Chatbots are coming to an apartment near you

As anyone who has ever worked in strata management can appreciate, often inquiries and complaints relate to similar things – Can I book a facility? What day is bin day? And that good old strata living gem, how do I make a noise complaint?

A new service called Strata.chat sees chatbots taking on some of this repetitive grunt work, allowing residents to chat with their building, while enabling strata and property managers to better communicate with stakeholders. And the best thing is these virtual founts of knowledge are available 24/7 to assist.

Strata.chat Co-founder and Director Andrew Coates explains that the service allows residents to resolve simple issues immediately without having to ring, email or physically chase the building manager for answers to basic queries. And since responses are instant, residents don’t have to wait, perhaps days, for a reply.

The chatbots can be programmed to answer common questions, make facility bookings or help residents find further information. They can also be employed to assist the building manager to communicate with residents easily, without relying on email.

“Most residents don’t know who to talk to to get things done,” Mr Coates says. “They don’t know the rules around simple things like parking, noise or the use of elevators, and moving into one of these apartment towers can be extremely complex.

“What if every resident could talk to their building just like they were talking with a friend through a chat app? Imagine being able to ask your chatbot concierge what you need to do to move in and have it automatically take care of hooking up your electricity and water with a simple chat request?

“Or what if you could ask your chatbot to book the building’s movie room? You could even get it to ask that annoying neighbour to stop parking in your spot!” he adds.“It sounds like the stuff of the future, but the future is here.”

Strata.chat is already up and running in buildings in Sydney and Melbourne, and was on track to being available in 20,000 lots by the end of February.

Mr Coates stresses that chatbots don’t mean an end to human interaction, but may facilitate better communication and enable building and strata managers to concentrate on high-value tasks that proactively benefit residents.

The system can even assist managers in drafting correspondence by offering prompts of who to send a message to and when. It can also allow internal conversations between residents.

He notes that some building managers report upwards of 10,000 emails a year from residents. Chatbots can alleviate some of the more common complaints and inquiries.

“In the past, if the lift was broken individual residents would flood a building manager with emails and voicemails. By implementing chatbot technology, the building manager could have Strata.chat simultaneously message every resident directly on their smartphones or tablets informing them the lift is broken – and then have the chatbot message them when it is fixed.

“This means building managers can worry about more important things, like getting the lift back up and running again.”

Meanwhile, Mr Coates says that in the near future these chatbots will be able to access and utilise greater information, incorporating facts about the construction of the building, residential guidelines and even the history of works completed.

“Newer buildings have very detailed residential guides,” Mr Coates explains. “With chatbots you could turn these into a conversational experience that covers everything from by-laws to information about the original manufacturer of fixtures and fittings.”

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.