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Technology adoption continues to accelerate in multifamily. But are you leveraging PropTech effectively?

Are you using data to improve operations? And if not, where do you start? Listen in to Donald Davidoff, Co-founder and CEO of Real Estate Business Analytics, Inc. as we dig into why (and how) property technology and data make a winning recipe for multifamily. You won’t want to miss key insights like the biggest and most frequent mistake that leaders make when designing their systems.

Listen to the episode below and subscribe to The Resident Experience Podcast for more episodes.

How technology and data make a winning recipe for multifamily

What’s the state of business intelligence and big data for multifamily? [9:00]

  • Don’t get hung up on buzzwords. Instead concentrate on what data you need to make better decisions and how do you get that delivered in an effective and efficient manner.
  • Behind other industries that are somewhat like us (e.g. hospitality, travel) and a big challenge is to get where they are – but most operators don’t own their own data, the vendors do.

What’s the biggest change or advancement in BI over the last 10+ years? [12:09]

  • From 2002 – 2012: Adoption of online systems and revenue management. Meaning web-based property management, resident portals, etc.
  • From 2012 – 2022: emergence of best in class applications that can be combines for top tier tech stack, including new generation of CRM software and AI applications.
  • Missing piece is a data platform to hold data from disparate systems as a single source of truth.

What are a few trends that you see gaining traction over the next few years in technology and data? [14:12]

  • Obvious one is more emphasis on the prospect and resident experience. Moving from the thought that ‘residents are the annoying things that you had to deal with in between buying and selling properties’ to centering them in the full process.
  • Technology to replace humans, but not in a scary or bad way. As people leave the workforce (and with the hiring challenges), they may NOT be replaced by a human.
  • AI will handle the mundane and administrative tasks and the humans will do the higher order things where it requires personalization and a broader set of to serve that resident or prospect.

Any wild predictions for what's to come even if you can't see an immediate application for it in multifamily? [18:00]

  • It will be around Ai, augmented reality, and predictive analytics
  • They will feel incremental on a year-to-year basis, but 10 years from now, all the leasing and service request interactions will be done by bots. Service personnel will wear augmented reality headsets so they get instructions as they go along looking or doing training.

What are 2 - 3 things a property management company should consider before moving forward with a new tech initiative or vendor? [23:30]

  • Data Ownership: Ensure that their contracts with their vendors make it clear that the operator, the property manager, owns the data. It doesn't mean the vendor can't use the data for their purposes, but data ownership is held by the operator.
  • Culture: Pay attention to the culture of the tech vendors that you’re choosing. Dig in so you understand the vendor who just wants to acquire your business versus one who truly takes an interest in your success as an operator.

    A vendor who cares about me, not just about their bottom line, is really critical.

  • Plan B: Have a plan B for every single vendor for when that vendor is purchased by somebody else and this impacts the service, culture, etc., and is no longer a fit for you.

    Make the long term vendor relationships and maintain the nimbleness to adjust if you need to later on.

Is there specific advice you’d give smaller property management companies or, say, non-Class A properties? [28:30]

  • It's more about timing and not about applicability overall. Good tech is good tech, good customer experience is good customer experience - no matter the size, no matter the class.
  • Leverage your strengths (your customer intimacy, your local knowledge) and mitigate the weaknesses (don't have the money to invest the same way or to build bespoke).

Biggest mistake that operators make [32:00]

  • Designing processes, designing systems, based on how they want prospects and residents to behave, not necessarily how they actually behave. Don't build based on how you want them to behave, go find out how they actually behave and you'll build great customer experience that way.


Donald Davidoff

Donald Davidoff is the Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of Real Estate Business Analytics, Inc. He is recognized throughout the rental housing industry as a thought leader in pricing, business intelligence, marketing, and leasing.

Donald is best known for leading the development and implementation of the Lease Rent OptionsTM (LRO), the industry’s first automated demand forecasting and price optimization system. A former Senior Vice President at Archstone and Executive Vice President at Holiday Retirement, Donald works with C-Suite clients to assess their operational and technology platforms and implement impactful projects.

