LeaseHawk’s ACE Takes the Lead on Virtual Leasing Assistants

Natural Language Processing (NLP) gives this chatbot the edge.
July 13, 2021
Tech

ACE Takes the Lead

NLP Gives an Edge

Natural Language Processing (NLP) has spoken. It’s now integrated in apartment website chatbots, which are rapidly being adopted by forward-thinking owners and management companies and their websites.

LeaseHawk’s ACE is the industry leader in this evolving virtual leasing assistant technology, as one of the first to make NLP a reality for its clients.

NLP-enabled chatbots create prospect interactions that are immediate, deeper, and more valuable to rental prospects and leasing professionals than other systems.

The chatbot’s purpose is not to craft responses, but rather to help prospects get the information they need when making a decision where to lease their next home. ACE has three main goals:

  1. Information on some apartment websites is not easily found. The chatbot serves as a search bar, allowing the user to quickly find what they need from any device without having to hunt and peck. And because it is based on NLP, the chatbot can have natural conversations with people rather than have them have to navigate a confusing hierarchy of menu options.
  1. ACE collects information from prospects so that a human leasing staff member can follow-up. This is great for the leasing team, because these prospects will have self-qualified in many cases, so the community quickly identifies higher-quality leads and who are more likely to convert than those who just submit a contact request form on an ILS. Because the information is automatically loaded into the leasing office’s CRM, leasing agents don’t have to learn new workflow or business process: The follow-up tasks show up automatically just as they do for other tasks. There’s no extra data entry required, so fewer mistakes are made and a lot of time is saved.
  1. ACE helps appointment scheduling. This critical next step is a big win for the leasing office.

Voice, Text, Chat

ACE does all of this on voice, text, and chat, making virtual leasing assistants a powerful solution whether it’s busy season or busy times of the day, virtual leasing assistants make sure apartment prospects get the information they need in an efficient manner without the leasing team losing a step.

ACE is active 24/7. With 49 percent of calls missed by properties, ACE’s voice/talk functionality (six voices, male/female available) is one key differentiator in the virtual leasing assistant market as a majority of competitors only offer their products through chat.

ACE can display male, female, and even non-human personas – such as a pet-friendly community that would prefer the chatbot’s persona to resemble a puppy; an alien to give prospects an experience that is “out of this world”; or recreating a school’s mascot as their AI-powered assistant for student housing communities.

Apartment teams starting out with virtual leasing assistants tend to program their chatbot with a neutral conversational tone. However, neutral does not mean boring. Just like a human member of the leasing team, virtual leasing assistants use descriptive words that bring the community to life.

For example, when asked about amenities, it includes a benefit along with the amenity, giving prospects a reason to appreciate it. Replying with “expansive countertops and soaring ceilings” sounds much more attractive than “big and tall ones.”

We Love ‘Brandy’

The most common topics that prospects engage on are pricing and availability, administrative functions, application and deposit fees, tour schedules and location, according to one ACE client, Alexan Garza Ranch Community Manager, Sandra Holgerson.

“We love our ACE,” says Holgerson, whose 370-unit community renamed it Brandy. “It’s helped us convert prospective residents into actual residents.”

In May 2021, Brandy handled 170 total conversations, 98 by chat, 58 by phone and 14 through texts. It helped to generate 47 guest cards and 25 appointments.

ACE has proven to increase leasing velocity by avoiding missed calls, removing friction from the user experience, and freeing up busy leasing teams to focus on more complex matters like resident experience.

Autumn Medina, Carbon Thompson Multifamily Management, says, “The apartment market in Texas is really strong right now. So many people are moving into our state. We’ve been inundated with traffic, so much so that we just don’t have time to answer all the phone calls. We turned the phones off.”

Medina started to use ACE about three months ago at lease-up properties. In the past month, it generated 1,485 conversations in which ACE was able to answer questions, meaning they were ones that our leasing agents don’t have to have. We’re using it at two lease-ups now, and two existing communities, all in Texas markets.

“We looked at some chatbots where questions were asked based on drop-down menus,” Medina said. “That wasn’t ideal. ACE allows resident prospects to type in their questions and get answers, which we prefer.”

Medina, who has 22 years’ experience in the multifamily industry, says early reports based on applications and conversions from using ACE have been excellent. “It has already paid for itself,” she said.

What’s Next

LeaseHawk continues to advance ACE’s capabilities, adding new features regularly, such as animation so that when a prospect first visits the site, the bot bounces to attract attention. The bot also provides images and floor plans as part of its responses when answering questions about fitness centers or pet policies, for example. Emojis are also part of its language.

“The bounce feature is a good idea and the emojis are a nice add-in feature, especially for our younger renter demographic, because it makes the responses seem more personalized,” Medina says. “This demographic can be very anti-social. It’s weird, but it’s reality. ACE offers texting as a way to start a conversation.”

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