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We sure do ask a lot of our residents, don’t we?
- Don’t pay your rent late.
- Don’t destroy your apartment home.
- Don’t disturb your neighbors with loud noises.
- Don’t turn a blind eye to suspicious activity around the community.
- Don’t walk your dog without a leash.
- Don’t let your children run around unsupervised.
- Don’t forget to report maintenance issues immediately.
- Don’t grill on the balcony.
The list goes on and on. Before a resident can take occupancy of an apartment home, they must first agree to the terms of the lease. Contained within its pages, the lease stipulates all sorts of rules, guidelines and demands. What if residents asked us to sign an agreement? Something that details their “list of demands”? As varied as these wants/needs could be, they ultimately relate back to two areas: communication and maintenance.
Don’t believe me? Check out your community’s ratings and reviews – even some of the less obvious themes link back to communication and/or maintenance. Here are two examples:
RENT IS TOO HIGH – Complaints about rent are common on review sites. When residents are dissatisfied about rent, fees, etc. they are so because they can’t see the “value”. What exactly are they getting for the price they have been asked to pay? If a resident has to wait days for maintenance issues to be resolved, or for their phone call to be returned and are then expected to renew at a higher rate, to them, it’s just not worth it. Streamlined communication and efficient maintenance equal value in the eyes of the resident.
SAFETY – This is another topic often seen in reviews. While no management team could nor should guarantee a resident’s safety, there are ways to safeguard the wellbeing of the community itself. Maintaining access gates, fences, lighting, etc. are simple things the service team can do. As for the office, staying on top of unauthorized occupants, promptly resolving noise complaints, towing inoperable cars (and those without proper tags) and removing restricted animals can go a long way to helping residents feel “safe” at the community. Once again, another example of communication and maintenance working effectively.
We ask a lot of our residents… they ask very little of us. When presented with a 20-page lease, our residents initial and sign every page; all the while hoping we are agreeing to their unspoken list of demands.
Highest Property Scores for Priority Annual Resident Satisfaction Survey Questions Recognized
SatisFacts is thrilled to announce the inaugural recognition of properties who achieved Benchmark Status on priority satisfaction topics on their Annual Resident Satisfaction Surveys. To be eligible for Benchmark Status, the community had to meet the following criteria:
- Earn one of the top three highest scores in a designated High Priority Satisfaction Topic in 2012.
- Receive an “Exceptional” Property Award (score of 4.50+ on a five point rating scale).
- Achieve above a 15% response rate and minimum of 20 responses for its 2012 Annual Resident Satisfaction Survey.
SatisFacts works with nearly 200 management companies and over a million units nationally. For this segment of the benchmarking program, only the properties using annual surveys were included.
Doug Miller, founder and president of SatisFacts, shares, “We’re thrilled to recognize the property teams and their management companies who are best of breed and not only ‘talk the talk’ about service delivery, but also ‘walk the walk.’ Our clients recognize that everyone wins when there is a passion for delivering world-class service. Residents reward the community with their renewal, and reduced turnover grows NOI. And due to the impact of ratings on generating quality traffic, dramatic marketing advantages can be realized by being able to promote exceptional service to boost a property and company’s online reputation. The hard work is meeting and exceeding resident expectations, and these teams are shining examples of what our industry is all about.”
Jen Piccotti, Senior Vice President of Education and Consulting for SatisFacts adds, “In speaking with each of these Benchmark Community Managers and Maintenance Supervisors, the passion for their job and their service-focused attitude is very clear. It’s exciting to be able to shine a spotlight on these top performers and learn from their experience and dedication.”
Benchmark Status Property Managers and Maintenance Supervisors were invited to participate in Benchmark Roundtable Discussions over the course of two days to share best practices in their particular areas of expertise. These best practices will be shared in future SatisFacts publications and educational materials with attribution to the contributor, their property and property management company.
