We spoke to Alan Bevan, MD of City Residential, to hear more about his approach to embedding all of Alto’s functionality into his Liverpool-based branch since going live in February 2021.
“I set up City Residential just over 20 years ago, in 2000. Our focus has always been on the core of Liverpool – postcodes L1 to L3.” Alan said.
“The fact that we launched in the three or four years before the city really started booming was part skill, part luck. The Capital of Culture announcement in 2008 was a real game-changer for Liverpool,” he added.
“We originally focused on sales, setting up our lettings operation in 2003.”
Alan had been with another property management software for a number of years before beginning the process of switching to Alto.
“We had a desktop-based system up until 2012, when we first went cloud-based with our previous system. But they weren’t able to handle sales and lettings equally as well, in the way that Alto does”, he said.
Like many agents, Alan had felt the need to switch for some time – but in a busy market, it’s one of those things that’s difficult to get round to.
City Residential is a Liverpool-based estate and lettings agent
“I’d say we’d been ready to switch for around 5 or 6 years,” Alan said. “What gave us the final push we needed was all the upheavals of 2020. We needed something that was fully cloud-based and would truly allow the team to work from anywhere.”
Alan kicked off the process with Alto in May 2020, with a view to moving over to his new estate and letting agent software during the industry’s quieter half of the year in the autumn and winter.
“We moved the sales side of the business over in October 2020, doing an automated migration for that part with the Alto team,” Alan explained.
“Then, we opted for a bit more of a manual migration in February 2021 for lettings – to give us the opportunity to clean up our lettings data in the process,” he added.
Since going fully live, Alan’s focus has been on getting Alto really embedded into his business.
“We initially signed up for a batch of training with the Alto team, which was really invaluable in terms of getting things set up, and assisting us with the manual migration route for lettings that we opted for,” said Alan.
“We’ve then committed to ongoing training – a couple of hours a week – which tends to focus on a range of topics.
“Some weeks, we might use this to get new starters trained up. In other sessions, we’ll focus on really getting to grips with a specific aspect of Alto’s functionality,” Alan explained.
“I think with any system, how much you put into it is what you get out of it. 3 or 4 of us in the team now know it inside out, and we can continue to share that knowledge with the rest of the team,” he added.
Each month, Alan and his team work together to make a list of the things they want to get out of their property software that month.
“The list could include things like getting to grips with managing BACS payments using Alto, reconciliations, vendor feedback requests, managing portal leads – it’s a real mix.
“It helps us prioritise and really make sure that we’re really embedding all of Alto’s capabilities into everything we do,” he added.
For the day-to-day use, Alan encourages his team to use the Alto Help Centre to troubleshoot, which he describes as a really comprehensive resource.
“We’ve also found the Alto support team to be really helpful with anything that needs a bit more of a conversation. With our old provider, you’d raise a ticket for help and potentially not hear anything from them for weeks,” Alan added.
Since go-live, there have been a couple of things about Alto that have stood out to Alan and his team.
“The front-end sales and lettings experience is really good – we like the way the system is built around individual contacts rather than properties,” Alan explained. “The colour-coded approach to properties, contacts and progression is really useful too.”
For Alan, that ease-of-use extends to Alto’s finance functionality too.
Alan Bevan, MD of City Residential
“Being an MD, I’m not really that close to the nitty-gritty of financial processes any more”, Alan said.
“But Alto makes it so easy that I’m pretty confident I could dive in and manage all of our landlord payments if I needed to. The fact that I can pick it up shows how simple a system it is,” Alan added.
Looking to the future, Alan is keen to continue ensuring City Residential is using all of Alto’s features.
“Alto’s PropertyFile module is something we want to adopt next – it’ll be a real help in terms of vendor communications,” Alan said.
“At the end of the day, we want a system that takes care of as much of our day-to-day jobs as possible. And Alto is the best software partner to enable us to do that,” he added.