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Episode Transcript

Yolanda Muchnik:
I'm excited to chat with Donald Davidoff, co-founder and CEO of Real Estate Business Analytics Incorporated, a data analytics software company on a mission to change how the rental housing industry uses data. Today, we're digging into the intersection of data, technology, and Multi-family operations. Donald, welcome to the show.

Donald Davidoff:
Thank you.
Yolanda Muchnik:
I'm happy you're able to make time to speak with us today because you're such a busy person. So, let's kick this off with some details for our audience on the work you're doing at Real Estate Business Analytics and D2.
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah. So, D2 is a consulting company I founded 10 years ago, and I still have some consultants doing work on that, particularly in the pricing and revenue management space. But my personal focus these days, is really on REBA or Real Estate Business Analytics.
REBA is on a mission to change how the rental housing industry uses data, much like we changed how the industry does pricing with LRO. 20 plus years later, my partners and I, we want to change how the rental housing industry uses data. As part of that, we have two products already on the market. REBA BI is a BI as a platform solution, and then REBA Budget, which is a budget and forecasting application. Our goal is really to give consumers as close to bespoke quality BI and predictive analytics experiences on a subscription basis. Rather than having them spend two to three years and two to three million dollars just to get to a V1, if they go bespoke, or for those who can't afford that, stuck without too many good options. So, that's what we're trying to do.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Awesome. So, I noticed you founded Real Estate Business Analytics about two years ago. Was this born from your work in consulting at D2?
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah. I mean, I would say yes. And I'd even say that REBA and D2 Demand were born of the work my partners and I did, back in the late Nineties and the early at Archstone.
So, for those who aren't familiar with my background, I got into the industry from the outside. I worked for a pricing and revenue management software company. Ended up leading the team that built LRO. And then in late 2001, I switched sides of the table and became the industry's first Vice President of Pricing and Revenue Management by actually going to work for Archstone as an executive. My customer, and then my sort of key partner, at the time was a gentleman named Chris Brust, who's also one of the three co-founders of REBA. And that's really where our BI journey started. We quickly discovered or learned that to do pricing right we needed to take data from two different systems of record, from the property management system, happened to be MRI at the time, and from the revenue management system, obviously LRO, and bring them into one single source of truth.
So Chris built our very first data mart in 2003. It was all about supporting pricing. And as often happens with these stories, when you start bringing data together and democratizing it, all of sudden people have ideas about, "well what about this? What about that?" And so it grew and grew. And by 2007, Chris was actually promoted out from under me to head up a full BI team reporting directly to our mutual boss, the Chief Information Officer gentleman by the name of Dan [inaudible 00:04:52]. Also, along the way we got heavily involved in budgeting because really when you do revenue management, you get a lot of cues for how the market's going to respond. And so we partnered with Crystal Wilson who was, for lack of better term, our budget queen at Archstone. And over the years really enhanced the budget there as well.
So everything we're doing... My consulting built on that. Chris and his partner, Lanny Grossi, who's our third partner, built several bespoke BI systems after Archstone went away and before we started REBA and we got the three of us as partners. Crystal is actually our REBA budget product manager. So it's kind of interesting watching this 22 year plus arc happen. So it all.... They're build on everything. I think that's a typical life story.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Awesome. Sounds like serendipity and that is quite a story. So I'd love to spend a good chunk of our time today discussing the many ways that Multi-family companies can use business intelligence and data. But of course this is the Resident Experience podcast. So can you share with me your definition of the term, from your vantage point, what does resident experience mean to you?
Donald Davidoff:
To me, resident experience, it's the sum of all the interactions that prospects and residents have with the people, with the technology and with the physical plant of any rental housing company. I've always been sort a or had a private passion around what used to be referred to as customer service. And I think rightfully has now expanded to be more than just the service interaction, but the entire experience. And in fact if your listeners out there have not read this book back in the... God I want to say it was the 1980s or early nineties, Jan Carlson, the then CEO of SAS Airways, the Scandinavian airline system, wrote a book called Moment of Truth. And the key premise of Moment Of Truth was that he was trying to turn around the fortunes of the company and it had very, very poor customer service numbers was losing money, et cetera.
