You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘maintenance’ tag.
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.
I remember my junior year in high school, we had to memorize and recite a portion of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. It was Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy and it went something like this:
To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
Memorizing and reciting the entire passage was easy enough but fast forward a few months to the final exam where we were asked to decipher its literal meaning. At the time, I managed to give a somewhat plausible explanation but as anyone who’s ever been 15 can attest, I had no clue just how true Shakespeare’s words would eventually apply to real life.
The general idea behind his words is this: you are presented with two options, which do you choose? Both come with their own set of pros and cons; both options seem like the right way to go. So again, which do you choose? Like the phrase “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Is it better to fry in the pan or jump into the fire when the end result is ultimately the same?
Apartment communities are faced with similar decisions every day. Should we turn apartments or complete resident service requests? Do we concentrate on leasing or securing renewals? Which is more important – move-in concessions or renewal offers? Oh the questions can go on for days and the pros and cons for each option are endless.
Fortunately, the choices have already been made for you – your residents have spoken. These are the people who have already chosen to live at your community. They are the ones paying rent and if happy, will sing your praises to anyone who will listen. By focusing on what matters most to your current residents you can remove the proverbial “revolving door” that so many communities are battling against.
Our research shows that residents primarily expect two things from their management teams. First, they want the office to create a “culture of responsiveness” which means a prompt response to calls and emails, following up on completed service requests, being dependable and acting with professionalism and courtesy. The second expectation is all about the service request process. Residents want problems in their apartment to be handled quickly, cleanly, and with such quality that the problem is resolved the first time.
Based on our annual surveys, clients who score very high in questions relating to office communication and service delivery on average have a higher percentage of residents who say they are “very likely” to renew. Concentrate your efforts on streamlining your service request process and setting high priorities for resident call backs and resolutions. While not all resident attrition can be eliminated, every resident who chooses to renew will contribute to your community’s overall asset value – keeping you out of both the frying pan and the fire…decision made simple.
“Quality of maintenance services,” and “quality of service provided by office staff,” have the greatest impact on a resident’s decision to renew their lease, according to the study, “Getting Inside the Head of the Online Renter,” by SatisFacts and 30Lines. Now that it is summer, property teams have to deal with heavy turnovers, heavy leasing activities, and some of the most challenging weather that pushes HVAC systems to their limit. How do your office and maintenance teams balance all these critical and conflicting needs while ensuring day-to-day customer service and routine maintenance to both residents and prospects continue
s at world class level? Let’s hear your great success stories!
We love our maintenance teams! And why wouldn’t we? They are the ones who save the day on a daily basis, whether it’s changing a light bulb or repairing the oven before a family reunion! We hire our maintenance teams based on skill, experience, sometimes even certifications. They are jack-of-all-trades in most cases.
Then why, after SatisFacts has surveyed over a million apartment units, do 24% of all residents say their service request was not completed right the first time?
Shocking, isn’t it? Having to do re-work can more-than-double the original cost of the repair. And resident dissatisfaction can cost more than $4000 in turnover costs when they choose to move elsewhere! But before we start questioning our hiring practices or our maintenance team’s skills, we have to look at the bigger picture. And the entire team has to get involved.
1. When residents call in or drop off a service request, does the office team ask the right questions and gather the necessary information? If it’s a reported leak, do we note that it is a leak in the kitchen, the bathroom, the toilet? Under the sink, from the faucet, from the base of the bathtub?
2. Even if we are asking the right questions, does the property management system provide the ability to enter detailed notes? If not, can IT provide a solution, or is there a notes box in the system where some notes could be entered?
3. When the maintenance team gets the request, do they have the tools, training and materials to resolve the most common problems in that community? If there are an unusual number of HVAC repairs needed every year, and no one on the team is HVAC certified, this can create delays or incomplete solutions.
4. After the request is complete, is the area left as clean or cleaner than they found it? Or after a drywall repair, are there chunks of drywall and lots of dust left behind? Additional mess caused by the repair often prompts a resident to question the integrity of the repair itself.
5. Once the request is entered as complete in the PM system, does the office call or email the resident to ensure everything was completed? This is a critical step because it acts as a customer service safety net in case something did fall through the cracks or get miscommunicated – or if the repair actually failed. Better for the team to seek out potential issues rather than residents discovering problems and then getting worked up about how ‘careless’ they think the team is.
