At property management specialists Leah Jay, there’s an outstanding team member who tops the employee of the week charts time after time.
A quiet achiever, Andi doesn’t say much, preferring to let their commitment to customer service and dedication to the Leah Jay business speak for itself.
Andi prefers to stay in the background, responding to clients’ online inquiries as quickly, efficiently and accurately as possible.
But perhaps the most unique thing about Andi is the sheer volume of inquiries they handle from tenants, landlords and prospective clients each month – some months it’s as many as 15,000.
Despite Andi’s heavy workload, they don’t complain and nor do they take up much physical space in the office.
You see, Andi is actually Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology , or more specifically, Propic’s Concierge AI-virtual assistant, which Leah Jay implemented about two years ago.
Leah Jay Director and General Manager Cassandra Lantry says Andi is everyone’s favourite team member.
“Having AI in our business, it really operates like a silent employee,” she says.
“We are totally, 100 per cent hands-off when it comes to handling inbound inquiries. It just operates in the background, providing that consistent service 24/7.
“Among our team, Andi is proudly known as the overachiever because of the sheer amount of volume of inquiries they’re able to respond to in a month.”
In the beginning
The Leah Jay story started 28 years ago with a single office in Hamilton and since that day has grown to three offices across the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter Valley regions.
Focusing solely on property management, the Leah Jay rent roll contains a tick over 4200 properties, predominantly made up of residential homes with a few commercial managements thrown in too.
From day one, Cassandra says Leah Jay’s focus has been on taking care of landlords and tenants, with a clear emphasis on making their investment and rental journey as streamlined and stress-free as possible.
“That is still in our DNA, and that’s what drives us,” Cassandra explains.
That commitment to their clients and a desire to progress the business and ease their team members’ workloads led Leah Jay to introduce a suite of Propic’s AI solutions two years ago.
But the impetus for that change actually started earlier, with the realisation that clients’ expectations in the property management industry were swiftly changing.
“For us, it was really about focusing on investing and progressing so that we could serve our clients in the way that they wanted to be served,” Cassandra says.
“How they live their lives – with many working in banking and finance – where tech is prominent, and 24/7 responses are at the forefront of what they do, meant they were used to being able to access information when they need it, where they need it.
“They don’t want to wait for somebody to call them back, to send an email or to try and book an open house and have to wait for three days to get a response.”
With this in mind, the Leah Jay team knew it was time to shake things up and innovate.
“Close to six years ago, there was a very distinct conversation and focus from a strategic level that we knew we needed to structure our business differently for two reasons: to gain efficiencies and economies of scale, and also deliver service to our clients as they needed and to match their changing expectations for immediacy.”
A digital revolution
Cassandra notes that Leah Jay undertook a “digital transformation” that culminated in introducing three of Propic’s AI products.
“We first implemented Propic Enliven two years ago, which is an AI product that answers our leasing inquiries and intercepts those inquiries from realestate.com.au and Domain, which has been fantastic,” she says.
“Then we implemented Concierge, which sits on our website as a chatbot and answers owner and tenant inquiries there. Because it’s AI driven it learns as it goes, and can be taught to handle a range of common questions in our language, style and with our personalised approach to service.
“Our investment services team have also adopted Reveal from Propic, which provides valuable market and AI-driven data analysis, which we then provide back to our clients.”
By the numbers
Cassandra notes that Propic’s analytics showed 70 per cent of Leah Jay’s inquiries filtered in after hours, and they were now able to automatically respond to clients at a time that was convenient for them.
They also introduced virtual inspections so potential tenants could look at a property, learn and inquire about it and apply from the comfort of their couch or office, regardless of whether it’s 11pm or 11am.
“From inquiry to booking an inspection might have been a seven-day long process previously. It can be done in minutes now,” Cassandra says.
“What that means for our clients is we’re able to get the right tenant in the right property sooner.”
Leah Jay Leasing Manager Rebecca Eveleigh said the introduction of Propic’s AI had an immediate positive impact on the business.
“In our office alone, in 2020, our inquiry levels increased 61 per cent, which was incredible compared to the figures from 2019,” she says.
Cassandra says during the height of Covid, when there was a huge spike in inquiry, Leah Jay went from responding to about 7000 inquiries a month to between 10,000 and 15,000.
“It literally doubled, but we were able to continue to service and nothing was disrupted,” she says.
“The process remained unchanged despite the influx in volume, which was really important, particularly at such an emotional time for people when they were going through a lot of changes.
“That has been a really key piece of having this technology in place.”
The internal business benefits
The new AI technology from Propic hasn’t just aided tenants and landlords; it’s also helped ease property managers’ workloads and stress levels.
“There’s more joy in my job now that everything is a lot more automated with Propic coming on board because we have that time to be able to have those personal conversations with prospective tenants and really hear their story and help them,” Rebecca says.
Cassandra says the streamlined, cloud-based PropTech solutions had enabled Leah Jay to grow “at an exponential rate”.
“The best example I can give is, 18 months ago, we acquired two portfolios, close to 550 properties, within two months of each other,” she explains.
“At the same time, we added an additional headcount of two (people). But traditionally, that might have been more like five or six.
“So we didn’t see any increase in costs in cars, stationery or office equipment because we were able to manage those economies of scale.
“Propic’s PropTech is a key enabler in allowing us to go further. It has really allowed us to scale up our business without having to add additional resources.”
The ultimate proof of success
But Cassandra says the ultimate proof the PropTech was working came when a potential client called the office.
“When we received our first phone call in the office for someone asking to speak to Andi, that was a really proud moment and an exciting moment because we knew Andi was working seamlessly as a team member, looking after our clients just as we would,” she says.