And what he said is, "look, our challenges that we think of our business as our airlines and our pilots and our flight attendants and our reservation system." And he said, "No, no, that's not who SAS is. SAS is the sum of all the individual interactions that our customers have with our people." Now, back then that was pre-internet. So today I would bring technology in and he pointed out that those were typically 15 to 20 seconds in length. And so he called them Moments Of Truth and that it was the thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of interactions, those moments of truth that really made up SAS. And at the risk of taking this a little too long, I'll share a personal story. My only experience flying SAS was a trip to Russia and back and in Copenhagen we had a eight or nine hour delay.
And because of that delay, if I could have ever flown SAS again, I would have. Think about that moment, for a moment, because of that delay, I would fly them again. Why? Because they didn't give us a rolling day, they didn't lie to us. They told us exactly what was wrong, it would be many hours. We actually asked "boy, we've never been to Copenhagen," they gave us instructions on how to take the bus to get into the city. They told us that they'd be bringing everybody to the SAS hotel and showed us the location if we wanted to join them for lunch. They gave us each one phone call back home to let people know we were missing, we were going to be late. And back then phone calls international were five, six, eight dollars an hour. I mean, excuse me a minute.
And then when we got to the airport, they had extra crew there to get us on the plane faster. As if to say "we might be nine hours late, but we'll be damned if we're going to be nine hours and five minutes late if we can help it." It was truly amazing. And then I read that book, learned how purpose purposeful it was. I actually did my master's thesis around that whole case study of what Young Carlson was doing.
Yolanda Muchnik:
That's awesome. What a neat story. And I love the angle that you took in explaining what that term means to you. It's so vast and I just love hearing our guests kind of expound on their personal definitions. So in other industries, big data and business analytics have been hot topics for gosh, probably a decade or more. And Multifamily has been a little slower to adopt the trend. And so from your view, what's the current state of business intelligence and applications of it within Multifamily right now?
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah, so the first thing I'll say is I've always been a bit of a cynic when it comes to over hype buzzwords. So the reality honestly is the "big data" that's usually about terabytes and petabytes of data. And it's usually in verticals that really need to make very quick decisions. So think about minute to minute online pricing decisions. On Black Friday, our industry... We're actually kind of fortunate, I believe rental housing isn't really that complex or that fast paced. So I've always argued we need to get our little data right? If we could just get our little data right, we'd big winners. In fact, it was interesting.
There's an article, really good article in the December 2013 edition of Harvard Business Review that was called You May Not Need Big Data After All. And in reading that, I just saw so much of what our industry was about. And so early in my consulting practice that really spoke to me and a lot of the work that I've done around little data, big data around data analytics. I don't try to get hung up on the buzzword, it's more just what data do you need to make better decisions and how do you get that delivered in a effective and efficient manner.
In terms of your question about what's the current state of BI right now, the truth is we're a lot better than we were 10 years ago and 10 years ago we're better than we were 20 years ago. And we're still very, very much behind industries like hospitality or retail, the travel industry, places that are somewhat to us. I mean I think, I've thought a lot about this over the last couple three years. And I think that the biggest challenge in getting to where these other industries are, is kind of the toll booths and the metaphorical road close signs that are in that sort of transportation of data. Data should flow like water, data wants to flow like water. But most operators in our industry don't actually own their own data.
And so they're often left at the mercy of their vendors. As I think about it, I really trace it back to in the odds when people were switching to online property management systems. They really didn't think about data ownership. And so they made the mistake of just signing contracts that stipulated the vendors own the data more than the operators or the creators of the data do. That's going to take a while to unwind. Now the good news is that there are a lot of startups that are offering a more contemporary approach to data and REBA we're certainly proud to be part of that ecosystem.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Nice. And so you did touch on this a little bit just now in your answer, but I'm curious, you've been in the game for a while. What would you say is the biggest change or advancement that you've seen in this area over the past 10 years or so?