Benchmark Status Properties
Arbor Bend, Carter Haston
Avana Canyon Crest, Greystar
Bluffs at Nine Mile Creek, Dominium
Bluffs Landing, EPMI, A Bayside Company
Evergreen Village, EPMI, A Bayside Company
The Enclave, Towne Properties
Washoe Mills, EPMI, A Bayside Company
Arbor Bend, Carter Haston
Burke Gilman Place, EPMI, A Bayside Company
Encore at Wheaton Station, Allen and Rocks
Grand South Senior, Dominium
Park View Miramar, Shelter Properties
Park View Tyler Run, Shelter Properties
Stadium Station, EPMI, A Bayside Company
Arbor Pointe, Steven Scott Management
Bluffs Landing, EPMI, A Bayside Company
The Enclave, Towne Properties
SatisFacts™ (www.SatisFacts.com) is multifamily’s resident satisfaction, retention and online reputation authority, working with nearly two hundred property management companies and over a million units nationally. Its feedback systems Take the Guesswork Out of Retention™, help clients reduce turnover, grow NOI, and boost their online reputation.
Contact: Jen Piccotti, SatisFacts™, a Division of Internet Brands, 866.655.1490 x110, firstname.lastname@example.org
- My dentist – The staff is friendly, welcoming and reassuring, the office is immaculately clean, the receptionist always asks about my spouse and kids by name, and they give me a little lavender-scented towelette at the end of my dental cleaning to ensure there is no toothpaste on my face when I leave.
- My hairdresser – She always greets me with such enthusiasm and asks about my spouse and kids by name, offers me a variety of beverages (even champagne if it’s an evening appointment), and gives the best scalp massage as she’s rinsing my hair.
- Kanpai sushi – Though I only get to go every couple of months, the entire staff stops what they are doing to greet me when I come in, the wait staff knows my beverage of choice and that I always order a crunchy roll, and they always ask me about my kids and comment on how they can’t believe how old they are already and that I must bring them in for dinner one of these days.
The common theme here is that they do the basics very well: they make sure that I know that they know exactly who I am (by addressing me by name and asking specifically about the people who are important to me) and they are always happy to see me. They also find small, thoughtful ways of making me – and their other patrons – feel special. The lavender-scented towelette, a 2-minute scalp massage, remembering my “usual” order.
These special extras don’t cost a whole lot. They might cost a little time, some focused attention, less than a dollar in materials. But they sure make a difference in my level of loyalty. Even when rates have gone up, it’s an easy decision for me to stay. My new insurance doesn’t cover 100% of my dental costs, but it’s worth the co-pay for me to stay. My hair cut and my “usual” lunch costs have inched up over the years, but, again, it’s an easy decision to stay because I can’t imagine any other service provider treating me so well or caring about my preferences in the same way.
Most residents expect that another year at your community will include a rent increase, so if you are encountering major objections it may be time to examine the issue more closely. Is it a major life change, such as a job change or buying a home, or is it something else? Neither our residents nor any of us feels good about paying more for indifferent or poor service. If residents are insisting that they “just need a change” or need a different floor plan or more or less bedrooms, or any number of other manageable objections, offer solutions and then dig a little deeper. Ask what is most important to them about the community they live in. Ask if there is anything in their home that needs attention. Discover if, in their experience, life at your community is worry-free or worrisome, as Lia Nichole Smith, our VP of Education and Consulting, likes to say. If 1 out of 4 residents can only say they are “Somewhat Likely” to renew their lease and 1 in 7 say they “Don’t Know,” there’s a great opportunity to connect with your residents, let them know they are a VIP, and help them gain confidence in making their renewal decision!
I recently flew on Alaska Airlines and browsed through their magazine – conveniently placed in the seat-back pocket. I was very interested in the letter from the President and CEO that graces each edition of the magazine, because a phrase jumped out and caught my eye:
“…we want to be the airline that makes flying easier.”
This is a concept we’ve been exploring at SatisFacts Research – the idea of making it “easy” to be a resident, and in doing so, demonstrating value to your residents on a daily basis. While Alaska Airlines has been figuring out what would make life easier for passengers by doing their research:
- standing with passengers in line
- observing how passengers use kiosks and mobile devices
- watching passengers search high and low for electrical outlets in waiting area
- and more…
We’ve been doing our research on what makes life easier for residents and what they say about:
- Feeling appreciated when a staff member addresses them by name
- Being able to connect to Wi-Fi in common areas or having reliable cell service
- Having service requests resolved within 24 hours
- Receiving same day responses to voice mail and email
We’ve declared 2013 the Year of the Satisfied Resident, and we’re committed to providing data and best practices to support you in your efforts to satisfy and retain those residents! It’s not easy – rents are increasing, and residents are pushing back. They want to know what they are getting in return for their extra $100 or more per month.
