First National Real Estate, Kimberley

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First National Kimberley Principal Sarah Williams has been in real estate her entire working life and has held key roles with some of  Western Australia’s highest performing companies, including LJ Hooker, RayWhite, Professionals, Remax and First National Real Estate.

She has the distinction of being the youngest person ever to be qualified and appointed as a practising real estate licensee in Western Australia and has received numerous industry awards in recognition of her achievements.

Sarah has a rare breadth of experience spanning all aspects of Real Estate Practice from Property Management, Sales, Commercial and Retail Management and Leasing, through to Sales Coordination and Trust Accounting. Sarah’s focus is always upon the delivery of top flight customer service and she pursues this through constant commitment to the best available training for her staff and an ongoing investment in the industries most awarded best practice systems and procedures.

What problems did you have with your previous system?

We have a commercial portfolio and found that the program we were using just wasn’t tailored to commercial management. We found that quite a lot of our clients wanted things that we couldn’t give them on their statements. As we started getting bigger with more properties we recognised the need for a reliable software to store all of our documents and that could integrate with our property management software. Our old system’s document management wasn’t anything like REST Professional is, without even having fileSMART.

What made you decide to use REST Professional?

I had used REST before in 1998 and even back then I remembered how user friendly it was and how it gives your staff a better understanding of trust accounting compared to other programs. The program we were using was tailored to property managers who aren’t supposed to be accounts people except they still have to be, so it was very front end, you didn’t see the debit and credit when processing a charge. With REST you see a lot more of that and it gives you a better understanding rather than just pressing a button and doing a charge without actually knowing what’s happened behind it.

Were there any other reasons why you decided to change to REST?

Our other system was getting slower and we had a lot of technical problems with it. Our number of properties was increasing quite quickly and the program we were using wasn’t designed for that, it was designed for smaller offices.

How was your experience upgrading to REST and going through the implementation process?

I was really apprehensive about it. I did it at a really bad time when I’d just lost one of our property managers and we’d hired a new employee that unfortunately didn’t work out. I ended up taking on 150 properties at the time but to be honest, I had a few members of my team helping me and the support that we got from our implementation consultant was fantastic.

The training and the actual changeover went really smooth and we haven’t had any problems at all apart from staff familiarising themselves with the program, but the instruction manual is a fantastic tool. It explains everything step by step. It was actually a lot easier than I ever thought it would be and I would have done it a lot earlier if I had of known.

How has REST improved your business?

It’s a lot more efficient, we don’t have the down time that we used to have with our old system. The reporting is a lot better, the receipting is a lot quicker and end of month is a lot easier.

How have the day to day processes of your property managers improved?

They have quicker access to information and the ability to just click on an email address and have direct email to clients, which is automatically stored in the document management for easy access to any emails they’ve sent instead of going through all the emails in outlook.

Their reporting is more detailed and easier to read and the time saved by having access to all the information has improved greatly for them.

What feature makes the biggest difference to your business?

Definitely the document management in REST because you have quick and easy access to history, and the mail merge feature. We still haven’t finished our training for fileSMART but we can’t wait to be efficient in that also. As well as REST, we’re using fileSMART on a daily basis, we just haven’t’ completed an end of month. All the invoices and leases are currently being scanned in and if you want to have a look at a lease you don’t have to go hunting for a file, it’s on your desktop and if an owner wants a copy you’ve got quick easy access to it all the time. The filing has cut down as well, that was a full time job in itself when you’re still running a paper office. It’s improved our day to day processes and you have more time to focus on customer service and being proactive because you’re not chasing your tail trying to file everything and having down time with the system. It’s made everything a lot more efficient.

We’re still fine tuning our document management policy, I know a lot of offices turn their document management off in REST when they have fileSMART but I think we’re going to keep that on for emails, because it’s just quicker. You can click on that folder and you’ve got all the emails that you’ve sent and if you want to save any emails in response to those you can just save it in the document management system in REST and keep fileSMART for printed letters that we have to save for legal matters. So even though we’re using fileSMART we still use that function in REST.

How would you rate the service that Rockend has provided you in terms of training and support up until now?

Ten out of ten! I’ve never had to wait for a call or wait for our implementation consultant to answer a question, it’s been really good.

What would you say to anyone who was considering changing over to REST?

If I’d had known how easy it was I would have done it years ago. Don’t think that you can’t because you can and you’ll be so much better off and your staff will be better off. You’ll have a much more efficient office and you’ll be able to spend more time being proactive in your customer service because you’ve got a system that backs you up 100%. I should have done it a long time ago and for those offices that do commercial it’s definitely a lot better than some of the other systems out there that are just built for residential property management. It’s improved everything in our business, our customer service and our staff efficiency and morale.