With all the team members working together, your residents will gain even more confidence in, not only the maintenance team, but the entire community team!
Hopefully, we all understand very clearly how critical the move-in process is for establishing a positive resident relationship from Day 1. However, in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, an astonishing figure has come to my attention:
According to 2nd Quarter 2009 data from SatisFacts Research, only 73% of residents indicated that all appliances and fixtures worked properly upon move-in!
That means more than one-quarter of all new residents had an appliance or fixture that did not work.
Are we okay with this stat? I hope not, because unresolved issues at move-in reduce the percent of residents “very likely” to renew by one-quarter!
So, what to do? Let’s re-evaluate the make-ready inspection process. One tip I learned from Bill Nye is the concept of “walking right,” or “follow the wall.” This means, for the final inspection, the maintenance team member enters the apartment and follows the wall to the right stopping to check each light switch, outlet, phone jack, window treatment, doorknob, appliance, light fixture, etc. Eventually, you end up at the front door again.
Rework is always costly – whether in time, materials, customer patience, or all of the above. Ensuring the resident’s new home is truly in move-in condition will be the first critical step in assuring the resident they have made the right decision in making their home in your community.
What make-ready inspection tips are effective for you?
I just got back from Boise, Idaho recently to visit family and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Northwest U.S. I found out a cousin who has been living with her parents for various family reasons is now looking for a rental situation. I asked her what kinds of deals she was finding in the apartment market in Boise, and while she told me what I expected to hear – that the move-in deals were pretty amazing – she had chosen to submit a rental application for a single family home with a yard. This is no new story to any of us, and she shared all the reasons we’ve heard before:
- Fenced in yard
- Same price as an apartment
- No shared walls
- Lots of space
- And the neighborhood even had a pool and clubhouse!
Yes, the shadow market is alive and well, there’s no point in denying that. We’re competing with it for prospects as well as our existing residents! While there are many experts on the leasing side who can offer strategies and approaches to get new prospects in the door, there is a need to continue to use some of these same strategies to keep the residents we have. Remember the TV show, The Jeffersons? The theme song is all about moving to a “deluxe apartment.” How do we re-kindle that pride of residency in our own community? When it comes to existing residents telling us at renewal time that they are considering renting a single family home or condo, it may be an opportune moment to remind them of some of the extra costs that could be associated with renting a single family home:
- How quickly are maintenance issues resolved?
- What will it cost to maintain lawns/landscaping in summer or sidewalks and driveways in winter?
- Who pays for water/sewer/trash?
- What will utility bills look like in order to heat/cool the home?
- Who provides window coverings?
- Does the neighborhood have a pool, clubhouse, fitness room? If not, what will it cost for memberships at local facilities?
While the initial monthly rental rate may be equal to or better than the resident’s current rate, what other costs do they need to consider? And, ultimately, the renewal decision is most influenced by the service delivery the residents are experiencing. Are you offering your residents service that can not be matched? Meaning, do you return their calls and emails same day? Are their service requests completed in 24 hours, and are they completed right the first time? And as the theme song says, do your residents feel they have “finally got a piece of the pie?”
Summer is here, and we’re all waiting to see what levels of turnover will occur. Our typical summer experience, especially where our maintenance teams are concerned, is an increase in turnovers and the increased focus on getting newly vacated apartments ready for potential new move-ins. The result? Existing residents may have to wait a little longer to have a service request issue resolved. It might take a little longer to hear back on the status of an ordered part or a scheduled vendor.
But wait! Doesn’t it seem strange that we would prioritize empty apartments above our rent-paying customers? It’s almost as frustrating as standing in the check-out line, money in hand, to buy the perfect prom dress, but the clerk is busy dressing the mannequin in the store window and can’t be bothered. Something’s wrong with this picture!
We see the cycle. We know the cycle. There are times of the year that typically bring an increase in turnover, and times of the year that typically experience less turnover. Knowing this, what if we did something radical – something that turns what has been the norm in our industry for years and years on its ear? What if we reduced or retired our monthly resident events (that may draw a handful of attendees) and shifted those dollars to that time of year when we know turnover is traditionally heaviest? What if we shifted those dollars to hire temporary, part-time maintenance help to ensure our existing residents were never affected by the ups and downs of our business cycle?
