understand what has and hasn’t worked in the past, understand why these things did or didn’t work, and use that information to make more effective decisions that yield better results in the future. This is why we should care about artificial intelligence.

Automation and Why It’s Not Artificial Intelligence

Automation is one where I think the definition actually provides us some value.

: the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically

Remember this guy?

Automation Can Opener

Image from America’s Test Kitchen

That’s automation baby. Not quite what you had pictured huh? At its core, automation is exactly what it sounds like, something happening automatically. We can have very unhelpful things happening automatically, this is why you should care what is powering your automation.

What Does This Mean For Us In Multifamily?

Combining Artificial Intelligence and Automation can be magic. The easiest way to illustrate this is with a scenario, image this:

  • A new lead enters your CRM from your favorite ILS.
  • Your favorite automation tool (e.g. Nurture Boss 馃槈 ) syncs with your CRM and gathers all the guest card information.
  • That guest card information is analyzed and processed to find historical data around successful conversions in the past for “look-a-like” guest cards. (Artificial Intelligence)
  • A custom nurture track is generated to send highly personalized and targeted messaging to that guest card with the right message and the right time. This is done to create a situation where the guest card is most likely to convert to a tour. (Artificial Intelligence & Automation)
  • Prospect tours 馃コ
  • A new custom nurture track is generated to send highly personalized and targeted messaging to that guest card with the right message at the right time. This is done to create a situation where the guest card is most likely to apply. (Artificial Intelligence & Automation)
  • Prospect applies and is approved 馃帀
  • New resident receives a custom move-in checklist 7 days prior to moving in (Automation)
  • New resident receives highly personalized and customized check-ins at the 30, 90, and 180 day mark creating the a delightful resident experience yielding more referrals, reviews, and survey results (Artificial Intelligence & Automation)
  • When renewal time approaches a bespoke renewal workflow is crafted and executed, increasing renewal rates (Automation)

In Summary

  • AI has been around for a long time, but it’s very much new in multifamily, and that’s exciting!
  • AI and ML are not the same thing, but that isn’t something we should focus on quite yet. Instead let’s focus on the benefits we seek through AI and ML (and just refer to it as AI to make our lives easier).
  • Automation is great and at its core, very simply.
  • Combining AI and Automation is the secret sauce that makes a property better than it’s comps in attracting and retaining residents.

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