Proving Scalability at Avail

Avail is building a community of responsible landlords and tenants by providing them end-to-end tools, such as tenant screening, education, and a Support team to guide them through their rental experience.

Community Manager Christine Cieri talks about how Avail created a system to manage payment disputes and understand user revenue cycles, and how this focus allowed them to scale.

Avail was founded 5 years ago, designed to empower the individual landlord with the tools and resources to manage their own properties. Today, we support over 60,000 landlords and 150,000 tenants nationwide with a team of 11 employees. We have made doing more with less a core team value and Stripe has helped us live out this motto.

As the Community Manager at Avail, I’m responsible for maintaining a satisfied and highly knowledgeable community of users and employees. We started in beta and then continuously iterated on the product until it reached a more solid state.

Throughout this iteration process, it’s been crucial to have an on-point Support team that handles user questions and complaints with utmost care. It can be the difference between a user staying and paying, or closing their account.

Avail is currently proving scalability, which means we’re working to prove that we can add users without sacrificing unit economics. It also means we’re building our team and infrastructures so we can handle an influx of users. These growth stages come from Steven Gary Blank’s book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win.

Here’s a background of each stage:

As a thriving startup, the need to scale our team and resources in a smart way is continuously at the forefront of our conversations and decision-making processes. I’ve found that navigating how to scale intelligently is not always intuitive by nature and there have been some murky waters and self-questioning:

Is this the right decision?

Is this the best use of time?

Are these the right points of data to focus on?

As we fine-tune processes and narrow down what data matters, Stripe has been a very insightful tool. Here are the top 3 ways that Stripe helped us prove scalability:

Stripe helps us understand our users and revenue streams

Before we’re ready to scale, we need to thoroughly understand our users. We created user profiles to describe the typical users on our app. Our user profiles include age, location, career, culture, and personality.

Beyond that, we also needed to know how users commonly interact with the app. With Stripe, we can dig into data about how long they’ve been with us and how they generate revenue. With this information, we added historical revenue, subscription plan, and account age to our user profiles.

By better understanding user profiles, we can improve our marketing, build a better product, and, for my team, we can address user concerns in the most helpful manner possible.

Stripe helps us create a system to solve payment disputes

Scaling is all about having systems in place that can grow and expand as we do. We occasionally have users who reach out to our Support team about payment disputes. As our user base grows faster and faster, we need an efficient way to solve these disputes.

Stripe provides detailed payment information so our team can resolve payment disputes faster and with complete information.

We standardized our refund process by creating list of Reasons to Refund. If the user’s specific case meets one or more of the following reasons it is an automatic refund without further question.

Reasons to Refund

  • Fraudulent charge
  • Wrongfully invoiced, i.e. duplicate charge
  • Miscommunication about charge, i.e. incorrect receipt data
  • Deliverable was not received, i.e. landlord paid for tenant screening, yet never received reports because user didn’t have a valid SSN

This gives our Support team a clear answer so they can take action immediately, thus decreasing how long it takes for us to respond to users.

If the user’s situation doesn’t meet one of the above reasons, we’ll further consider the situation so we understand their payment trouble and the necessary actions to rectify the situation.

Stripe helps us manage user satisfaction

By better managing payment disputes, Stripe helps us manage overall user satisfaction. We can issue refunds, see how much a user was charged each month (and when), among other important information.

Diving deeper into our tickets, we found that 16% were payment-related whether that was geared towards monthly subscription fees, tenant screening fees, or rent analysis report fees. In all cases, we look into our Stripe account to understand the user’s payment details and, in some cases, we decide if an immediate refund is needed.

With this knowledge, the Support team takes action right away, whether it’s canceling a payment, refunding someone, or letting a user know their subscription amount and when it’s charged. We have access to the information and have the ability to alter payments or make refunds as needed.

This has led to customer satisfaction increasing by over 21%, bringing our overall customer satisfaction rating to 94%. Users appreciate that we have a clear system for when to issue a refund and when not to. By being consistent and being able to take immediate action that solves their needs, we’ve truly made a difference for users.

Conclusion

Stripe has been imperative in helping us prove scalability by allowing us to understand who our users are with digestible data sets, in addition to empowering each member of our Support team to take meaningful actions in user accounts to increase satisfaction.

Have questions about how Avail uses Stripe to increase user satisfaction and prove scalability? Leave a comment below or reach out directly to Christine.