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah, so I'll take the liberty with a 20 plus year career of actually going back a little further, I'll break it into two 10 year chunks. From 2002 to 2012, it really was the adoption of online systems and revenue management. So by online systems, web based property management portals, resident portals, payment portals. Frankly a lot of the stuff that is a leader in today at its origination way back then. From 2012 to 2022, I think it's been the emergence of a number of best in class applications that can now be stitched together into a really good technology platform. So what do I mean by that? Couple examples, CRM, right? Customer Relationship Management. If you're going to create great customer experience, you got to know what you've done with your customers before.
And I think there's a new generation of CRM software, think Anyone Home, Funnel, Knock, folks like those that really offer the promise of a contemporary approach to that compared to what we had before. I also think AI applications, so think maybe meet a lease or lease hawk, ones like that. I think those applications are going to change the nature of work and the nature of the relationship between rental housing companies and their prospects and their residents. Then honestly the one thing that is really missing in all that is a single source of truth is that data platform to hold data from disparate systems of record into one easy to access place. That's obviously the gap that we're proud to be trying to fill here at REBA.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Right. So we've touched on the past and the present and so of course now I'd love to learn a little bit about the future. What are a few trends that you see gaining traction over the next few years in technology and data?
Donald Davidoff:
Oh God, that's such a good question. Crystal ball gazing. It's always both dangerous and safe. It's dangerous to guess, but it's usually safe because nobody ever beers from now brings up this video and points out to me all the things I got wrong. So we'll give it our best shot. I mean I think there are a couple trends that are pretty obvious, particularly more emphasis on customer and prospect experience. In fact, there was... Matt Slepin does a really good podcast and he recently had Bob Dewitt and Greg Bates from GID Windsor On. And one of the things they were talking about was sort this mega trend of, I'll use my words instead of theirs now, but I remember when I first joined the industry, I described residents as the annoying things that you had to deal with in between buy and selling properties. And most operators would chuckle because they felt like they were sort of in that boat.
And honestly most of the CEOs that were developers and buyers and sellers would privately admit to me, I was kind of right. Fast forward to today, I don't think that's true anymore. I think starting with public traded reads, but moving into many well known regional operators or private operators and then also even a lot of the larger fee managers. There's been so much more technology and effort around customer and prospect experience, but I think it's just going to go even further in the future. I mean, we still don't have a set of companies that have truly distinguished themselves as getting higher returns because of that. And I think a lot of the online reputation management work that you see is really going to help drive that long term trend. I would also say another big trend is going to be more and more technology doing two things. One, replace humans.
I know operators don't like to say that out loud because they don't like to scare their employees. I'm actually not worried about that. It's not going to happen so fast that somebody who's a leasing associate today, is going to be fired tomorrow. What I do think is going to happen over time as turnover occurs and as it's incredibly hard to replace people these days to find good people, I think what you'll find is people who choose to leave may not get replaced by another human. So I'm not worried about the workforce being fired, but I do think that the workforce will decline your at attrition. And I think it has to, when you look at the challenges of hiring today.
The other thing that'll happen is that AI won't necessarily replace people all the time, but it'll handle more of the mundane and administrative kinds of tasks leaving the humans that are still unstaffed to do higher order things. So I don't know that human has to have the initial conversation with a prospect, right? An AI bot can do that quite well. I do think today's AI bot companies would tell you, humans do need to get involved later in the flow when more personalization and a broader set of knowledge is needed to serve that prospect, to serve that resident. So I think customer experience and this technology around AI those are the two big trends and they kind of interact with each other.
Yolanda Muchnik:
I love that. A little more crystal ball gazing for you, if you'll humor me. In the past few years alone, we've seen some pretty incredible technological advancements as a society, right? So I'm curious, do you have any wild predictions for what's to come even if you can't see an immediate application for it in multifamily?
Donald Davidoff:
Yes. So it's interesting when I hear that question. I mean, I've built my career on taking on the folks who are over hyping tech solutions. So it's a little dangerous for me to get too wild on that. That's kind of a hard one for me. But here's what I would say. I think that the plethora of tech options today, look like a pretty amazing set of developments compared to, let's say those of us that were back in 2002 when I really first... 1999 to 2002 joined the industry. There was an amazing number of things today that never would've thought of. One particular story comes in mind, I forget the year, I'm going to say it was 2005, 2006, somewhere around there. Back at Archstone, we actually invested, most companies in this industry wouldn't have done that. We invested half a million dollars back then, so easily a million, a million half in today's dollars, but try to understand the leasing office of the future.
