Lux Communities leaning on technology amidst coronavirus pandemic
FARGO — As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, local property management companies have taken on the task of ensuring the safety of employees and residents.
Lux Communities manages 11 properties in the Fargo-Moorhead area, seven in Grand Forks and one in Sioux Falls, S.D. As the pandemic proliferated in the United States, Lux Communities President Donna Block began to mobilize the company’s response.
“We met as a leadership team to discuss how quickly we needed to move and what protocols we needed to update,” Block said. “We looked to guidance to benchmark ourselves from other industries similar to ours as well as CDC recommendations and National Apartment Association best practices.”
Lux parsed down its on-site operations to consist of only essential employees, keeping one employee in rental offices during regular business hours.
“We’ve instructed our on-site employees with the CDC recommendations of washing hands frequently,” Block said. “They are required to wash their hands every time they leave the rental office and come back and (to practice) social distancing from anyone they see in the building.”.
Offices are no longer available to the public, but “we are still very much available to our residents,” Block said. “Our phone system is actually a voice over IP system, so no matter where our rental office team is, they’re able to be connected to our residents,” she added.
With day-to-day operations altered, the focus shifted to ensuring the safety of residents and cleanliness of Lux’s 19 apartment complexes. They closed community spaces, canceled planned events and are only completing emergency work orders.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, an outside vendor performed twice-weekly cleanings of Lux Communities’ properties. As the pandemic took hold, Lux instructed their contractors to perform more frequent cleanings of high touch-point surfaces such as entryway doors and access systems, mailboxes and handrails.
Goldmark, which manages properties around the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as in Grand Forks, has also placed emphasis on ensuring the cleanliness of its buildings while following government guidelines.
“Our staff has given great attention to cleaning frequently touched building components such as handrails, door handles, entryways and elevators. We will continue to do our part in protecting the health and safety of our employees and residents,” the rental company said in a release.
Goldmark declined to comment further on their response to the pandemic.
Lux created a page on its website for residents to view Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and read answers to frequently asked questions.
“We developed communications for our residents and one of those included the COVID-19 landing page on our website so that all of our residents could get the same information quickly and as it progressed,” Block said.
Coordinating a significant change to daily operations has gone smoothly thanks in large part to technological advancements the company pursued prior to the pandemic.
“We’ve been very technology-driven even before the pandemic. We were very fortunate that we were in a place where we could quickly go to new operations,” Block said.
A large component of the push to improve technology was the implementation of an online portal for residents. Block said 97% of residents use the online portal, which allows them to view lease documents, pay rent and reach out to the rental office.
Another key focus in the last year has been creating three-dimensional virtual tours that apartment hunters can view on Lux’s website. With apartment tours suddenly coming to a halt, online tours have become vital for Lux to connect with prospective renters. The company also offers video tours through FaceTime or Facebook Messenger.
It’s all been part of Lux’s efforts to become a paperless company.
“Our efforts prior have really helped us during this time,” Block commented.
With face-to-face communication on hold, Block has again turned to technology to communicate with her team across the region. “Our voice-over IP system came with a video-conferencing software, so we already had that in place,” she said. “All our updates and communications with the team and operations are done through a video-conference meeting. They’re all getting the same information at the same time.”
Rental offices communicate with one another through a chat channel to ensure consistency and provide support to those in other cities.
“Again, I think it’s something that’s really coming to fruition with the previous efforts we were focusing on before this: business continuity and connectivity with my team members in all regions,” Block said.
Block echoed Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney’s call for citizens to stay inside as much as possible.
“I believe we all have a part to play,” she said. “Lux Communities, I believe, has shown that they are doing their part, but are still here for our residents. We are an essential business and we will always be available and able to serve them. We appreciate them doing their part as well, staying home and practicing social distancing and [following the] CDC recommendations so that we can all get through this together,” Block said.
“Hopefully sooner rather than later.”