Famous American business entrepreneur, the late Steve Jobs, once said that Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
Never before has this statement been more relevant. Companies around the globe were forced to re-evaluate how they conduct their business in order to survive the pandemic.
Smarter Communities saw this challenge as the perfect opportunity to embrace change and was a leading force within the strata industry.
Executive General Manager-Customer Management, Richard Eastwood, said the Company fast tracked its technology investments, but was already ahead with remote working arrangements already in place for staff across the business.
Richard has seen a great deal in his 20 years in the industry. But what the industry hasn’t seen is all of us go remote in a matter of weeks.
“Our people have the flexibility to work remotely from client premises or from home. It’s just one of the perks we offer as part of a healthy work/lifestyle balance.
“When we were forced to close our offices and work remotely from home, the technology and procedures were already in place, just not on such a grand scale for 250+ staff.
“Every member of our team across the country was issued a laptop with camera technology for video calls with clients and colleagues, regardless of their role. Yes, they may have had their own PC at home to use, but by issuing our laptops we could ensure the speed and features were equal to what they were used to in their office environments.
“Our people are the heart and soul of our business. They are our inspiration. If there’s a better way of operating, they’ll want to test it. That’s the nature of our business culture. Curious thinking. Covid didn’t stop that innovative mindset, if anything it encouraged it,” said Richard.
Standardising internal stressors
Right now, right across the business in each state Smarter Communities has adopted new technology and procedures to dramatically reduce the repetitive administrative nature of strata.
Aligning itself with leading expert, Microsoft, Smarter Communities has introduced a complete suite of Microsoft products for all staff and customised software specifically to suit our own purposes.
The deeper integration with Microsoft products has presented greater efficiencies across the business that will filter to our clients. It also allows us greater flexibility to introduce new functionalities over time.
“This technology was chosen and implemented to declutter desks, standardise and streamline procedures around the country – allowing more time for our Community Managers to build relationships with clients.
“From a recruitment perspective, it’s a very attractive option for community managers looking to move to a modern workplace. For our existing managers, it frees up their time to do what they are trained to do – spend time managing their communities,” said Richard.
Investing in our customers
Improving the customer experience is at the very forefront of our focus. We’ve made smart investments in both our time as well as technology to make the connection with our clients run smoother, easier, and more satisfying for all involved.
It’s all about adding value for our clients. Smarter Communities CEO, Alexander Lang, wanted our clients to have access to online voting. Covid wasn’t the reason for this, it was for convenience. But Covid fast tracked the rollout of StrataVote during lockdown.
Online meetings and electronic voting
If we were going to operate our business remotely, we needed to operate electronic voting.
“It is evolving technology. The StrataVote developers really honed their product to make it suitable for the industry, not just for those who developed it. That’s why we chose this software. They really tested its capabilities, improved on features and now owners can vote in real time at a meeting.
StrataVote has changed the way Community Managers can host their meetings. Traditionally meetings were held on common property after hours, or held in our own meeting rooms.
“All our client meetings can technically now be held remotely. Owners are really embracing this technology. They love that they can make decisions about their community during the day and don’t need to meet in the garage after hours to have their say,” says Richard.
“Community engagement has grown considerably as a result. Our teams have compared participation rates against previous meeting figures and across the board we’ve seen an increase. At a prestigious property on the Gold Coast (East) we experienced an increase of 62% participation rate at the recent AGM. The northern tower saw a 44% increase of participation.
“Back in Sydney at a smaller community in Kirrawee we saw an increase of 45% voters at the AGM. It’s most rewarding when you deliver innovative ways of adding value to people’s lives and actually see live results.”
Simplifying repairs and maintenance
Keeping the properties we manage well maintained and in peak investment form is a key priority. For our community managers, this consumes a great deal of time working with committees to appoint contractors and managing the process.
Smarter Communities devised and adopted a software that allows our teams to manage contractors effectively and efficiently with regards to repairs and maintenance.
Again, by working directly with the program developer to customise to suit our needs, amongst other benefits we have the capability to ensure the right contractor is going to the right property as requested.
“The beauty of this software is it provides full transparency over the flow of work orders and service delivery. We’re actually capturing more defined information to provide to the contractor, so they can be more accurate with their quoting.
“We have full tracking ability so we can see where work orders are in the system and when they have been completed. It’s a far more efficient way of managing contractors and keeps them accountable for work completed.
“This provides us with greater visibility over the quality of our contractors. We can better assess the time it took to respond, to travel to the job and the time to complete the job. Committee members receive notifications regarding the status of work for improved transparency. That includes when the work order is issued, quotes received and when the job has been completed. The end result is better for everyone involved,” says Richard.
The introduction of all new internal processes and systems have been implemented to better manage client times and queries, and to streamline the task and improve our ability to respond.
Whilst these will continue to be introduced, we acknowledge that technology does not stand still, it continues to evolve. These investments have been the foundation on which we will continuously build upon for a better experience for our customers. This is the beginning of our journey.
“There’s nothing more rewarding when you invest heavily in technology and our people for the greater good of our clients. And in turn our clients acknowledge these efforts and respond positively to change, as well as the future direction we are taking them,” says Richard.
Through feedback from our customers we look forward to refining our service offerings. Like we’ve always done over the last 40 years, we will continue to improve and deliver best solutions to the communities entrusted in our care.