Depending on your location, $6,500 can hire a part-time technician for over 430 hours – which equates to 30 hours/week for 14 weeks, more than covering the typical heavy turnover season. This is a strategy that provides a direct return on investment. Maintaining steady, consistent focus on reducing outstanding maintenance issues translates to higher resident satisfaction which results in increased lease renewal likelihood.
Resident events, move-in gifts, hard copy newsletters are great as icing on the cake when service delivery is top notch and running like a well oiled machine. How many of us can say with 100% confidence that this is the case for our property or portfolio? I know there are many of you out there who can! And there are many others who are making great strides. But as we all focus on minimizing turnover, the foundation of retention is how well we perform in service delivery. And it can be those part-time, temporary maintenance Boys (or Girls) of Summer that can make all the difference!
Yesterday, the unthinkable happened. I was on three separate flights, and they were All On Time. Yes, you read that correctly. All three flights (2 separate airlines), were on time and even a couple of minutes early. Thank you Delta and Horizon. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was!
And then I began to think how absurd it was that I was that ecstatic over a service provider doing what it says it will do. I’ve written on the subject before, and I’ll just have to do it again, because every time I run into an example, I think it’s hilarious how excited I get that someone has done exactly what they have promised to do.
It doesn’t matter if the provider has spelled out the promise or has simply implied it. Our experience of service in this world is such that we often expect disappointment. What are the promises you have explicitly (fully and clearly expressed) or implicitly (implied, rather than clearly stated) given your residents and prospects? Do you know how well you are delivering on your promises?
Some promises your prospects and residents believe you have made:
- The agreed-upon apartment will be completely clean and all appliances and fixtures will be in good working order when I move in;
- I will be treated as well as all the other residents, and that means we all experience courtesy and respect;
- Service requests are easy to submit, and it will be addressed within 48 hours (though I really expect 24 hours);
- The office and maintenance team will remember my name after we’ve had an interaction;
- If I call or email the office, I will hear back from them on that same day;
- The entire staff wants me to feel comfortable and happy in my home;
- If any resident breaks the rules, the office will address it promptly and consistently (even if it’s me!);
- The maintenance team will leave my home as clean as, or cleaner than, they found it when completing a service request.
This is just a sample list of some of the promises the prospects and residents believe you have made to them. Do any of them surprise you? What other promises have been made? How well are you and your team delivering on these promises? And most important, are your prospects and residents surprised when you deliver?
You should see the tweets regarding the AIM (Apartment Internet Marketing) Conference! (For those of you not yet on Twitter, well, all I can tell you is this is the next wave you should be riding). While hundreds of brilliant minds are focusing on internet marketing strategies and trends, here I am thinking about internal marketing and the role the internet plays.
We can’t ignore the presence of technology in our world and in our communities. How we shop, communicate, pay our bills, complete school homework, and even how we work is changing dramatically. In fact, when residents were surveyed regarding their preferred hours of access to the leasing office, nearly 15% of residents said they wanted 24/7 accessibility!
Can we staff our management offices all night long? (All night?)
The answer is, while we may not be able to physically staff our management offices, we can increase the hours in which residents can conduct business with us. And technology is the answer. How?
Do you have online service request submission? Do you offer online rent payments? Do you have office email addresses? Do you have online community news? If you have at least one of these offerings, you have just ‘virtually extended’ your office hours! The question is: Do your residents know?
You know how relentless you are with marketing your vacant apartments. Whether through print ads, online sites, craigslist, etc., there is constant attention drawn to you in the marketplace. Or, at least, that’s the goal. It’s time to apply the same relentless mindset to promoting your internal resources and showing the continued value you provide for your existing residents.
- When they stop by the office or call in a service request, remind them of your online services. (Not to deter them from contacting you personally, but to be aware of your many points of contact.)
- At lease renewal and during prospect tours, conduct an online tour. Show them how easy it is to submit a service request or an online payment.
If your residents don’t know about these great ‘amenities,’ you’re throwing valuable dollars down the drain. Internet marketing doesn’t just apply to your prospective residents. It’s a critical strategy to add value to your existing residents too!