Live Virtual Tours - from concept to launch in under one week

Posted by

Kyrath Bhandal

on April 14, 2020

Here at Residently, our goal is to make renting effortless - whether you’re planning on moving or looking to make the most of your existing home.

The former is rather more challenging when we’re being socially responsible and cooped up at home.  While in-person viewings stopped overnight, that didn’t stop those needing to move from needing to move! So we needed a solution fast.

In less than a week, we designed, built and launched the live virtual viewing experience allowing prospective Residents to find, view and secure their new home without putting themselves or anyone else at risk.

From rapid development to deployment, we’ve summarised below how our team focused on creating a solution to meet renters’ needs. 

What’s a live virtual tour like?

Your live virtual tour kicks off with one of our dedicated community associates saying hi (Taylor was over the moon to be included in our video below) and walking you around the local area. 

They’ll show you the closest cafes, supermarkets and tube stations so you get a feel for the area. Then they’ll take you on a journey through the property, stopping to measure the spaces, check out the appliances, or answer any of your questions.

When we take on a property we save all of its key features in our system - from bin access codes, to parking availability, bike storage and most importantly - where the dishwasher is. 

This is the closest you can get to being there in person without leaving your home.

 

Design Thinking 

With severe restrictions being put on in-person viewings, it was clear that to all of us that we, and anyone needing to rent a home, had a large problem on our hands.

Knowing we had to solve this problem asap, we cycled quickly through each stage of the Design Thinking approach:

  1. Empathise with our customers in this time of crisis:
    • Understand how COVID-19 has impacted the lives of both our potential and existing Residents.
  2. Define the problems they are facing:
    • Use data and Resident feedback to identify real Resident property viewing problems.
  3. Ideate around our existing capabilities:
    • Evaluate our viewing offering and collaboratively explore how it can be adapted to react to the new market requirement.
  4. Prototyping a basic solution:
    • Produce “true-to-life” prototypes in order to validate concepts. Trial operational execution of virtual viewing concept.
  5. Internally Testing a new application of our 3D tours:
    • Test prototypes with real users to validate the new perceived value. Roll out the Live Virtual Tours to the market.

Design Thinking at Residently

Product development 

To solve this problem, we knew we had to successfully replicate the key parts of much loved in-person viewings.

This started with easy online bookings. As our customers were already able to book in-person viewings on our website, we started by quickly adapting it for live virtual tours. 

We decided against prioritising an automated system to speed up launch. Instead, we take the customer directly to a live chat with our attentive community team, who then book in a convenient time.

 

Live virtual tours booking

 

We then had to tackle two critical parts of the experience - giving the customer a feel for the local area and delivering a truly valuable personal tour.

Have you ever gone to view a property where the agent is seeing it for the first time with you? We have and we don’t consider that an acceptable experience - we’re only ever happy if we deliver a five-star service. 

So following rapid testing and learning, we made sure our team’s fully equipped by building a Standard Operating Procedure to cover the following three areas:

  1. Enablement: We determined that the two basic requirements for a live virtual tour are a video shoot and info on the property’s key features. 
  2. Preparation: We’ve given our guides access to a single source of info on each property and the local area so that they’re fully prepped to help customers find the perfect home. 
  3. The tour: The value of a live tour, over simply watching a video, is the freedom to explore and the personal touch. So we created a tour structure that ensures we give a comprehensive walkthrough of the area, property, and benefits of renting via Residently, whilst retaining the flexibility to keep it personalised for each individual.

Coming next

Our next iterations will concentrate on how we can improve this experience, e.g. by automatically sending reminder emails, SMS and the ability to book without chatting to our team, all of which we already had for our traditional viewings product.

As usual, we all (including operations, developers, designers, community associates, and marketers) worked as a team to respond rapidly to renters’ needs . It’s a great example of our dedication to creating a rental experience that’s easy, convenient and flexible, and our solution is only in phase one. Improvements are incoming!