Late last year, we launched our latest product innovation, a chatbot we call Bengie. Bengie™ by Building Engines creates a brand-new way for building occupants to access property information, request service and communicate with property management teams. Bengie™ is the commercial real estate industry’s first conversational interface for customer service. Building occupants have already told us that Bengie creates a much better customer experience by eliminating forms and allowing them to use natural language. And we firmly believe that it will not only make property management smarter and more efficient but will also forever change the way we think about tenant-property management communications.
As you might imagine, we’ve gotten a few questions about Bengie. Here are Scott Sidman, Daniel Cozza, and Phil Mobley answering some of the ones we’ve heard the most.
Note: A transcript of the video, edited for clarity, appears below.
Though it may be new to the CRE industry, Bengie will only feel more familiar to users as chatbots and artificial intelligence become more prevalent tools in our businesses. Bengie represents a glimpse into the bright future of CRE technology. Bengie can already improve data collection and foster a frictionless relationship between management and tenants; in the future, Bengie’s capabilities will only grow and ultimately help to create more profitable spaces for tenants and asset owners.
Scott: One of the most exciting things we did this year was develop and launch Bengie, our conversational chat bot. Phil, tell us about why we built Bengie.
Phil: Sure, and maybe just a quick reminder of what Bengie is. Bengie is a chatbot that interacts with the Building Engines platform. That’s the simplest way to think about it. You’re talking to a personified piece of artificial intelligence that’s helping you use Building Engines.
The reason we developed Bengie is we did some research into tenants and three numbers came out of that research, 80, 70 and 60.
- 80% of tenants say their primary way of communication is messaging in some form (text messaging, Facebook messenger, etc.)
- 70% say that’s their preferred method for business communication
- 60% say I expect in the future to be able to communicate with my office building through a messaging channel
That’s why we built Bengie. The people that our clients serve, the occupants of commercial buildings, those people expect to be able to get service through messaging channels.
Scott: Daniel, take us through how does Bengie work.
Daniel: Like Phil said, Bengie is a chatbot. What we’ve done is largely start with off the shelf components. All the major cloud providers, whether it’s Amazon or Azure, they offer voice and text services. But we are gradually building more and more of our own custom algorithms and custom code to support it.
So, when you interact with Bengie through slack or through text you’re talking to our chatbot first. We’re using some common components like I said before but we’re also developing a lot more of our custom algorithms. So you’re not talking to a person, yet. Maybe in the future.
Scott: Maybe tell us a little bit about why Bengie is better than traditional management/tenant communication channels.
Phil: One of the challenges our clients have is what we and they call compliance. It’s getting people to use software and in this case Building Engines, getting tenants to submit work orders for example that way instead of picking up the phone and calling the property management office. Or maybe that tenant has even developed a relationship with an engineer and will call the engineer directly. Well that’s not what our clients want. They want those requests to be logged in a system so they can track them and so the dispatch can work the way they want it to.
Bengie is a way to reduce the effort requires for tenants to onboard. They don’t have to sit and learn how to fill out forms on a tenant portal for example. They can just talk to Bengie. Bengie will take care of putting a request into the system. So that’s the reason it’s better. It’s an easier way for the ultimate consumer of office space to get customer service and thus comply with the system.
Scott: How is this going to impact the property managers job?
Daniel: Yeah, I think in two ways. Most importantly the property manager is going to get far more standard, even data instead of having to talk through different methods, different people, and hear different problems and questions in different formats they can consume in one way. And Bengie is doing the translation between what a user is asking for, what a tenant is asking for and what a property manager needs to do, how they need to interact. So, I think that translation bit makes it a little more standard, more consistent.
But longer term, we have plans to bring Bengie functionality, chat bot functionality to the property managers more directly. Look does anyone like filling out a form? There may be a few people out there. Forms are a creation of the computing world. It’s a way to get people to enter data. Imagine if we could do something far more natural instead of having to fill out the equivalent of a time card or a form saying what they did, how long it took, and where. If that was more natural, through natural language I think that would be a lot easier. So, we are going to start applying Bengie more directly to that.
Scott: Anything else about messaging apps and how they are going to impact the property management space?
Daniel: I think this is a chance for property management in general to leap frog technology. So what we saw back in the late 90s was an explosion of web. Right, everything becomes a website and a web app. And what we saw in the late 2000s was an explosion of mobile, everything was an app, you have a proliferation of mobile everywhere. What we are going to see over the next couple of years is an explosion of voice and chat bots. None of those are actually good they are more of just an evolution. And what I think is going to happen in our world or maybe across industries is putting the right user experience in the right format. The things that are easiest to do with text, do with text, the things that need a visual screen, do those things there. I think we will see it even out and see the right interfaces in the right places and for the right use cases.
Phil: One exciting opportunity is reach. What sells office space now, what gets it leased is the experience of the employee in the office space. Those individual employees are now customers of the office space in a way that 5, 10, 15 years ago they were not. Well the building management team needs to be able to communicate to those customers. And we already talked about how the way people expect to communicate even with businesses is through messaging channels. This is a way to leapfrog directly to an interface, a communication tool to talk to those customers. To get information to them. So that’s pretty exciting to think about. Broadening the reach of who property managers can communicate with.