And we hired a company called IDL. I don't know if you've heard of them before, but they're an iconic design shop. Yeah, they're out of Palo Alto. They made their big thing. They actually came up with the flip phone design of the original Motorola Razor, if you remember that. And then they're around 60 minutes, lots of different places. Anyway, really interesting company. They take a completely different approach to learning how people behave. They don't survey, they don't do focus groups. They hire anthropologists and the anthropologists follow prospects watching them do what they do. Like Jane Goodall recording the Silverbacks and they come back on just a few interactions telling us anthropologically what was going on. And one of the things that we realized back then for the leasing office of the future, was the need for mobility. And we actually had a meeting with all the senior execs, I'll never forget this, at the boardroom where we brought in every device that was available then.
And everyone we looked at it was like, "Oh my god, these things are brick." We're just going to have work of claims if we make our leasing associates carry this around all over the place. So I kind of sat on the shelf for a while, fast forward two years later ish, 2008, 2009, whatever the year was, I saw the first ad for an iPad and I went, "Oh my God." And I ran into my boss's office, he had seen the same ad and we both immediately went, "This is the device we needed two years ago for that leasing office of the future." So today the iPad's quite mundane, but it's actually amazing. If you go back to 1999, it's amazing that somebody could carry an iPad and interact with the customer and not have to be at a desk. Heck, you could hand an iPad to the customer, let themself toy with it if you chose to, et cetera.
So anyway, back to your question, I think there were some things that are really amazing today that, I'm sorry, don't feel amazing today that were amazing if you talked about 20 years ago. So now to get to your question directly where, okay, what do I think is going to be amazing, 10 or 20 years from now? I think it's around Ai, I think it's around augmented reality, I think it's around predictive analytics. I think that they will feel incremental on a year to year basis. Some they've already started, but I would not be surprised if 10 years from now all the leasing is done and almost all the service request interactions are done by bots, done by AI. If the service texts themselves, because you have to fix things, you need a human to fix things, maybe there'll be some robots that's a lot more difficult.
But the service texts, I'll bet you they'll be wearing an augmented reality headset. And so they can get instruction as they go along looking at the device, they'll do their training in that environment, et cetera. Feels pretty futuristic today. I think 10, certainly 20 years from now, it's going to be as normal as an iPad is today. And in 2006, we couldn't even imagine the iPad. At least my boss and I couldn't. Thankfully Apple did. There you go.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Yeah, that's such a great point. It is probably something that realistically could happen and we probably won't notice those changes happening day to day, 20 years from now. We'll look back on it and realize how drastically different-
Donald Davidoff:
If you really want to have fun. I mean for anybody out there who enjoys of watching technology, if you've heard of the Gartner Hype Cycle. So the Gartner Hype Cycle describes how technology starts as a new idea. It grows to this height of inflated expectations, usually crashes into the trophic despair. Some technologies that die there, they die in the trophic despair because they don't really work the way they were hype. But many of them rise into what Gartner then calls the plateau of performance, or I might be getting the words a little wrong. Anyway, literally every technology tracks that curve. If you really want to have some fun, just Google, Gartner Hype Cycle 1995, Gartner Hype Cycle 1998, Gartner Hype Cycle two... Check every couple three years from 1995 until now. It is amazing to look at what were the technologies that were hyped and didn't succeed, that were hyped and didn't succeed, et cetera. So the things that are on that early rise, some of them will die and many of them will be the amazing things 10 years from now.
Yolanda Muchnik:
I know what I'm going to be spending my evening doing. So far we've touched on the topic of technology and data in a broad sense. And so now I want to get a little bit more granular for our listeners. So let's say a property management company is in the early stages of technology adoption and business intelligence. What are two to three things they should do or consider before moving forward with a new initiative or a new vendor?
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah, I mean of what I mentioned earlier is one of the challenges. I think the most important thing is to make sure that their contracts with their vendors make it clear that the operator, the property manager own the data. And the vendor's going to work with them to make data available in whatever ways that operator wants to do. I've actually... A good friend of mine, Stephanie Furman at Catalyst Housing with her background in innovation back from her days at Greystar. I know she's actually gone and had conversations at the start of a relationship is often when you have the most leverage around those kinds of things. It doesn't mean the vendor can't use the data for a whole lot of their purposes as well, but data ownership, it's not sexy. It's not something that typically gets talked about, but it's massively talked to any attorney in the tech and data space.
