Inch founder Pierre-Etienne Favre talks about his solution
We are thrilled to share some details about this magic customer relations tool for property managers that our client built. Discover Inch through its founder’s eyes, Pierre-Etienne Favre, with whom we love to work.
What is your background? What projects have you worked on previously?
I am a mechanical engineer. My family had an estate and co-owned property agency in Lyon. We were initially a little caught out by the project to create a website. We rebuilt the website of the family agency with a really simple request: make a basic platform for sharing documents with clients or residents. And this small project evolved into Inch.
How many people does the team include today? Can you tell me in more detail about what Inch’s work involves?
There are 15 of us at Inch, and we are building a customer relations tool for property managers. It’s often a complex business with a many issues to tackle: technical, administrative, legal and financial. The manager of a co-ownership organisation wears several hats, and they have absolutely no time to communicate with their clients. We provide them with a tool that facilitates the management of their duties and their time, allowing them to communicate with everyone automatically. For example, if an elevator breaks down, the technical management of this breakdown is handled via Inch. We automatically send an SMS to all customers to tell them that the elevator is broken and that the manager is handling it. Our service integrates with the agency’s other tools. It’s a technical management tool, but above all it’s also primarily a tool for communication, in contrast to other software available.
I think I’m right in saying that you work remotely. How do you organize yourselves in this respect?
During the last six months, we’ve put in place a real policy regarding remote work. The idea came from the tech team. In order to distribute tasks within the team, and to follow the personal performance of team members every day, whether at home or in the office, we employ the Agile Scrum method. We can thus monitor pretty closely the daily tasks of each team member, thanks to the fact that these tasks are shared by the team as a whole. It has offered some pretty illuminating insight: we tend to be more efficient when working from home. Now everybody works remotely 3 days a week on average.
What tools do you use for productivity and more?
- We use Slack of course. In fact I believe that I have never sent an email to another team member!
- We also make a lot of calls with something from the gaming world: Discord. Discord lets you talk with friends whilst playing video games. Apparently it’s the most technologically advanced tool available for making calls, and it works really well for us. So Discord is currently another tool in our toolbox.
- The tech team uses GitHub, because it’s a very simple tool and is central to the work of our developers. They use it to manage all their specs and documentation and it is also hosts our scrum board i.e. our sprint management tool. For the other teams, Trello fulfils the same function.
How did you go about attracting buyers/users/clients? What marketing strategies did you use?
Our clients are property managers or managers of co-ownership organisations. Not a single one of them is on Twitter or Instagram, and none of them would ever think to Google ‘client relation tool for property management’. So we have zero inbound marketing. But we do have a fabulous site created by Muxu.Muxu! That’s still very important for brand identity. Other than that, the large majority of our marketing is outbound. That is to say, we reach out to people with the right message and striking arguments, packaged in the best way possible: beautiful presentations, a well-designed site and a quality tool.
What are your goals for the future in terms of your economic model?
Today we’re at a stage where we’re very well established in the private residential sector in France. 10% of private residential apartments are managed by co-ownership organisations or rentals managers. We now want to open up to other sectors, including social-housing landlords (public housing, state-owned property, service sector property), residents and service providers. That is to say, the people who are involved in these sectors on a daily basis. You should know that today a resident who receives a notification or an SMS from Inch does not necessarily know that it is from Inch. They just receive an SMS signed by the property manager, saying that the elevator has been repaired. We’re sort of the ‘cool guys’ who help the managers to get their messages across. We’d like now to have a bit more visibility as far as residents and other providers are concerned. That’s the next step we are looking to take. Spoiler alert: Muxu.Muxu have been helping us in that respect.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far? How have you overcome them?
A key challenge has been to bring estate agencies a little more up-to-date with the digital age, and it has not necessarily easy. They’ve been using the same tools and software for 40 years. It was hard to make them understand that they needed our solution. It was also difficult to seem credible, when we ourselves don’t have a huge number of clients.
Another challenge for us, as far as the product is concerned, is to maintain simplicity in our tools. We’re competing with complicated, unwieldy accounting software. Our goal is to make it clear to our clients that they will not need 6 months of training to learn how to use our tool. In just half an hour, they can get to grips with the tool and start using it to work on a daily basis. Achieving that simplicity requires a lot of design work, and choices that are not necessarily easy to make. It’s an interesting approach, because our clients are not tech-enthusiasts. Our typical user is between 40 and 50 years old and is not at all at ease with the web, online platforms, social networks, as we are.
What advice would you give to those who are embarking on creating a company?
Do not underestimate an idea that, at first glance, may not seem great, but when you dig a little deeper, seems to make more and more sense. In the beginning, we thought that making an online platform for managers of co-owned properties was not very sexy. But every day for 4 years now, we’ve felt really fulfilled by our project because we realize there is a real need for it. We are trying to create a platform that can have an effect on people’s daily lives. So that could be a good test for weighing up a potential project: it doesn’t look sexy on paper at first, but actually stands to have great impact.
Interview realized by Floriane Fontaine and translated by Emily Fiennes for Muxu.Muxu.