This is your chance to demonstrate to each resident every day how their life is easier, less stressful, less worrisome by living in your community than if they lived somewhere else. Sit down with your team and define those things. What makes life easier where you are?
Onsite Insites: The Property Manager’s Guide to Retention and Reputation Management
Powered by SatisFacts Research. Satisfaction, loyalty, retention are driven by the resident experience. We have identified and monitor the actionable best practices that drive resident satisfaction and performance. Our digital magazine includes articles, techniques and ideas to help your community enhance the resident experience, thereby improving its critical online reputation.
Have you read the news story about the apartment manager who makes it a point to call at least one resident per day to ask about their living experience and what can be done to make it better? Neither have I. A quick internet search for “apartment success stories” yielded zero results. But this is a new year and anything is possible at the beginning of a new year.
Every New Year brings forth all sorts of resolutions; lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, and the like. While most resolutions never make it to December 31st, here’s one that every community can make and easily achieve:
Retain as many residents as possible.
Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily so. Calculate your percentage of resident turnover for 2012 and then multiply that number by .75. What’s left is the goal to shoot for this year. Imagine what having 25% less turnover this year will do to your bottom line. Saving 1 out of every 4 residents who are thinking about moving elsewhere is all it takes.
When I was a teenager, I used to hate for my mother to get on me about chores and reminding me to not do things like leaving my shoes lying around. It seemed all she did was nag, nag, nag…sound familiar? I complained once to my father about her incessant “nagging” to which he responded, “Take the words out of her mouth. If you don’t like the nagging, stop giving her something to nag about.” Hmm, now why didn’t I think of that?
The key to resident retention works in the same way. If you don’t want residents to move out, eliminate as many reasons as possible they would have to leave the community. At your next team meeting, brainstorm reasons for moving out. The longer the list, the better. Then come up with possible solutions. One that is sure to make the list is “too expensive”. Let’s tackle that one.
When a resident says the rent is “too expensive”, it could be financially motivated; lost job, hours at work cut, roommate moving out, etc. If that is the case, is it possible to offer a smaller/less expensive apartment at your community or a transfer to a sister community? On the other hand, sometimes what a resident means when they say “too expensive” is simply a question of value. When residents are determining the overall value for the rent they are being asked to pay, it boils down to this; value equals convenience.
As we all can relate, there are businesses and services that we would willingly pay more for because of the perceived value. Whether it’s a grocery store that has stellar service, or a hair dresser that you would follow to the ends of the earth, we do so because of what we get for our money. Our residents are the same way. If you’ve ever had to meet with a resident to discuss a $10 rent increase, that’s a clear sign that the resident’s main issue is service-related and less about the dollar amount.
Residents need to feel confident that the office is responsive and dependable and that service requests are going to be handled promptly by maintenance and resolved correctly the first time. Drop the ball in these two areas and value goes out the window. Residents don’t mind rent increases – they understand it goes with the territory. What they don’t understand is being asked to pay more for lackluster service.
2013 is the year of the snake according to the Chinese calendar, but resolving to make it the year of the satisfied resident is a win-win for you and your residents. All it takes is implementing small changes that will have a big impact at your community.
This time of year is tricky. Is it ok to wish someone “Merry Christmas” or do we stick to “Happy Holidays” so that we don’t risk offending those of a different faith? Do we ask a resident if they’re spending time with their family over the holidays, or do we just keep it safe and ask if they have any plans for the coming week (just in case there is no family to spend time with).
In our business of providing homes to so many people, there’s an inherent desire to be of service to our fellow man and woman. In some ways, we hope to live by the doctor’s creed and “Do no harm.” Of course, there’s that all-important requirement that we make money while we do all of this, but there are many less personable ways to make money. Somehow, and at some point, we chose this business. We chose to be a part of this industry and to take care of people.
Inevitably, we will have a bad day. We may even have a series of bad days. Or there may be realities in our current situation that create unusual challenges on a daily basis. Despite this, there’s an opportunity – especially during this holiday season and the approach of a fresh New Year – to make a decision to make it a little easier for whoever we encounter. This can happen in a variety of ways:
- Hold the door open for that mom with the 3 kids. Give her one less task to juggle.