And they will tell you that data ownership is the most important thing that a contract defines. So may not be sexy, but I pay a lot of attention to that. If you own and control your data, you're about as future proof as you can be for things in the future you want to do that you don't realize today you want to do. If you don't have it, you'll constantly run into roadblocks. So you asked for a couple things beyond that. I think the other thing I would do is really pay attention to the culture of the tech vendors that I'm choosing. I'm going to be less around, "Oh go take this right, CRM or that right." Whatever. I mean there's lots of good CRMs, right? I mean I named three earlier, they're all credible. There's lots of good bots out there. I named a couple, there're others out there as well.
I think... What I found is the vendors who approached me as a target to be acquired as almost a militaristic kind of exercise and I was really then just an account to be melted. Those were very frustrating and often limited us. Now, nobody ever says they're doing that. They counts themselves in those terms. But it's a small industry. You can... A little bit of research, you can find out who behaves that way versus who truly takes an interest in your success as an operator. One of the things, when I worked with Rainmaker when they took over LRO, one of the things about Bruce and Tammy who ran that company that always amazed me is, I watched them from the inside sometimes make decisions that did not optimize their profits. But it did optimize their customer success. And so their philosophy was longer term success rather than short term profit focus.
I mean, they still made money in heck, they did great. But a vendor who cares about me, not just about their bottom line, is really critical. And then the third thing I'll say is after having done that, you better have a plan B for every single vendor you have because there's not a vendor out there that 10 or 20 years from now or even three or four years from now, might not get purchased by somebody else. So the culture you contract with, is not always the culture that you're then working with three to five years later or whatever. And there's nothing you can do about that. You can't predict who's going to buy whom, that's just going to happen. So absolutely make those long term relationships and maintain the nimbleness to adjust if you need to later on. That's what I would focus on, the technical details, they'll work themselves out.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Such great points. And I love how you talk about focusing on the culture of the vendor and kind of examining the degree to which they value the long term relationships with our customers. Because, that really ties back to the whole philosophy of resident experience. Right?
Donald Davidoff:
Yolanda Muchnik:
I think... I mean it really mirrors what we're talking about here so well.
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah. I mean then companies like Zego that clearly focus on that kind of experience, it comes through again, I see too many people make short term decisions that it makes sense at the time. They're not stupid, but they're making very technical or tactical decisions. And my experience is there are multiple right technical answers, there are fewer correct cultural answers out there. So that's why I always look at the cultural side and technical is just the anti of the game. I'm not even going to talk to you if you don't have that, but the cultural is what's going to win me over.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Right. Thanks for that. Sure. So often when we speak about tech adoption and multifamily, the default applications, typically the larger companies like Lincoln or Greystar in a lot is really focused on class A properties. So maybe some smaller property management companies that are say primarily Class C, might feel this isn't really for them. What's your take when it comes to this audience and how, if at all, would you give them advice for change when it comes to implementing technology and business intelligence?
Donald Davidoff:
That's really a perceptive observation and I've seen that play out. I'd like to think the big guys can afford to be on the bleeding edge a little bit and the Class A on higher rents, again, can afford to take some risks that maybe the smaller guys can. So I hope that most of the smaller players and or B and C players look at it or recognize it's more about timing and not about applicability overall. Because at the end of the day, good tech is good tech, good customer experience is good customer experience. Somebody paying $700 a rent, one says good customer experience as somebody paying 2200 or 4000 or whatever. Or at least they wanted to be treated with the same respect and the appropriate experience for their life and their price point tech. In some cases the class residents needed even more because they can't afford to pay for all the other services that people in class A apartments are paying for.
