OpenRent Moves in with Vonage to Scale Its Customer Communications Using SMS

When UK-based OpenRent built a platform to process 200K+ apartment rental inquiries per month securely, efficiently and cost-effectively, they turned to Vonage SMS API for secure two-way SMS communications.

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Vonage Solutions and Features

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Challenge

Making the process of finding properties easier and cheaper by cutting out the middleman and empowering landlords and tenants to connect directly. What was needed was scalable and efficient SMS APIs for communications.
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Solutions

Vonage SMS API with two-factor authentication
Key

Results

Fast and effortless customer experience for OpenRent users; 25% saving by using Vonage SMS API.

Connecting Landlords and Tenants for a Better Rental Experience

Just about everyone needs to rent an apartment at some stage of their life, but most people dread the process. With high fees, questionable tactics and often dismal customer experiences, the property rental industry is ripe for change. In recent years, one London-based company, OpenRent, is leading the way towards a painless rental experience for all.

OpenRent has brought the entire property rental process online, sparing landlords and tenants time, money and a whole lot of frustration.

“Our mission is to make renting properties easier and cheaper by cutting out the middleman and empowering landlords and tenants to take control of the process and connect directly,” said OpenRent Head of Business Development, Robert Thompson.

A 2018 report featured in The Sun highlights that 56% of Brits prefer to rent directly from a landlord. So it’s little surprise that OpenRent has attracted 1.6 million registered users since it launched in 2012, making it one of the biggest online rental marketplaces in the UK. From London to Edinburgh, OpenRent currently rents over 100,000 properties per year saving landlords and tenants millions of pounds in fees. Landlords pay a one-off fee of just £49 with OpenRent for full tenancy set-up, compared with fees of hundreds or thousands of pounds per property with traditional agents.

“Technology is key to delivering a smooth, convenient, low-cost service,” said Thompson. Tenants discover rentals either directly on the OpenRent platform, or on leading online portals where OpenRent also advertises properties.

“If you’re a tenant, you would go to openrent.co.uk or to one of our partner sites”, explained Thompson. “You find a property you like, you enquire and then we put you in direct contact with the landlord – it’s as simple as that! Landlords and tenants handle everything online through our mobile-friendly web app.”

Enter Fast, Flexible and Reliable SMS from Vonage

OpenRent wanted to create a service that connects the two people at the heart of a rental transaction: landlord and tenant. The most secure and efficient way to achieve this was through two-way SMS.

Fast and direct SMS communication, powered by the Vonage SMS API, delivers OpenRent’s messages to the right person, at precisely the right moment.

“SMS is absolutely essential to our service,” Thompson said. “It keeps everyone in the loop throughout the entire process. We use SMS whenever a landlord gets a tenant inquiry, to confirm viewing arrangements, to let applicants know that they have got a response to their enquiry, and keep them updated on whether they have been successful or have missed out. SMS is the channel where everyone engages quickly and simply.”

SMS is not just for the rental process, it’s core to platform management. According to Thompson, “Landlords use SMS to manage their listings as well: we have a feature so they can simply text us to confirm whether their property is let or available and their listing will update automatically. Lots of property sites suffer from having outdated stock which has actually already been filled, which causes a lot of frustration and wasted time. Easy communication around updating adverts helps us avoid this and make sure properties are removed quickly when let, which is really important for the experience of all users.”

One additional situation where OpenRent makes use of Vonage's SMS API is within a two-factor authentication system, adding a layer of trust when verifying user accounts. “We need to verify that our customers are who they say they are and can be contacted on their registered details, so we send a one-time SMS code that enables them to set up their account securely”, explained Thompson.

OpenRent wasn’t always using Vonage as its primary SMS provider. It previously relied on another vendor, with Vonage running as a backup. However, by 2016, the volume of SMS interactions had grown considerably and a new, scalable solution was required. “We’re now sending and receiving hundreds of thousands of messages per month,” said Thompson. Running on the Vonage platform, SMS helps OpenRent take a speedy 8 days on average to let a property, with over 10,000 properties let per month.

Scaling Up Using Vonage

“The Vonage SMS solution is essential to scaling OpenRent,” said Thompson. “We have well over a million users now and are renting thousands of properties per month. There’s simply no way to achieve that by traditional manual processes. It must be driven by scalable technology and Vonage APIs certainly fit that bill. As our volume continues to grow, Vonage will be increasingly important.”

Thompson notes that flexibility on pricing was a helpful factor in making the decision to switch to Vonage. “With Nexmo, we’ve saved 25% on SMS costs. Plus we’ve minimised currency fluctuations and avoided international transaction fees by being able to pay in Sterling.”

Another driver was the full suite of communications services on the Vonage API platform. With a significant chunk of SMS budget now freed up, Thompson and the team are exploring additional ways to innovate with SMS and other communications APIs.

“Vonage gives us choices and opens up the possibility for new uses of SMS. For example, we are looking to use SMS as a channel where we remind customers of actions they need to take to fulfil their legal requirements. We’re aware that Vonage has a suite of products that will be able to help us in the future. There’s the potential for using the Vonage API for remote property viewings, or to introduce voice calls as another way for landlords and tenants to connect. The option to scale and grow our services with Nexmo is extremely attractive.

“Ultimately we’re a tech-driven company, and tools like Vonage APIs are essential in helping us deliver the functionality and experience that our customers need. The Vonage SMS solution is essential to scaling OpenRent. We have well over a million users now and are renting thousands of properties per month. There's simply no way to achieve that by traditional manual processes. It must be driven by scalable technology and Vonage certainly fits that bill. As our volume continues to grow, Vonage will be increasingly important."

Robert Thompson, Business Development, OpenRent

 

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