The future of (shared) living through the eyes of 100+ operators — Part 2/2
What are the biggest challenges shared living operators are facing? This is what we found out in speaking with 100 of your peers.
We believe that living should be more social, and can be part of the solution to fight loneliness. This is why 12 months ago, I embarked on a journey and spoke with 100+ shared living operators as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Builders and now as co-founder and CEO of Obeyo.
Our mission is simple: to change the future of living. Our master plan?
First of all, find the most social living concepts out there — which led us to a couple of outstanding co-living operators. Secondly, too deeply understand how these operators are creating those emotionally enriching living experiences. And third: to make those insights accessible to any residential operator by building a great tech product around them.
Purpose of this mini series
After 12 months of research, I’d like to share an update on our core findings with you. To do so, this mini-series is structured in two parts:
- Part 1 covers the key obstacles and requirements on the member side — see here.
- Part 2 — which you are reading now — dives deeper into the biggest operational challenges and expectations on the operator side.
The perfect (shared) living experience
To better understand how to create a more social living experience and the challenges that come with it, we have spoken to over 100 shared living operators over the last 12 months.
We condensed the operational challenges identified through our conversations into four main topics (read up on our findings from the member side here).
- Candidate vetting remains a time-intensive process
- Onboarding eats away a lot of time with little community leverage
- Scattered communication results in frustration on all ends
- Continuous firefighting cuts into building community
Let’s look into each of these challenges individually in the following:
1. Candidate vetting remains a time-intensive process
“Chasing all those pending documents eats away a lot of my time.”
(Coliving operator in Spain)
The core problem of candidate vetting is that chasing, collecting, and storing all requested documents is very time-intensive and, in many cases, relies on a lot of manual work. This does not only make the vetting experience cumbersome for the operator as well as the resident. It also drags out the time for the candidate to go from interest to a signed contract. In the worst case, this could mean that your prospect had already found and signed with a different location when you finalized the vetting process.
How can this be different?
Collecting the documents should be as automatic as possible and supported by the proper tech that helps the process in the best way possible and makes sure things keep moving forward.
Imagine for example this: once you are ready to move forward with a qualified candidate and are proceeding into document collection, the resident receives a message to ask them to log into your co-living management system to upload their documents.
At the same time, the system also shows the operator an informed overview of where your potential candidates are in the process, including, e.g., which documents are still pending, who might need a push, and which documents are ready for review. Not to mention an easy way of nudging stalling candidates along.
This streamlines the process of collecting the required documents, improves the user experience, and reduces the time and effort it takes for the operator and the resident to complete this stage.
This is our answer to make document collection easy and save you a lot of time along the way. Nice, isn’t it? :)
2. Onboarding eats away time with little community leverage
“Many questions of our residents are still unanswered upon arrival so the in-person onboarding becomes really time intensive.” (Operator in the Germany)
Onboarding is one of the most important phases for your future residents. It directly correlates with their level of engagement within your community and their overall happiness with the stay. This impacts the length of stay and your bottom line.
At the same time, onboarding is one of the most overlooked stages on the operator side. As your residents have signed the contract but are not yet living with you on your premises, they typically are not yet top of your mind. This often means that around arrival time, your team gets bombarded with lots of individual questions with little community leverage, or worse, your future resident arrives completely clueless, making for a very lengthy and rocky onboarding process on site.
How can this be different?
To set your own operations and residents up for success, your future resident should be carefully onboarded into your building, your operation, as well as your community — and that ideally even before they arrive.
Imagine how much smoother things would be like this:
- Sharing house and community rules prior to arrival and making sure they are read
- Providing a clear way of communication to and from the future resident already prior to arrival
Onboarding into your building:
- Get them a proper overview of where to find what within the building, who they will be living with and what amentities there space, their floor and their building offers.
- Help them orient themselves and be clear on what they can expect in terms of services and community.
Onboarding into your community:
- Have your residents introduce themselves before their arrival.
- Connect them already with their future room-mates as well as neighbors.
- Show them what the vibe is like within your community.
- Allow them to already connect with like-minded people in your community.
Baking all this into our product, we are helping you to make sure your future resident will feel like coming home when they arrive instead of jumping into the unknown.
3. Scattered communication results in frustration on all ends
“WhatsApp, email, Facebook, phone calls; it’s very difficult to keep on top of everything.” (Operator in the UK)
Scattered communication is one of the root problems causing sub-optimal processes and inefficient operations. Having requests and messages come in through all sorts of communication channels, such as phone, mail, WhatsApp, Facebook, and even in-person, makes it difficult for your team to follow up. This, however, goes both ways, as the multitude of communication channels available and used by the operators towards their members and the mismatch with their communication preferences might lead to confusion, missed or even ignored messages. The most pressing issue within this regard is probably the coordination of service tickets. If ignored, it will create even more messages and noise to find out the request’s status and get a sense of the respective timeline.
How can this be different?
Ideally, communication flows freely between the operator and their members and from the members to the operator, respecting clear communication preferences on both sides.
To get there, how does the following sound?
- Multichannel messaging system for the operator that pulls in an overview of all messages sent and received across several channels into the profile of the person, to help you stay on top of the conversations.
- Member app that allows your members to connect with each other and offers you a clear communication channel to your members.
- A ticketing system that allows you to stay on top of service requests and helps your residents to stay in the know about any progress on their submitted items’ progress.
For us community and operations need to go hand in hand, that is why all this will be possible through our member app, so that communication and coordination runs smooth between you and your residents.
Continuous firefighting cuts into building community
“I would love to build my community. I just never manage to find the time as there are so many fires that I need to fight.” (Operator in the US)
Setting up, running, and scaling a shared living operation is a complex endeavor. One part that is easily underestimated is the amount of firefighting that keeps happening on an ongoing basis, particularly as you start scaling: Questions, problems, service tickets, maintenance requests, double bookings, etc. For many eager to spend as much time building a thriving community, reality kicks in and cuts significantly into the time available to build or be with their community.
How can this be different?
Having one system in place that helps you stay on top of what needs to happen so that tasks become more manageable and providing clear communication channels to your community how they can reach out to you in case things are going wrong.
So how would you like your member app to be integrated with
- Ticketing system to allow your residents to submit their requests in a structured way.
- Operator dashboards help you and your team stay on top of everything and make your days a little more plan-able.
Great insights — what’s next?
While this concludes our mini-series about the biggest challenges in running and scaling shared living from operator as well as resident view, our journey to facilitating the perfect co-living experience has only begun :)
We are passionate about shaping the future of (shared) living — and are dedicated to crack the operating puzzle with our upcoming tech!
We are taking big strides and are progressing steadily in our development. If you are curious to learn more about the full scope of product we are building, head over to obeyo.com or join our waitlist here.
And for all those that are as passionate about the future of shared living as we are, feel free to sign-up for our upcoming podcast #rooftalks — spirited conversations at the intersection of community, technology and shared living here.
About the author
Michael Steinmann is the Co-Founder and CEO of Obeyo. With more than 15 years of experience in growing and scaling SaaS companies, he is always up for connecting and conversing about the present and the future of residential community building.