Let’s be honest, folks. When you and your team are wading through the middle of the quantifiable quagmire that is a RFP and are trying to decide which property management software solution is right for your business, you are going to be putting a lot of focus on the operating costs, performance metrics and anticipated ROI of your investment in a software package. After engaging in the necessary due diligence and ultimately selecting a software company you believe is the best value for your business, you complete an integration progress, get certified, have some training on the product and away you go, skipping blissfully through the flower laden fields of successful property management with your new best buddy, ever.
I mentioned that we’re being honest, right? As a former property manager, eCommerce director and a strategic client manager, I can tell you straight up that you better keep a very close eye on where you and your new property management software buddy are happily skipping, lest you both end up with something rather icky on your shoes.
All too often, a critical component of a RFP is neglected until you have picked out your property management software provider and integrated it into your day to day operations. I’m talking about the quality of the relationships you will have with the people behind the software. Yes, I know that you checked references during the RFP. But did you talk to the right people? Let me explain. Most references during an RFP process come from members of senior management, who are able to provide your senior managers with an executive summary of their experience. Now, this is very well and good. But let me challenge you to dive a bit deeper when it comes to the reference process.
When I was tasked with selecting a software/platform provider for the company I worked for, I always leveraged the combined wisdom of a reference committee. This committee consisted of senior management, the operations manager(s) who would be the day to day contact with the software provider, the IT or Business Intelligence team that would be responsible for integrating the software/platform, and members of accounting who would have to reconcile the reports and ensure that the data coming to us was correct. I also made sure that a group of end users was included in parts of the process. For property management, these would be your property managers and assistant managers who would use the software on a daily basis.
When you are conducting references, make sure to ask to speak directly with the women and men who managed the implementation process, who balanced the accounting ledgers and downloaded the financial reports and used the software on a day to day basis. Based on nearly 20 years of experience, I can promise you that the feedback you will get from this group of references will be extremely candid, detailed, and provide you with a degree of necessary insight that you will rarely find in a high level executive summary. Accountants speak accounting to other accountants. IT Specialists croon in code to each other, and if your Property Managers have unresolved concerns or a history of shoddy service, you’d better believe they will let you know about it and then some. On the other hand, if the company has been responsive and backed up the promises that were made in the sales process, you’ll hear about this as well. Trust me. This is what I call the dirt and diamonds of a good reference discussion.
Once our reference committee had collectively good vibes about a provider, then we asked to meet with the people that we would be directly working with. We met with our assigned implementation manager and team and grilled them like a steak on the 4th of July on what we should expect when incorporating the new software and platform with our internal systems. Our security team met with their colleagues across the table and made sure that the provider had the chops to ensure our data was going to be secure and in strict compliance with mandated security programs such as PCI. We then met with the Customer Success Manager who would be assigned to our account and made it a point to get to really know them and their work history to ensure that they were a good fit for our company and would provide us with the support and service that we deserved. If during this process you are left with doubts or concerns about the ability of a manager to take good care of you and your team, don’t hesitate to ask for someone else. If we were going to add additional services or features, we met with the managers of those products as well. Finally we reviewed how we would submit tickets, resolve customer service issues and get notified up software updates or, heaven forbid, outages.
Sure, this process took extra time and required a lot of timing, coordination and honest communication with various departments. But the effort that we put into the research process always paid off. By going the extra mile during the RFP process and taking the time to start creating honest and positive relationships with the people you will be working with, you start a critical partnership off on the right foot. If you want until there’s a problem, or you are so frustrated that you’re ready to pull the plug on everything, the work required to reset the relationship and reestablish a community of mutual trust will take a long time and some serious money, and that’s if the relationship can be saved at all. So as Stephen Covey reminded us, begin with the end in mind and make this the best RFP you’ve ever conducted. Your business, your employees and your current and future residents will thank you for it.