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Technology is the leading component to improve customer experience, drive operational efficiency: ZoloStays CTO

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ZoloStays, an online platform for finding co-living accommodation, operational across cities such as Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Kota, Noida, Gurgaon, Delhi, Coimbatore, Mumbai and Hyderabad, is now a common name with the young professionals and students.

How is Zolo markedly different from tradition hostels or PGs? The answer lies in its personalisation; better and cost-effective accommodation options; and that its service requirements are tech-enabled, which is just the way the GenX wants it.

Extensive use of technology and a strong focus on community is key for the company. Zolo is implementing AI based techniques to profile incoming residents to provide for the best room mate match for them based on occupation, education, interests, degrees of connection etc. Also for improving security, IoT sensors have been deployed to notify Zoloites (customers of ZoloStays) whenever her/his room has been opened by the caretaker or housekeeping staff.

Big Data is implemented for better product market fit, whereby Zolo’s big data team helps discover new opportunities, customise its offerings based on specific market needs which, in turn, translates to higher adoption and customer satisfaction,” says Akhil Sikri, Chief Technology Officer, ZoloStays.

Gamification techniques have been used to induce behavioural change and increase resident participation in community events, and interactions between Zoloites and between property staff and the residents.

The company has raised US$ 30million in its Series B funding in January this year led by Nexus Venture Partners, IDFC Alternatives and Mirae Asset. “Zolo’s current capacity is about 45,000 beds across over 300 properties operating at over 85 per cent occupancy and has already served more than 60,000 customers since its inception,” informs Sikri.

How the digital is easing out many issues

“At Zolo, we believe that technology is the leading component to improve our customer experience and drive operational efficiency. Zolo is currently using cutting edge technology such as AI, IoT, AR and in improving the minutest aspects of our residents stay with us so that they feel truly at home. Our augmented reality initiative aims to deliver a personalised space for our residents where they can experiment, add and modify amenities within their rooms to create a more homely experience,” emphasises Sikri.

Akhil points out more use cases whereby Zolo is using IoT and ML for:

Reducing food waste: Using ML based prediction algorithms to figure out the food consumption in a specific property based on occupancy, resident availability/intent and past resident behaviour to minimise food wastage on a given day.

Saving water: Smart sensors have been installed to predict anomalous water usage by a specific unit within a property to identify leakages or inadvertent wastage.

Reducing power consumption: Empowering our residents to reduce their carbon footprint by informing them about abnormal electricity usage, and rewarding residents who consistently keep it below a threshold value

Clustering strategy: Zolo uses big data to dynamically price its products and come up with customisations based on specific market needs, which, in turn, translates to higher adoption and customer satisfaction.

Enhancing customer experience

Customer centric approach is one of the core principles for Zolo, claims Sikri. “We always try adopting new technologies and solve problems in co-living spaces. We have recently launched our IOS app, migrated our Android App to Kotlin and made a PWA version of the mobile website for faster and rich user experience. Since more than 70 per cent of traffic is from a mobile website, we are expecting these changes to boost up our conversion rates at least by 30 percent,” he adds.

To add to its customer delight, Zolo has recently launched an iWatch app which can be used by people searching for properties to get updates on their favourite properties and details on properties they are scheduled to visit. “Major notifications are received on iWatch app which is much more convenient for our customers,” says Sikri.

Development of a community platform is also in the works. The company is building a social platform where Zoloites can interact with each other, create teams and participate in events to earn ZoCoins, ZoXP and ZoKarma points. Credits can be redeemed on the platform to settle payments with Zolo and experience points helps customers build social recognition.

With the vast youth base of India constituting students and young professionals, travelling and relocating has become an ardent requirement. This phenomena shows up in Zolo’s inbound traffic on its website which is close to two lakh visitors a month, of which 75 per cent are new visitors.

Our goal is to provide a great customer experience across all platforms. These initiatives are resulting in an increase in better customer satisfaction scores, stronger customer loyalty and operational efficiency. We are seeing a sharp improvement in referrals by existing customers after implementing these changes,” states Sikri.

Changes in user acquisition/funnel has a lot of impact on the overall business. “Anything with this regard usually goes through multiple stakeholders and requires a great amount of collaboration before execution. Product works on a daily basis with at minimum Engineering, Design and Marketing functions if not more. Starting from FGDs with our existing and potential residents by the marketing team, doing A/B testing, track adoption and getting feedback, the product team plays a very important role in creating the future roadmap of the business,” concludes Sikri.

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