“On-Site is constantly trying to see what the needs are in our industry and how they can take the software, tweak it and fulfill those needs.”
Cambridge Management Group COO Kayla Roeder
“When we started the company in 2006 we had nothing—we had no units to bring to the table,” said Cambridge Management Group COO Kayla Roeder regarding the company’s first inauspicious meeting with On-Site. Since then the San Diego based apartment owner/operator has carved out a comfortable niche for itself with over 1100 units scattered throughout SoCal’s most desirable neighborhoods.
The secret to their success is really no secret at all. As Roeder explained, it’s all about access to technology.
“We found a good partner in On-Site. They bring technology to the table which lets us do things we couldn’t ordinarily do ourselves,” she said.
“Technology gives smaller companies the ability to look larger and larger companies the ability to look smaller so it puts us all on the same playing field and allows us to compete in a world where we wouldn’t have been able to compete ten or fifteen years ago,” Roeder said.
Cambridge uses On-Site’s Leasing Suite, including Online Applications, Screening, Documents, E-Sign, CloudFile and Online Renewals to give renters a low touch, high convenience leasing process. In many cases Cambridge’s renters go through the entire leasing process completely online—a huge benefit for the company’s many military renters often renting apartments over the Internet from ports of call located all over the country and all over the world.
From the initial online application to the instant qualification process to the Skype tour and electronically signed digital lease, Cambridge offers a glimpse at what the business of leasing may look like in the not too distant future. And the future of leasing looks a lot more like today’s travel booking or hotel industries than the housing industry.
This level of innovation is characteristic of Cambridge. The company has been pushing boundaries since its inception.
Culture of innovation
Co-founder and matriarch at Cambridge Linda Morris struck out along with her two daughters Kendra Bork and Roeder after their many successful years in the apartment business to start their own company. As a company both owned and managed entirely by women, Cambridge has happily thrown convention out the window. In its place exists a culture of non-traditional, forward thinking approaches to business.
Conversations between Bork and Roeder often center around how technology can be used to get a leg-up on the competition.
“We knew early on if we were going to compete, technology was the answer,” Roeder said. “People want instant gratification—a one click service—and they want to know they have access to things immediately. Technology makes that possible.”
Cambridge needed to be on the cutting edge of technological adoption in the apartment business. Accordingly, they looked for a partner with the same mindset.
“With On-Site there’s never anyone saying, ‘We’ve made it, now we’re just going to ride it out,’” Roeder said. “On-Site is constantly trying to see what the needs are in our industry and how they can take the software, tweak it and fulfill those needs.”
Fulfilling those needs meant a lot more than “moving everything online,” Roeder said.
Cambridge wanted a partner that had not only the right technology, but also shared Cambridge’s laser focus on customer service.
“In the end our customer is the renter,” said On-Site Director of Products Zeke Kirkpatrick. “While we’re offering technology to the property manager, the end user is ultimately the renter that the property manager serves and we want to make sure our technology is eminently usable and casts the property manager in the best possible light.”
For Cambridge, the leasing process starts with the online listing. From there prospects can reach out to the community and schedule a Skype tour. It’s a sight that one couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago when Cambridge leased their first apartments: leasing agents with smartphones showing apartments to renters all over the world through the magic of VoIP.
As Roeder explained, “This is a military town [San Diego] so we have a lot of people that are coming off of a ship. They are literally in the middle of a gulf somewhere—even they have the ability to shop for an apartment with us.”
If prospects like what they see, they can apply via On-Site’s Online Application, pay the application fee and qualify instantly for the rental, much like qualifying for a credit card. Screening results are delivered immediately and if applicants meet Cambridge’s preset rental criteria they can submit a deposit on their apartment.
Should the need arise, any required documents like pay stubs or proof of renters insurance can be uploaded to CloudFile, On-Site’s cloud-based file management system, with a quick smartphone pic.
Cambridge’s lease documents sync resident data with the online application—no need to manually complete any forms—and are executed electronically using E-Sign.
“Gathering documentation, getting leases signed and getting people locked in—it’s really hard when you’re dealing with the fast pace of life,” Roeder said. “It was important for us to keep up with that speed of life and On-Site allowed us to do that.”
And when lease renewal time comes along, Cambridge uses Online Renewals.
“Online Renewals has solved a tremendous amount of problems,” Roeder said. “It cuts out four or five steps in the process.”
Specifically, Online Renewals solves the age-old problem of trying to track residents and get them into the office to review renewal options. Instead of slipping a note under the door, or calling and emailing residents, leasing staff can send residents their renewal options online. At their convenience, residents pick the terms they like best and an E-Sign-ready renewal lease is generated on the spot.
Roeder is quick to point out Cambridge has never gotten a complaint about the company’s leasing process.
“It’s one of the areas where we’re strongest with our reviews and the feedback that we get,” Roeder said.
In spite of all the technology in place at Cambridge, the company is careful to preserve the human element of the leasing process.
“With the amount of time that we’ve saved, it allows us to get on the phone more, Roeder said. “As we make our processes more efficient on the back end it allows us to have those conversations with people and build relationships on the front end. That’s what really sets us apart from our competitors in the rest of the industry.”
“Doing that allows you to create lasting relationships with your customers and they don’t want to go anywhere else,” she added.
Kirkpatrick agreed: it’s a commonsense approach to business that On-Site shares.
“There’s no hand-waving here,” Kirkpatrick said. “Our mission at On-Site has always been to build innovative, quality products that leasing agents and renters actually enjoy using, backed with the highest level of customer service.”
Figuring out what works means maintaining an ongoing dialogue with customers, Kirkpatrick added.
“There’s not too many companies out there that reach out to their customers and ask ‘What kind of problems are you having and how can we solve those for you?’” Roeder said. “That really sets On-Site apart.”