Tell us about your background before joining Hello Neighbour?

I joined the tech world as part of a tech transformation project for a not-for-profit business, where I also studied for my International Diploma in Business Analysis. It was all about using tech to solve real world business problems and I just loved that, plus getting to speak to all sorts of different people doing all sorts of different jobs. From there it was a natural progression to move into product management, which is less about technical detail and more high level - how to make a product really fit the needs of your customers.

I made the leap from Business Analyst to Product Manager at Zoopla, where I spent almost five years working as a product manager – not on their property portal as you might think – but behind the scenes on their estate agency CRM (customer relationship management) platforms. It was brilliant, a great experience. And I love property - I’m the sort of person who scans listings even when I’m not looking!

And possibly a silly question, but what does a product manager do?

A product manager is someone who really gets to understand the customers that use their products. We understand their needs and get to grips with the problems they experience and how the software can help them with a solution. So, my job is to work with software designers to find the best solution to solve these problems for our customers.


What’s your proudest moment so far?

I have two proudest moments, so I’m going to tell you about them both!

When I joined Hello Neighbour, we were just releasing our first tenant-facing feature, which allowed tenants to book a viewing online and register for an account at the same time. At the time, all they could do with their account was change or cancel their viewings, so to be honest, not a massive incentive to log in. So, I started working on the ability for an applicant to make an offer online through the Hello Neighbour platform. This cuts out all the confusion and stress you’d typically experience with a high street agent – where you have to phone the agent, find the right person to speak to, you don’t know if you’re allowed to offer a different amount, or how to make your offer stand out… it’s just a minefield.

What’s clever about our solution is that the tenant is guided through the terms – set by the landlord – that make up the offer and ultimately make the AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) agreement, which is populated with what you agree with the landlord on each of the individual terms. It includes everything from pets to decoration, break clauses, what can be negotiated, what can’t, everything is in there. Which means, negotiations can go back and forth until everyone is happy, and it just makes it much easier for tenants, because they know exactly what they’re dealing with and as soon as they hit submit, boom! That gets sent straight to the landlord’s agent and – ultimately – will get sent directly to the landlord.

At the point we released the offers feature, and I could see people using it and see the offers coming in online, it was a great feeling! And what was even better was that when we made the feature available, we only publicised it for one property as a trial, but people were discovering it for themselves and using it without needing to be told how to. For me, that was the sign that we had nailed it and my proudest Hello Neighbour moment.


The key is to make everything completely obvious, to get people moved in as quickly and painlessly as possible – avoiding void periods and stress.

Claire Wallis, Head of Product


My next proudest moment hasn’t been realised yet, we’re still building it! But it was my idea and it’s taking us in the right direction, so I’m already proud of that. We’re building a guided workflow called ‘my next home’. Once a tenant’s offer has been accepted there are a set of steps every tenancy goes through to get to the point that it’s a live tenancy. So ‘my next home’ will guide landlords and tenants through every step – mapped out in a clear and visual way – that needs to happen to the point that keys are handed over. The key is to make everything completely obvious, to get people moved in as quickly and painlessly as possible – avoiding void periods and stress.


How do you think Hello Neighbour tech is improving the landlord experience?

Marc Schaller (our CMO) and I have both spoken to landlords to understand their needs and what drives them. And what we found is that there’s an expectation from landlords that they should be able to deal with lettings online – in so many other areas of our lives we’re able to log in and do things online – it's just the norm.

The convenience of 24/7 access to an online account is something landlords just don’t have with high street letting agents. With Hello Neighbour our landlords can just log in whenever they need to and see everything in one place. The world we’re building puts the landlord in control and demystifies the whole process – everything that can be automated is, but where they do need to do something, it’s clearly signposted. Even the compliance side – often the most confusing part – we protect our landlords by making sure everything happens in the right order and they have everything they need in one place to know they’re compliant. Basically, we take care of it, so they don’t have to worry about it – peace of mind is key.

And this is our game changer – our landlords also have access to real people at the end of the phone too. Every landlord has a dedicated account manager they can call anytime, and it’s this combination of tech and customer service that makes us stand out from the high street and other online agents.


You’ve already talked about how proud you are of how Hello Neighbour’s tech benefits tenants, can you expand on that a bit more?

The lettings market is so competitive and stressful for tenants. We put the tenant front and centre of our customer service, with both the way we talk about and treat tenants, and with our technology.

I’ve already spoken about the technology we have now to book viewings and make offers online, but we also don’t allow property listings to go live on Rightmove or Zoopla unless a block of viewing times have been set. Which means that when people click ‘enquire’ on one of our listings, they receive an instant text message and email with a link for them to automatically open an account and book a viewing slot. Really quick and easy and takes out all the stress of traditional agents where you make an enquiry, wait for a call back, then another one and on and on… and all that time you’re wondering if someone else has gotten in before you! With our online booking, it doesn’t matter what time of day (or night!) people are viewing properties - they can instantly secure a viewing slot. And if they like what they see, they’re already signed up to start the offer process I talked through earlier.

Very soon our tenants will also be able to pay their holding deposit online, see the progress of reference checks, and pay their first month’s rent. In the future, with properties managed by Hello Neighbour, tenants will be able to raise and keep updated on property maintenance and repair jobs, see rent statements, and arrange appointments like inspections, plus arrange move-out at the end of their tenancy. They’ll be able to manage the whole process, end to end, through their own Hello Neighbour online account.

Not everyone feels comfortable with technology yet - how do you support landlords and tenants less familiar with the online world?

For all our landlords and tenants, we want to demystify everything, especially first-time landlords and tenants. Accessibility of information in the online space is key and for some people making the leap to online can understandably feel too much at first. So, we’ve built in user guides and explainers tailored to each landlord and tenant depending on their situation. And because they’re completely guided through the process, just like they would be if they were talking to a person, I think that’s what helps people make the move online, because we give them all the extra support. Plus, everyone letting with Hello Neighbour can talk to real people as well! Our internal team use our online platform as well, so if a landlord or tenant prefers to pick up the phone, everything in their online account remains up to date and visible to everyone.

And finally, what are your future plans for Hello Neighbour’s product development?

We’re always learning, and we don’t pretend to know everything right now about what is needed in the future. Every time we introduce a new feature or make even the smallest change in the software, we can see the impact of that change, because we monitor our customers’ journeys through the software (through anonymised data). We can see where people find things tricky, where they drop out, and how many take up each new feature. Plus, we talk to our customers a lot, so between data and conversations, we have an excellent understanding of what our customers want and need. And we let this drive our future innovations and the development of our software. Which I strongly believe is the way new tech should develop – based on need and understanding.

That said, we do of course have our own thoughts and ambitions for the future – which is a fully integrated desktop and mobile solution for all of the letting needs of both landlords and tenants. By partnering with specialists in tenant referencing, property maintenance services, online payment services, and even removals, rent insurance, utility switching services, we will be a true one-stop-shop to manage everything you need for letting and renting a property. And we’ll make the whole process seamless, by having a single login to a single platform that then speaks to other businesses and platforms to let you control everything you need.

We also have a lot of (anonymised) data, which we want to use to guide our landlords by offering really important insights that will help them take informed decisions ­– like the temperature of the market to help them decide what rent to go after, the types of renters looking in their area, plus how well their property advert is performing.

The power of our data together with the power of our software is going to allow us to grow as a company, will set us apart from both high street and online agents, while keeping our customers (both tenants and landlords) at the heart of everything we do. I genuinely believe we are leading the way on changing the lettings industry for good.