Let’s admit it – when it comes to payments in the multifamily housing industry, evolution seems to have stopped a decade ago. In the age of ApplePay, Venmo, or Square, you are still spending an inordinate amount of time processing personal checks and money orders. Deep down, everyone knows rent week costs real money, and a lot if it. In personnel time, mistakes, fraud… you name it. No one likes to admit out loud that manual payment processing is nothing more than wasted time, that clerical errors happen with what could be considered an alarming frequency, or that blank money orders in high denominations are an inevitable temptation to give in to. In this day and age, technology should serve you better. It does everyone else.
What’s worse, in this process of standing still, you are also alienating your own residents. According to the US Census, two thirds of adults in rental housing are less than 45 years old. This demographic is extremely reliant on technology and always connected. Pew Research reports that 82% of adults less than 50 years old own a smartphone. 19% of these smartphone owners rely on this device for internet access. Both property managers and payment providers say they accept ACH payments, or online credit card payments, but are still not doing enough to address a glaring market need. If anything, most currently available solutions are increasingly disconnected from the market need.
How do you bridge this gap? How do you get ahead?
First, work within your own organization. The best product in the world will not get adequate adoption without buy in from your own ranks. As any change management literature will tell you, resistance to change is often rooted in the emotional. Don’t underestimate the human aspect. Recognize that you will need to help your co-workers, bosses, and staff to feel comfortable with any new or currently little-used technology. People need to understand what’s in it for them, how their lives will improve.
After your on-site staff become the change agents, tell your residents about the tools you already provide. Communicate with them and show them you do prefer them to elect electronic payments. Make the best use of available technology and established best practices. Don’t be afraid to ask your payment technology and service provider to help you increase adoption. In fact, do it today. After all, it’s their product and both of you have the same objective. Scalability, efficiency of your operations, and safer payments are, after all, the reasons you bought the product. No business can grow sustainably without satisfying those reasons- your goals. Don’t lower your expectations.
Then, expect even more. Insist your payment service and technology provider innovates. Innovation isn’t about shiny new toys, it’s about improving people’s lives. Lives of your residents, your on-site staff, your corporate staff, your executive management. Insist that your product provides a superior experience to all users. Insist that you don’t work around the limitations of your product, but that your product carries you through your existing limitations.
You see, we’re in this together. I spent most of my adult career in payment processing and merchant acquiring. I worked for a number of retail and e-commerce payment providers, and most recently, for one of the largest payment processors in the Unites States. Now, I find myself serving the multifamily housing industry as a payment product owner. My job is to solve the right problems, my ambition is to move the industry forward. Don’t let me off the hook.