To create a great customer experience, a coliving operator will need to integrate many tools, requiring a lot of effort for a coherent end-to-end experience. Cutting some corners or not integrating some of these tools will either result in a disjointed experience for prospective customers, or in extra manual work for the operator. Neither of these would be a desired outcome.
The long list of tools every coliving operator needs
PMS (property management software)
Even though most small and medium operators actually use spreadsheets, a share drive, and lots of swivel chair integrations — for the non-tech savvy here is a definition of swivel chair integration 🙂 — this should be the brain of a coliving operator. A PMS helps to keep and distribute information about the home/room inventory. Depending on the system itself, it could handle much more. There are some coliving-specific products (like our ColivHQ), which means they are designed to handle the higher turnover of coliving (as opposed to traditional rental businesses).
For the PMS to be effective, it needs to be tightly integrated with the CRM and the CMS. In this way, it will be able to provide helpful data to prospects during their online experience and to show in real time information about room availability.
CMS & Co
First of all, an operator will need a content management system (CMS) to keep all the great marketing assets of homes and rooms, descriptions, and other info. For the CMS to be able to show this great content to prospective users, it will need a web frontend. either custom developed or off the shelf (such as WordPress or Webflow).
Second, there are a set of tools needed to deliver a good online presence, and these fall mainly in three categories:
- Analytics (typically Google Analytics or Facebook Analytics)
- Landing pages and conversion (such as LeadPages or InstaPage)
- Social media management (Sprout or Hootsuite)
Every business which wants to achieve a good web presence will need all these tools. While the CMS (as well as the frontend, analytics tools, landing pages tools, and social media management tools) are not coliving-specific, having a CMS that is easy to integrate with the PMS will save a lot of time, effort and avoid potential errors (for example, disjointed experience). In the case of ColivHQ, the platform provides a CMS read API out of the box, so our customers will not need to think about the integration part. Additionally, we have a templated web frontend, based on Nuxt.js and Prismic.io, for anyone interested in launching a website directly with us.
As coliving grows and evolves, we believe that the ecosystem will shape up to have agents (like expedia.com or booking.com for hotels) specializing in long-term accommodation. Anyplace is the first of such agents globally, and there are a few local ones (such as Relogo in Singapore or Flat Monthly in Thailand). An operator will have to deal with one or more agents, similar to hotel operators today. Managing this manually becomes time consuming and inefficient very quickly.
Coliving operators need a tool to keep inventory information up-to-date on multiple agents’ platforms. A tool that does this automatically, via APIs, saving time and guaranteeing accuracy. Today, larger coliving operators have channel managers in place, while smaller coliving operators handle this work manually. ColivHQ open APIs allow operators to publish their inventory and give access to it to specific agents, via secure connections.
A CRM is the heart of the sales process for most businesses, not just coliving, keeping information about prospects and customers, tracking their requirements and the activities done with them, and storing their preferences to serve them better. There is a long list of CRM tools, such as FreshSales, Zoho, or Salesforce, but they are not specific to coliving.
Additionally, as part of the CRM or separately, many operators will need tools for:
- Lead capture, such as Typeform
- Email marketing, such as Mailchimp, or even full-scale marketing automation depending on their sophistication
- Chatbots, such as Intercom or Drift
- E-signing, such as DocuSing or HelloSign, or full blown contract management software
To provide a good, coherent customer experience, coliving operators will need to make sure that their CRM, PMS and other systems are well integrated together. For example, if they want to share some information about the other guests staying in an apartment, this information needs to flow from the CRM to the CMS. ColivHQ has a coliving-specific CRM built inside, with the inventory and the content components leveraging on it natively. Additionally, it has APIs to push content about new prospects and new requests, and it can do this via Zapier, not just APIs, to integrate more easily with other tools.
Customer service software
Like most consumer businesses, coliving operations need a customer service software (like FreshDesk or Zendesk) to keep track of issues raised by customers, the solutions provided, and the customers’ satisfaction with these solutions.
Some PMS will do this, and additionally will keep track of the works (and vendors) done on each home or room. Similarly, ColivHQ provides a simple customer service software, integrated with emails to streamline its usage as much as possible.
Coliving operators need a billing system to invoice customers and handle payments. In some cases, this could be handled directly by the accounting system, provided that there is a good interface between the accounting system and all other systems (which have prices, stay information, customer data).
This is also something typically done by a PMS, and similarly, ColivHQ provides simple billing (and payment) functionalities.
Finally, operators with a greater focus on community will have tools to foster community engagement. These tools can range from simple apps to share events and schedules, to more sophisticated platforms to facilitate communications, providing additional “concierge-like” services (such as Spaceflow).
In summary, streamlining operations
ColivHQ’s promise for coliving operators is to streamline operations for greater efficiency and to enable them to deliver better experiences for their customers. With an all-in-one PMS, CRM, and CMS and its open APIs to easily integrate with other systems, ColivHQ can significantly reduce the need to have multiple independent tools. ColivHQ can play the role of being the center of a coliving operator’s back office.