ServusConnect logo shown behind

Why Real-Time Language Translation Matters in Multifamily Maintenance

Pressures On The Multifamily Job Market

We are all familiar with the US economic recovery over the past few years. Increased corporate economic development is resulting in growing GDP and increased consumer confidence. The net result, at the end of Q3-2018, is near historic-low unemployment levels and the largest increase in wages & salaries in a decade.

This is all good, right!? Absolutely. But, bull-market growth does present new challenges that small & large businesses alike have to solve for. So what is the impact to multifamily operators?

Due to increases in all construction segments, especially commercial & residential, multifamily operators nationwide are seeing growing pressure with filling positions for apartment maintenance technicians.

The reason being, the skillset of a good maintenance technician is similar, sometimes identical, to positions in high-demand in the construction and home-improvement markets. The resulting impact is higher turnover, and increased wage pressure, not to mention more unfilled openings. The blast radius extends to longer wait times for resident service from being understaffed and blown budgets not only due to paying increased wages in order to attract and retain maintenance team members, but rate increases from outside vendors critical in the make-ready/unit-turn process.


"We've Had To Adjust Our Hiring Standards"

As every multifamily operator knows, and previously written about on this blog, the role of maintenance technician is HUGE as it relates to resident experience. Being understaffed in this space can have dire consequences, including direct impact to a property's online reputation.

A senior executive of a large multifamily owner/operator recently expressed their feelings on the problem:

"We're in a situation now where 'beggars can't be choosers', so we've had to adjust our hiring standards just to fill headcount. Ultimately though, we have to think outside of the box with recruitment, development & retention of maintenance tech's & supervisors."

The statement, "we've had to adjust our hiring standards" is not unique to this operator. It's actually a common practice in the multifamily industry right now, especially for operators working in high-growth cities across the country. Simply put, it means a reduced expectation of experience and/or qualifications required for the job.


English Optional

In surveying operators across the country on this issue, specifically concerning how they reduced qualification expectations, exposed a very interesting common thread: English-Optional.

Very generally speaking, non-English speaking applicants weren't considered candidates for most open positions, especially for market-rate operators. Now, based on job-market pressures, innovative operators are tapping into a whole new community of technical workers with the applicable skillset....sans-English!

Non-English speaking technicians (predominantly Spanish-speaking) are paired with bilingual colleagues that not only train, but actively translate work orders and resident interactions for them throughout the day. This practice is especially prevalent for companies operating in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest & California because of a growing population of workers of Hispanic & Latino ethnicity.


How Technology Is Helping To Bridge the Gap

Peer-staffing is not sustainable long-term and there are three major barriers to getting non-English-speaking team members independently-operational:

  • Reading & understanding work orders
  • Communicating with residents
  • Documenting repairs, parts and other unit information

To bridge this gap, innovative operators, like General Services Corporation (GSC), are turning to technology by leveraging smartphone apps that perform real-time language translation for their maintenance technicians.

Both English and non-English speaking team members routinely use the Google Translate mobile app when they need to communicate with residents when they don't share a common language (read more about that here).

For interacting with work orders and documenting repairs, GSC's property teams leverage ServusConnect's Maintenance Automation system to electronically dispatch work orders from their property management software directly to the smartphones of maintenance team members in the field. Not only is this saving time and speeding up service cycle times, ServusConnect's native technician apps have Spanish language support and real-time translation that auto-converts English-to-Spanish and visa-versa, based on the user profile of field and office staff.


As for the repair data, along with enabling the capture of photos & videos, technicians can use speech-to-text capabilities in the app to capture repair details in Spanish. Speech-to-text is a highly utilized feature, allowing maintenance team members to articulate more-complete repair descriptions than they would with pen & paper. ServusConnect auto-translates technician comments back into English for office review & closeout procedures.

This innovative use of technology will enable operators to attract prospective maintenance team members from a wider pool of applicants, and facilitate non-English speaking technicians to become valuable independent contributors much faster than in the past. If you are interested in learning more about multifamily maintenance automation & mobility solutions from ServusConnect, contact us to learn more.

