Skip to main content

About Escher:

Escher is a luxury apartment community in Rockville, MD. Part of the Village Green portfolio, the staff at Escher are focused on ensuring the satisfaction and comfort of residents. Whether that’s providing luxurious amenities such as a pet-washing studio, or offering cutting-edge technology such as a comprehensive mobile app to their residents, the Escher community prides themselves on offering the best.

Results highlights:

1
seamless integration between Zego, MRI and Luxer package management simplifies processes
77%
of work orders submitted through mobile app, streamlining operations
100%
digital pay utilization, saving staff time

The challenge

Staying current on new technology is a key goal of the Escher team, in an effort to continually improve their resident experience and create smoother workflows for their staff. As satisfied clients of MRI for their property management software, they were considering alternative solutions for their existing resident app. They needed something that would not only provide the most seamless experience with MRI for their staff, but also provide reporting for leadership and delight residents with a comprehensive set of features.

“We were using another resident portal app that worked well, but it wasn’t as integratable with MRI, which we love. We needed something that could partner with MRI to develop a great experience for our residents, but then also give us the data and accessibility that we needed in the office” said Amber King, Property Manager at Escher. “Zego Engage™ was the best candidate.”

 

In an unexpected turn of events, as Escher was working on implementing Zego at their property early in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic struck. With the pandemic came new regulations that limited the face-to-face interactions Escher office and maintenance staff could have with residents, and required new processes such as detailed tracking and guidelines for amenity usage. Although the team was already looking at upgrading their technology, the pandemic pushed them to accelerate technology adoption and develop entirely new strategies for meeting their goals of resident engagement, satisfaction and ultimately, retention. “Technology has been paramount in helping us deal with these challenges, and Zego has been a big part of that.”

The approach & outcomes

With the goal of creating a premium, high-end environment for their residents, Escher partnered with Zego to think through the resident experience that they wanted to design. Ultimately, Escher emerged with five design principles to help them create a world-class resident experience:

1. Meet residents where they are

2. Communicate with groups and individual residents

3. Allow residents to self-serve

4. Help residents build relationships and a sense of community

5. Provide one comprehensive app across the full resident living experience

1. Meet residents where they are

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2019 Mobile Fact Sheet, 81% of Americans own a smartphone. Not only that, but Deloitte’s 2018 mobile survey found that the average American checks that smartphone 52 times a day. Highly attuned to market trends, especially at their high-end community, the Escher team was actively considering how to evolve to meet their residents where they live - on their smartphones.

“Pandemic aside, we were going toward the direction of less face to face interaction and more digital interaction,” said Amber King “In the market I’m in, if I put a note on a resident’s door, they’d have a meltdown. They want an email, they want a text, they want a push notification. Nobody wants me to knock on their door. The pandemic forced us to get really good at technology very fast.”

2. Communicate with groups and individual residents

One area that required a shift in how the Escher team communicated with residents was lease renewals. Prior to the pandemic, to achieve one of their key goals of resident retention, the staff would typically schedule personal meetings with residents to discuss shared value.

Amidst the pandemic, the team was challenged to be able to communicate the same level of service leveraging technology. With the offices closed, the Escher team needed to find a way to reach residents and let them know, “we’re still here, just cause you can’t come and talk to us, we are still here for you,” said Amber King. The Zego Engage™ communication features were one of the tools the team used to accomplish this goal. “Email, video calling, using the app for push notifications, just letting people know that we’re thinking about them.”

The Escher staff was excited about simplifying their community communication processes with the group messaging functionality offered by Zego Engage™’. The staff saved time by automating and improving upon what used to be a manual process. Escher staff can create custom templates for common messages and auto-schedule sending. “You can send birthday emails, renewal emails, move-in move-out emails.” In addition to using the group and individual messaging features of their new Zego Engage™ app, including email, chat and in-app notifications, the Escher team also quickly adapted to using video tools such as Zoom and Facetime to have lease renewal conversations and meet their retention goals.

3. Allow residents to self serve

Consumers prefer the convenience of self-service during normal times. Add in the pandemic plus social distancing and the idea of self service becomes a requirement, not a nice to have. Once of the areas where technology adoption was expedited at Escher due to the impact of COVID-19 was maintenance. In the early days of the pandemic, no maintenance visits were allowed. As Amber King noted “We have to protect the asset. We have to provide the service we’ve agreed to in our lease, but we also have to protect our teams. We have to protect our residents.”

In addition to doing one-on-one walkthroughs of issues on Facetime, the resourceful Escher team developed a series of videos teaching residents how to fix simple maintenance requests, shared via YouTube. They also dropped off care packages and gift boxes with the tools the resident would need to fix the issue.

As in-person visits for work orders resumed, Escher residents quickly adopted the new self-service functionality to submit maintenance requests through their Zego Engage™ app. Currently, 77% of maintenance requests are generated through Zego.

“I’m a millennial myself. The less I can do to accomplish a task, if I can just pick up my phone real quick...that’s the ideal situation for me. That engagement has been really really great so far. And it’s allowed us to stay organized. We’re not missing those emails, where we thought someone else got it. Or they called and left a voicemail and we didn’t hear it that day. We’re getting the request in real-time and addressing it in real-time.”