- Personally look for that missing cat while you’re walking the property and let the resident know you did so. Give him an assurance that you care and you’re doing what you can to help.
- Work with the maintenance team to make it possible for that new resident to move in one day early so they’ll have one less obstacle on their cross-country relocation that has been so rough.
- Stop and chat with Mr. Henry out on the property. Let him know that although he may be on his own for the holidays, he’s not alone.
- Make an exception this once and deposit the Johnson’s rent check on the 7th because you know payday is on the 6th and you can save them a penalty.
Today and everyday, you are the one who can provide comfort and joy in the world by making things just a little easier or just a little less stressful for your resident, your co-worker, your family, or even a stranger. And if we think about it, isn’t that part of the reason we chose this career path?
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December 20 – Weighing the Value of Resident Events
Do an internet search for “Resident Retention” and you’ll find hundreds ideas for resident events and activities. But what impact do these really have on resident loyalty? Learn what matters most to residents when they are making their lease renewal decision!
Influence – The most important ingredient when it comes to influence is trust.
Trust is a funny thing…hard to build, easy to destroy. When your residents trust you, your job is 100 times easier. As the coach, it is up to you to cultivate trust by establishing and adhering to standards, following through on expectations, and performing consistently every day. Residents are watching, and even more important – they are evaluating.
According to The Theory of McMillan and Chavis (1986), influence is described as:
“People who acknowledge that others’ needs, values, and opinions matter to them are often the most influential group members, while those who always push to influence, try to dominate others, and ignore the wishes and opinions of others are often the least powerful members.”
Coaches who lead teams using the “because I said so” attitude never get very far with their players. Neither do those coaches who lead by position (“I’m the coach, I call the plays”). Our resident-players want to feel as though they are contributing just as much to the team and have an equal part in its success. This goes a long way to developing a sense of community.
Residents tell us through our surveys and feedback programs what matters most to them. Onsite teams need to merely listen and act. Improving on areas of concern for your residents and showing them that what matters most to them is also what matters most to you ensures trust building. Once that trust is secured, influence is certain to follow.
MaryAnn calls the leasing office yet again. No answer. She leaves ANOTHER message about the fact that her oven won’t heat up and that she has out of town guests arriving tomorrow for dinner. Looking out the window to the leasing office, she sees Carla walking out the front door with a couple. A tour. They’re all smiling and laughing together. She remembers those days. “My, how things have changed,” she thinks.
Our property teams are coached over and over again on the importance of following up on prospect calls and emails. And with good reason! In a 2010 study commissioned by RealPage and conducted by SatisFacts, two out of three voice messages inquiring about renting were never returned! Emails had a little more luck, but even then, just over 50% of email inquiries received a response. That’s a lot of leasing commissions being left on the table!
But there’s also the critical importance of returning the calls and emails of existing residents. According to SatisFacts’ research, “Promptness of response to calls and emails” has the greatest impact on a resident’s decision to renew. The GREATEST impact!
Now we’re in a tug-of-war on who to respond to, who to call back, who to make our priority. What to do?
Communities are successful and thrive when there is a “Culture of Responsiveness” in place. That culture requires a commitment from the entire organization from the CEO down. We are an on-demand society, and no one is willing to wait a day or more to hear back on a call or email. However, often times while a property team will be told to return prospect calls immediately, or return resident calls immediately, when they need assistance from the corporate office they have to wait for a day or two themselves. The expectation for the team should be the expectation of the entire organization!
Embrace the culture of responsiveness as a way to truly impact the resident (and the team member) experience. Make a commitment within your organization that:
All calls and emails from any customer (internal or external) received by 3 p.m. needs a same day response or acknowledgement. Any calls or emails after 3 p.m. needs a response no later than 10 a.m. the next business day.
Follow-up on prospective customer calls and emails can occur once all customer calls and emails are handled.
The benefit is two-fold: the current customers will feel taken care of, and prospects who observe how well residents are treated will like what they see and their perception of value offered by the community will increase!
Want to know what your prospects thought of their visit to your community? Find out through an Insite® Unclosed Prospect survey!