Back in 2006 Franck started LMB Housing Services Pte Ltd, a property management company based in Singapore.
LMB was (and is still doing) Medium Term Housing: they offer a solution for people who need a place to stay for several months.
A growing problem:
As the number of property grew a problem started to emerge: with people moving in and out of the units on average 2 to 3 times a year, there is a lot of things to do.
Issues when moving in:
When someone moves in a property, an inventory of the units must be done. It needs to happen each time people move in or move out.
That is when the property is scrutinized.
The new occupant or tenant will notice and report all the things that are not in perfect conditions. Issues, big and small, equipment that need to be fixed, like that aircon unit which is leaking in the leaving room. Other things just need to be recorded for future reference.
The objective is to make sure that there are no dispute when it’s time to return the unit.
That’s why they need to record not only the list of the equipment and furniture but also the fixture in the unit.
When you move in an property, you also want to make sure that existing problems are properly recorded too. Nobody wants his or her deposit to be retained because of that scratch on the counter top in the kitchen which was already there!
Issues when moving out:
Similarly, when someone moves out of a units, there are a lot of things to do too. Of course there is always minor repairs, small renovations to do each time. You want to make sure that the property will be in good conditions for the next tenant.
Issues when while people are occupying the unit:
But there was more! LMB is also offering a ‘no hassle’ solution to its customer. That means that the rent includes several services like Internet and cable TV subscriptions, housekeeping and regular maintenance and repairs in the flat.
Many Inspections and handovers in a year:
All these checks have to be done, and not only when they took over or returned the unit from the landlord. They also need to that for each occupants, in all the units.
The need to coordinate with many stakeholders:
When something happen the best case scenario for a simple case (a plate is missing in the inventory for the unit) was that we needed to inform only the operation team in case the person who took the call was not available to follow through.
The worse case scenario was a lot more painful (there was a water leakage in the unit and we need to relocate the occupant) the information about what was happening and what needed to be done had to be shared between:
- The Operation team who needs to take care of the problem
- The Sales team in charge of communicating with the company who was paying the rent of the flat which they rented for their employee
- The Occupant
- The building management
- The Owner of the unit
- Several contractors
- The insurance company
- The finance and accounting team at LMB who needs to do proper invoicing and cost allocation.
The tipping point:
The number of things to take care of started to increase dramatically as the number of units grew.
The information was scattered everywhere. They needed to aggregate it. They had to juggle with inventory lists, emails received about an issue or the email containing the Landlord approval for some work. When you need to replace the water heater in a flat, you must make sure that you keep proper records. You need to record which quote was approved. And there was also the SMS and messages, phone call, conversations, reports from the housekeepers. There is many source of information. They needed a way to aggregate all that data.
Long hours and the need to always be on call:
The LMB staff become overwhelmed juggling between phone calls and SMS and email from occupants, tenant, contractors, flat owners (who needed to know and approve certain repairs and replacements in their flat).
It became extremely time consuming and costly to handle all these things, people ended up going to the same units several days in a row for different problems.
Life was hectic for the people in the operation team, they had to be available almost 24/7: if someone was on leave for any reason, the information was not available to other people who might have needed it.
Hiring more people to keep track of all these was not a viable option, they needed a more efficient way to keep track of what was happening to be able to plan better and use people’s time more efficiently.
Something had to change.
Proptech Software sounded great but…:
Technology was the obvious solution. But how can we find a user friendly tool to do this? Most people have no prior experience with computers and technology, especially in the Property Management Industry!
Any solution would have to immediately solve the pain the team was experiencing.
LMB did not want to disrupt operation or reinvent things that were working well. They could not afford to pay for a the “all in one solution” which included too many functionalities.
The intuition that changed everything:
We did a lot of research. After extensive review and analysis the solution became obvious. The idea that will change how LMB operates and lay the foundation of what Unee-T was simple. What if we used a bug tracking system to record of all these things? This would be a good way to know what we need to do in these units?
These tools have been around for a long time. They have a lot of very useful functionalities to assign issues. It is easier to monitor what’s happening. You can share information between people. It is also possible to define milestones and deadlines. Moreover it is easy to keep track of what has been done and what needs to be done.
To to solve LMB’s issues, Franck decided to create a solution based on a customized/hacked version of bugzilla.
Bugzilla is one of the most robust bug management solution out there. It was battle tested, scalable, relatively easy to customize. It is also an Open Source software with a strong and active community of developers.
A massive increase in productivity:
That worked extremely well: LMB managed to improve it’s efficiency dramatic:ally.
People in the operation team are spending less time to solve a case. They don’t have to argue with the landlord or contractors about the version of the quote that was approved anymore. Because of that, they are also able to schedule onsite interventions much more efficiently.
LMB estimates that the productivity gain was between between 150% and 200% for the operation team. Before, one person was capable of efficiently manage ony about 15 to 20 cases per week. Today they manage an average of about 40 cases per people and per week!
Between 2008 and 2017 LMB has created more than 57,000 case in the properties they manage.
Cases ranging from simple issue (broken light bulb which needs to be replaced) to highly complex ones (entire flat renovation and setup) are all captured. Issues involving several sub projects are all broken down into simple and traceable tasks and cases. They also are able to track inventory changes too.
What was the result of these changes?
The customer satisfaction went up!
Even the smallest issues were recorded and properly taken care of. It was easier to schedule preventive maintenance activities. Cost went down too. There was several reason for that: the team was more efficient. It was possible to compare not only costs but also performance and work quality of contractors.
And the most important of all, the number of returning customers increased.
Unee-T = moving up to the next level:
Franck sold part of his shares in LMB to the management team and stepped back from day to day operation. This was back in 2017.
Franck wanted to focus on how to use his property management experience with LMB. He also wanted to solve that big problem, for as many users as possible.
He liked up with Sebastiaan and Ewa and togehter they decided to create Unee-T to solve a problem that exists in any property: residential or commercial, whether you own it or rent it for holiday, short term, medium term or long term leases.
The key principles:
There are a few key principle we keep in mind when we build and improve Unee-T:
Narrow functional focus: “capture information and communication around case management”:
We want to be able to reach the largest possible user base. Unee-T is a solution for residential and for commercial properties. It is a solution that is useful for property management company, real estate professionals and contractors.
Also we want to make sure that we are not trying to do too many things. Our focus is on communication and case management in your properties.
Minimal disruption for users:
We know that it’s extremely difficult to ask people to change the way they’ve been working.
Unee-T should NOT require you to change the way you work. Unee-T should just a better tool compared to what you are using today.
My mum should be able to use it:
My mum is 67 years old. She is NOT someone who is a technology addict. But she does use SMS and WhatsApp. And she has a smartphone!
Most of the people will not use technology if they need to spend time to learn it. This is why the iPhone was such a success. The User Experience is very hard to beat. The best solutions are extremely intuitive and natural to use.
This is the ultimate test. If mum can use Unee-T, then I’m sure that any of the users will be able to! Unee-T must be the easiest solution to use.
Open architecture and APIs:
We want Unee-T to work well with other solution. Ideally, Unee-T should be able to be integrated into larger proptech solution. Unee-T’s goal: to become the best in class “case management building block” there is. We’d like to replicate what MailChimp did to online mailing lists or SurveyMonkey to online surveys…