ServusConnect logo shown behind

5 Apps Multifamily Property Teams Need for Emergency Events

It should be no surprise for multifamily apartment operators that emergencies happen. Our team has spent enough time on multifamily properties to hear numerous stories of how the property teams (office, leasing, and maintenance staff) were the first to respond to an emergency, even saving a life in one scenario. As I write this, a historical weather event is approaching the U.S. East Coast, which could have dire consequences for all of those in its path, including those multifamily operators that don't have emergency preparedness plans and tools in place.

Here are 5 apps your teams need to have on their smartphones when dealing with emergency or extreme weather conditions:

This app remains mostly functional without an internet connection, which can be very common during power outages caused by major storms.  Please make sure to download this one before WiFi and cellular tower connections are lost:

1. First Aid (American Red Cross) App

If there was one app that every smartphone user should have, it is this one. The First Aid app from the American Red Cross contains easy to follow step-by-step advice for things like treating wounds to unresponsiveness.

Here is a quick list of features:

  • Simple step-by-step instruction/advice
  • Fully integrated with 9-1-1 so you can call EMS
  • Safety tips for everything including severe weather
  • Preloaded content so that you don't need internet
  • Supports Spanish language

Find the First Aid app here:

  • Google Play link
  • Apple App Store link

Note: in addition to the First Aid app on your team's phones, it is advisable to also inventory your first aid supply boxes throughout your properties. Extra bandages, medical tape, and survival blankets are easy to store in your property management offices, if you should ever need them.

These (3) apps must have an internet connection, either using Wi-Fi or Cellular:

2. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) App

The FEMA app has been developed by the Federal Government specifically for emergency and severe weather events.

There are (3) key areas that the app addresses:

  • Stay Informed
  • Stay Safe
  • Stay Connected

In addition, it provides emergency preparedness tips that can be vital to the safety of your staff and residents.

Here are some of the things you can find in the FEMA app:

  • Find nearby shelters
  • Receive weather alerts
  • Share disaster photos
  • Find a disaster recovery center nearby
  • Supports Spanish language

Download the FEMA app here:

  • Google Play link
  • Apple App Store link

3. Google Translate App

Don't let a language barrier keep your teams from providing essential support during an emergency. Something as simple as a translation app can be the critical difference when it comes to the language diversity that exists on most multifamily properties.

So how would an English or Spanish-speaking member of your team understand a resident with an emergency who only speaks Arabic?

The Google Translate App is just the ticket. Just type or speak what you want to say in your native language and Translate will it into the desire target language. Turn the smartphone sideways and Translate will use the entire screen to display the translated text so your residents can read it! Super helpful on so many fronts...

4. Zello Push-To-Talk App

Two-way radios and walkie-talkies have been staples of maintenance teams for 20 years. They are easy to use and the team-wide broadcast is helpful when a resident has an emergency and needs help from the closest/available team member.

The team-wide voice communication is definitely handy, but with staff also being required to carry smartphones to run business-critical apps, they'd rather get of the extra device on their belt. That is where the Zello Push-to-Talk App comes in super-handy!

This free app allows property teams to setup up a group push-to-talk channel for their property, allowing one-to-one and one-to-many communication within the group. Photo and location sharing are also features, and Zello works seamlessly with your bluetooth accessories - they even have a Microsoft Windows client! If you need advanced features like live GPS mapping of team members, definitely check out Zello For Work.

*Author's note: We came across this app while working with maintenance teams in Florida, where hurricanes, power outages & jammed phone networks are part of life. Zello plays a critical role in helping onsite, regional & national resources stay connected and keep residents safe when the only thing that seems to work are the cellular data networks. 

  • Google Play link
  • Apple App Store link

Note: The Google Translate and Zello Push-To-Talk Apps were also listed in our recent blog: 8 Must-Have Apps for Multifamily Maintenance Technicians


This solution is something that every community should look into - think of it as an Operating System for Emergencies in your Community:

5. SirenGPS App

While the SirenGPS app on its own provides some useful functionality for emergency situations, the opportunity to be a member of an entire community is where this solution shines.

According to their website.. "SirenGPS is the only communication platform that integrates emergency management tools and enhanced 911 with real-time visibility and interoperability for emergency managers and first responders in your community."

Click here to learn more about SirenGPS app

  • Google Play link
  • Apple App Store link


Final Point: This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you or your property's operations team has a must-have app they use in emergency situations, by all means, let us know! Just send an email at