Allowing residents to self-serve through Zego goes beyond maintenance requests to include registering pets/vehicles/visitors, receiving package notifications, and reserving amenities. As the year progressed, Covid regulations were introduced around property amenities, which further bolstered the usefulness of the Zego Engage™ app. “Now people need to put in reservations for the pool and business center. You have certain occupancy numbers that need to be met, and as an office you need to figure out how to solve that. Zego became a really good tool for us, having people register to use those spaces, at a time when it would have been really challenging for us to figure this out.”

4. Help residents build relationships and a sense of community

Research shows that residents that have more than 1 friend within their community are 10% more likely to renew their lease and those with 7 or more friends within their community are 20% more likely to renew. In the midst of a pandemic, keeping residents engaged and building a sense of community produced a new onslaught of challenges for the Escher team.

Fortuitously, the Zego Engage™ app was a great communication tool for Escher staff to keep in touch and provide updates on fun events and scheduled activities.

For example, food trucks were an amenity the team continued to provide and promote.

“We would send alerts to our residents via text message and email, letting them know the food trucks are parked outside. This let our residents know that we were staying engaged with them, even when we didn’t have an event in person.”

This also provided residents with an opportunity to see each other, though at a safe social distance.

5. Provide one comprehensive app across the full resident living experience

A cornerstone of resident satisfaction is consolidating critical resident interactions into one simple solution. Having multiple apps is not only inconvenient, it’s confusing and app fatigue is now a common phenomenon.

For Escher, Zego Engage™ was the best solution not only thanks to the comprehensive nature of the app and integration with MRI, but also due to the integration with Luxer One package management. Luxer smart lockers are used at Escher to streamline the package management process.

Prior to Zego Engage™ residents would have to have the Zego app for their payments, the standalone app for communication, and then a separate app for Luxer.

“Zego Engage™ has taken all of that and put it together. When a resident does get a package, they are getting alerted through the Zego Engage™ app. They can hold it up to the screen or input the 6 digit code, without having to have 3 apps on their phone. Who wants all that clutter? Luxer technology and Zego technology have rapidly evolved to meet the needs for our staff to be less hands-on.” - Amber King, Escher Property Manager

Conclusion

A best practice Zego recommends when implementing new property technology is having a thorough plan for rolling out to residents and staff. Buy-in from both teams is critical. The Escher team provides a great example of partnering with Zego to conduct a successful rollout. “It only works if you work it.” noted Amber, who recommends doing whatever you need to do to get that buy-in, whether it’s thorough communication, holding a formal launch event, or providing incentives. Ongoing work to maintain and grow adoption is critical.

At the Escher community, the resident onboarding process was simplified by the fact that residents already used Zego for payments, so they were familiar with the brand. When Zego Engage™ was rolled out, 63% of residents were already enrolled to pay rent via Zego. When Zego Engage™ was introduced, the Escher team sent “...a building-wide communication, letting people know. We also talked about it on social media and at events. It was a little bit of word of mouth, a little bit of luck with having existing buy-in.”

The combination of Zego Pay + Zego Engage™ boosted not only engagement, but also payment utilization, saving the Escher team time and taking the burden of manual payment processing off of their plates. Six months after launch, the online pay utilization for Escher was at 100%.

A few months after the introduction, resident engagement has been high. “What tells me that the residents are engaged, is that they have feedback for me. Anytime I get good feedback, it’s quickly implemented by Zego.” Being able to take that feedback and channel it into change helps the Escher team show residents that they are listening and makes adoption stronger.

Staff adoption and buy-in is equally critical to ensure a successful technology implementation. “We had weekly calls with the Zego team, helping us so that we could be experts. It was a partnership for sure.” This helped the team understand how the app worked, what the functionality was, and helped them feel comfortable evangelizing the functionality to residents.

The staff who had become comfortable with the prior resident engagement tool had a little bit of resistance because they wanted to stay with what they knew, but “...very very quickly that was overcome, when we saw how many functions there were.” Finally, staff adoption was buoyed by the ease of use of the system. “The learning curve for the staff was not steep at all. We’re able to use it effectively every day.”

As a critical requirement, Zego’s MRI integration ensures that staff can continue to depend on MRI and have now added a layer of ease on top of the existing functionality.

“Residents are able to schedule maintenance requests using the time windows connected to MRI. They can mark if they have pets. If a resident wants to register a new pet, they can make their request through the app, attach a photo, and that carries over into MRI so we can generate any lease updates from there” said Amber, “....MRI is a workhorse of a property management system, and we depend on the data. That attention to detail is what MRI requires, and Zego has been great for that.” The Escher team is excited to see how the relationship with Zego evolves to help them continue to ensure the satisfaction and comfort of their residents
“Our demographic requires the best and I think we’re using the best!”

Best practice recommendations for building a modern resident experience

With results such as 100% of property payments made digitally and 77% of work orders submitted through the Zego app the Escher team is benefitting from simplified staff operations and a better resident experience. Resident & staff app fatigue and confusion have been eliminated with one app for property payments, work orders, amenity reservations, pet/vehicle/visitor registrations, package notifications, and more. A thorough, integrated approach to resident and staff engagement enabled Escher to achieve a new level of operational efficiency.

Zego offers five recommendations for building a modern resident experience:

1. Meet residents where they are

2. Communicate with groups and individuals

3. Allow residents to self serve

4. Help residents build relationships and a sense of community

5. Provide one comprehensive app across the full resident living experience

  • “Technology has been paramount in helping us deal with these challenges, and Zego has been a big part of that.”

    Amber King
    Property Manager at Escher

Schedule a Demo

To learn more about how we can help you implement these best practices schedule time with a Zego team member for a quick demo of our platform.

Related Content