To optimise or not to optimise: One property company's digital product journey

Different shares how it is combining data points and human insight in the property investor market

The measurability of digital platforms has enabled some unlocked capabilities for testing and optimisation. But in the race to measure and optimise performance, should we even be trying to optimise the process in the first place?

It’s a question that has been on the mind of Mina Radhakrishnan as she has built out her property management company, Different. Speaking ahead of her appearance at the Melbourne Business Analytics Conference, Radhakrishnan said she has worked to ensure that creating a superior customer experience does not default to just maximising specific data points.

“If you do that you are not thinking about why that is even a data point,” Radhakrishnan told CMO. “Don’t think about one data point and optimise. Ask the question of whether you even need to optimise the data point.”

This approach has been critical to the development of Different, which is setting out to provide a differentiated experience for property investors. The idea itself about when Radhakrishnan watched the process her father-in-law had to go through when investing in property.

Along with her co-founder and husband, Ruwin Perera, they have been systematically pulling apart the process of signing up with a property manager to make it as clear and enjoyable as possible. And that means understanding Web analytics won’t always tell the full story.

“So much of it is about deeply understanding your users and what it is that drives them and motivates them,” Radhakrishnan said. “What you also need to do is ask what the overall problem is, what are people trying to accomplish, and why they are trying to accomplish it in that way.”

A key example of this thinking in action has been Different’s approach to the management agency agreement, a key document that sets out the relationship and responsibilities between a property’s owner and the agency they hire to manage it. Normally this would require the owner to fill out a lengthy online form.

Different’s approach has been to determine where information is required to be input into the form, then reframe it as a series of simple questions.

“Our system autogenerates and populates the agreement with all of the questions that they just answered,” Radhakrishnan said. “They can browse through it if they want to, then they can sign on their phone, and that’s it.”

Radhakrishnan’s approach was honed through her years as a head of product at Uber in the US, and in product management at Google before that.

“Product is this really interesting mix of the heart and the mind, in that you have to have a very clear sense of why you are doing something,” she said. “That ‘why’ should be driven both from a data perspective and being able to measure that impact, but at the same time, being able to recognise that the real power from a product is intangible – it’s how it makes people feel.

“Ultimately, what is the intangible feeling that your product creates? There is a level of delight and specialness that is hard to measure.”

One potential useful measure, however, is the response from customers. Radhakrishnan said that while the industry average net promoter score is negative 38, Different has been reporting scores in the 50s and 60s. Hence she said company will be working hard to utilise that goodwill.

“Within a month of becoming an owner, one out of every four owners is referring somebody else,” Radhakrishnan said. “We know that people like what we do, and enjoy it and appreciate it, But we really haven’t pushed hard to get people to refer and that is something on the marketing side we do need to do more of.”

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