I am helping my family property management company get a bit more efficient in how we reply to and manage a few different email streams. We run a handful of STR for vacationers, as well as several urban properties for business trip customers, primarily. We get a ton of emails/messages from various platforms from potential patrons, as well as coordinating with just as many house cleaners, repair folks, etc.
Our business has 6 FT employees handling all sorts of tasks, but we are becoming overwhelmed with managing emails, primarily making sure they 1) don't get lost and 2) they get assigned properly to whoever is in charge.
With that, please share any tips, tools, or similar challenges you all face in this space. What do you do? What works? Any insight would be much appreciated! Thank you.
Lots of ideas and technologies out there to help. I don’t use any/many for my rentals, but do for my ‘real job’.
First off, get away from emailing specific individuals. Set up some group inboxes for ‘vendors at xxx.com, tenant at xxx.com, etc.
Then use either a standard shared mailbox to share and answer emails. Filing them away only when complete.
Or look at other platforms. Inbox by gmail, Zendesk, or other ticketing systems. The idea is that every email/call that comes in becomes a ticket, and each ticket is handled until resolution - and not closed until complete.
You also get reporting, assignment, etc. especially helpful when someone is out sick, vacation, etc.
I use my personal email, nothing else. 24 furnished houses, 84 beds. Keep it simple.
What Paul said
We use Slack.
In addition to group chat, it allows you to set up idividual channels that each can have their own email address.
For example, guest related inquiries can be in a Slack channel called frontdesk which has a slack email address, so you can auto-forward any of those to that channel's email address and they post there. Or for VRBO, or Airbnb, etc you can have indvidual channels and then tell each service to email those channels' email addresses.
From there, each team member either comments that they have it or adds a unique emoji response to the email itself in slack that they've got it and are responding.
Slack also handles our photo uploads and file sharing needs in a limited way. It's easy to snap a photo of something that needs to be replaced or a document that needs review.
All in all, fairly handy for us.
I’ve done a few things for taking care of email and inquiry streams:
-use unroll.me to filter out any junk mail, or mail individuals only need to see occasionally. This will put it all together in one email a day and will keep your “white noise” manageable.
-consider using a service like Guesty to outsource the customer service side of things. The cost of full time hires and fringe benefits are expensive - likely more expensive than the cost of an outsourced platform that can handle the email streams and automate most of the customer service process.
-On the STR side, you may want to consider a property management platform that can handle a lot of the workflow tasks that become assigned to maintenance individuals.
Hope this helps @Edward Silva !
Has anyone in this chain done any thinking on the amount of time/money saved by setting up one of these systems vs. I guess the traditional style of getting emails, forwarding them along, etc.?
For example, we figured out that when we get an email to our generic [email protected] account, that takes about 1 minute to process and send to someone else, who then say spends on average 3 minutes on it. So 4 minutes per one of these emails (liberal estimation) at $16 an hour (~$.25 per minute) so a $1 per one of these emails. At about 20 emails a week, we spend roughly $80 a month just managing [email protected] emails. And so if we can cut that in half, we'd be willing to pay for a better solution.
Anyone else have a chain of thought like the above or am I over thinking it? :) I tend to do that, but in the spirit of efficiency in order to scale, we may as well think about it now...
Also, @Paul Sandhu & @Lucas Carl, are you guys one-man-shops or do you have a full team? Impressive either way!
I come from a background of a customer service team answering hundreds if not low thousands of emails a day. You need processes to ensure emails don't get lost, someone can monitor responses, etc.
At 20 emails a day, I would make sure you have a good process to receive them and respond. Gmail (and most email systems) have "canned responses" that you can easily respond the same way to all the duplicate type emails you get "Our screening criteria is xxx, please submit your applications..." Instead of a 3-minute email response, it's a 10 second response.
Any more than 5 and I’d have two choices: start outsourcing or lose my ability to scale. We have since decided to move back to LTR and have 3 new ones going right now. Keeping in mind I also have a full time day job that I’m at 15 hours per week.
Avery teaches countless clients our management systems and in turn is number 1 in her market. She will close over 6 million this month. And she’s very pregnant.
@Paul Sandhu is my hero.
Thanks for the kind words. Happy to help any way I can!
My full time job is only 2-3 hours a day, 15 minutes here and there doing drug screens whenever people show up needing them. My wife keeps our 24 STRs cleaned and stocked. She quit her day job managing a law office to clean houses. I do most of the repairs and maintenance. I have a handyman in a rental of mine through HUD. He bought a riding mower last year. I make his $67 monthly payment on the mower and he keeps the properties mowed. I have to call a plumber about once a month, and a heat/air guy once a month. It helps having a welder, skid steer, 16' trailer, dump truck, and 2 agricultural tractors.
Listen to the audiobook 'The 4 Hour Work Week'. It will handle all of this.
I'd be very interested if you would expand your thoughts on how the 4 Hour Work Week is helping you cut down on your daily tasks @Shawn Ward
I've not found outsourcing helpful in the long run, thus far anyway, looking for insight.
@Edward Silva to piggyback off of @Lucas Carl it what you care about is scaling quickly, you should outsource it. Unless you want the function of customer service to be a core competency of your business (your biggest value add) then it’s worth it to look into it.
When I’ve used a service like Guesty they charged 3% of revenue, which probably comes out to more than other services, but as I grow, the cost of the customer service reps, plus any fringe if you need to hire someone with benefits, will outweigh the good in my opinion.
Ultimately it’s a business decision about how you want to manage your business.
I gotta say, this thread has really made me appreciate having such a forum to bounce ideas off of. Truly, thank you @Bruno C. , @Mike McCarthy , @Paul Sandhu , @Shawn Ward , and @Lucas Carl. I will circle back if any other q's arise, but this really gets the wheels turning.
Take care and good luck out there!
@Peter R. this is what I've implemented strategies from the 4 Hour Work Week:
1. I do not check emails until after 12noon most days (unless there is a pending deal); if its urgent, I'll get a call or text
2. I've empowered my interns to take on a lot of my own projects so they learn from real world experience, and it opens up my schedule
3. I avoid conference calls as much as possible and handle as much as I can via email
4. I make sure I make time for my hobbies and my family in the evenings instead of working late
5, I am doing what I love (REI) and I smell the roses every chance I get
6. I TOTALLY STOPPED watching the news and twitter feed 3 months ago and I am much more zen
All the best!