So again, I'll just go back to good tech is good tech and good customer experience is good customer experience no matter the size, no matter the class. The advice I would give particularly to smaller companies is leverage the strengths of being small. It's easy to look at the Lincolns and Greystar's or the Avalon Bays and the equities on the owner of the and kind of feel a bit intimidated. But you know what, as a small local person, you've got customer intimacy, you've got local market knowledge that maybe they don't, right? I mean Bob is a great guy, he can't possibly know everything about every market that he's in. It's just too big, they're in indoor Arkansas or Phoenix, Arizona or whatever. You might know things as a leader that is harder for them to get across what essentially becomes a large bureaucracy.
So it's not a slam on those big guys. Its just there are strengths and weaknesses of being big. There are strengths and weaknesses to being small. So as a small guy, you leverage your strengths, your customer intimacy, your local knowledge, and then mitigate the weaknesses of being small. The biggest weakness of being small compared to those guys, is you don't have the money to invest the same way. You can't afford to build your own bespoke stuff. But that is actually a good reference back to our last moment of the conversation around find the vendors, find the cultures that you want to align with.
And as a small player with a big tech vendor with the right big tech vendor or vendors, you can actually deliver a customer experience just as good or better than big guys. Maybe you need to be a fast follower, maybe the latest, greatest smart home tech. Okay, Greystar leads the way, but in this business, what are the three most important things in real estate? Location, location, location. So you've got good assets and good locations, you're going to be fine. It's okay to be a fast follower, but don't be intimidated. You've got some strengths being small.
Yolanda Muchnik:
Awesome. And so any final words of wisdom from you for operators using technology and data to improve operations and the resident experience?
Donald Davidoff:
Yeah, I think this comes a lot from my experience with marketing as well as building systems for operations. I think the biggest and the most frequent mistake that leaders make is designing processes, designing systems based on how they want prospects and residents to behave, not necessarily how they actually behave. It takes a lot of discipline, it takes a lot of energy to instead learn how prospects and residents actually behave and then design the processes and systems around that. It's easy here's what I think they should do. So, that's quick. We can meet together. You and I can decide what to go do to help Zego go get more customers. It's true in B2B as well as B2C, but for you and me to take the time to actually talk to a lot of those customers, find out what's important to them, maybe watch them through a process and then build something to how they behave, that's actually a lot harder.
So we take a shortcut and think we know what they want. I used to say mean, I've said at a I've said it in REBA as well, when we're debating over what somebody will want. "Hey, I've got a crazy heraldic idea. Why don't we pick up the phone and call a couple of past customers." Right? "Yeah, let's just ask them and they'll tell us what matters to them and we don't have to guess." So, that would be my "biggest words of wisdom" is don't build based on how you want them to behave, go find out how they actually behave and you'll build great customer experience that way.
Yolanda Muchnik:
So true. Thank you for that. So my closing question for you is when we love to ask all of our guests, because great people know other great people. So who are two other guests you think we should invite on the Resident Experience podcast?
Donald Davidoff:
Oh wow, there's so many people. I feel like I'm on the stage at the Oscars and I'm going to offend somebody by not naming them. Let's do this. Given your future focus, I'll probably embarrass her, but I'm actually going to say Minna Song, I don't know if you know Minna she is one of the co-founders of MeetElise. She's also one of the few fellow MIT grads in this industry. So I got a little soft spot for her as well. And again, MeetElise is one of the leading, there are others, I mentioned a couple earlier AI companies. But I think she's young, she's intelligent, she's trying to change the world. I think there's a cool story there, given your focus on customer experience. I'll actually reach into the operator world and say Jamie Gorski, who is the CMO at GID Windsor and she's helped them do some amazing things in terms of growing their reputation scores.
And she's always been, I mean I knew her back in the Arsal Smith days and she's always been a customer experience focused individual. I'll give you a bonus, third one on the ladder on customer experience. We talked about them earlier. I don't know a person there anymore because it's been so many years. But I'd reach out to IDEO and see if you could have one of their partners come on and discuss their anthropological approach to discovering true customer behavior and what people really value on customer experience. Because their experience is so broad compared to our little narrow rental housing world. So there's three.
Yolanda Muchnik:
I love it. Thank you. I can't wait to speak to all three. Thank you for that.
Donald Davidoff:
Oh no, my pleasure.
Yolanda Muchnik:
So Donald, this has been such a fantastic discussion. I really enjoyed meeting you and I know our listeners will enjoy hearing all your wise words. We'll make sure that they can connect with you on our episode page. And thank you so much again for taking the time to chat with me today.
Donald Davidoff:
No thank you, Yolanda. This was a lot of fun.