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Employee Engagement

The latest multifamily research and data regarding the impact of employee engagement on resident retention, online reputation, and revenue growth.

Resident Retention: Pardon That Turkey

b2ap3_thumbnail_Turkey.jpgWe've all been guilty of it: "One-two-three-not-it!" the office team groupthinks as THAT resident comes in for the 5th time this week. Who will be the poor sucker who gets stuck this time? I'm not going to pretend that we're gonna absolutely love every person who moves into our community, but we've got to remember that each person is a customer, which makes them a VIP. And we need to treat them as such. Reality Check: Now more than ever residents are looking for a "sense of community." But according to our most recent study conducted with Ball State university this summer, "sense of community" begins with the resident's connection with the community staff, not with the other residents! So, with that reality in mind and with Thanksgiving in sight, it is entirely appropriate to discuss how to deal with those Turkeys (the people, not the birds). 1. Give a warm welcome and a fond farewell. This come straight out of the Ritz-Carlton handbook, folks. Think about when you arrive at a friend's house for dinner and how good it makes you feel when you walk in the door and your host/hostess lights up and seems thrilled to see you. While we don't need to greet each resident with a hug, we can make them feel important by being happy to see them. Often times, this one action (showing genuine warmth) can take the wind out of a complainer's sails. They may be more reluctant to demand attention on their p......
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Resident Retention: A Turn Costs What? Part 2

Why-not-VL-2012.JPGIn my previous post, "A Turn Costs What? Part 1" I stated two things: That most turnover is bad, and most turnover is something you can directly control. We covered the first statement in Part 1. Now I want to address the second statement: Most turnover is something you can directly control. According to the 2012 SatisFacts Index, residents were asked why they were not "Very Likely" to renew their lease. Here is the breakdown of the top reasons. As you can see (and no surprise), there is a high percentage of residents who say their decision is due to financial reasons. Other top reasons have to do with a perceived lack of response by the office staff, whether it is handling complaints about their neighbors or returning calls and emails same day or not reacting to pest control issues. While it's tempting to step onto my usual soap box and preach the all-importance of providing an exceptional customer experience, I'm going to address the financial issues head on. The reason?  I know we have all used this as the easy excuse, the irrefutable explanation of why a resident simply had to move. "It was too expensive. They just couldn't afford it any more." Buh-loney. In her article, "Can You Afford to Lose 67% of Your Residents, Lia Nichole Smith writes that all residents expect beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will be some kind of rent increase each and every year. It is up to us as community teams......
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Resident Retention: A Turn Costs What? Part 1

b2ap3_thumbnail_MO-Cost-Q3-2013.JPGTurnover. We're always going to have it. In some cases, turnover is good: saying goodbye to a delinquent or unruly resident who sucks up valuable staff time and resources. Some cases are uncontrollable: a resident is relocating to a new city or state, or they are buying a home. But most turnover is not only bad but something you can directly control. Let's break that statement down. "Most turnover is bad." In the 2012 NAA Survey of Operating Income and Expense, the average national turnover rate was 54%. This number has remained fairly consistent over the past several years, but the bottom line for our industry is that on average a community has to replace half of its customers every year.  Traditionally, our industry has accepted this with the thought that the units can always be leased again at a higher rate. A higher rental rate equals more income, right? Wrong.  Here's why:  Taking into account all of the costs associated with turning and re-renting a unit, on average, a community loses $2,811 every time a resident chooses to leave your community. In some markets, this number is much higher, and if we look at tough economic times, you'll see this number got up to over $4,000 per turn.  Even if you can re-rent that unit for $100 more per month, it will take over 28 months (that is more than 2 years) to re-coup that move-out cost. (By the way, how many of your residents stay for more than 2......
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Resident Retention: Is This Community Safe?

b2ap3_thumbnail_dobermans.jpg  It's the dreaded question, right? And we've learned to dance around it nicely. "While we can't guarantee anyone's safety, we have a good relationship with the local police department and we do have courtesy patrol every night..." But that's not what they're asking about, and we know it. According to new correlation studies by SatisFacts Research, "Safety and Security" is quickly rising to the top of resident and prospect priority lists. Instead of dancing around the issue and glossing over what we can't control, let's highlight what we can control: 1. Preventative maintenance It may seem like a given, but during routine maintenance and turns, ensure your teams are testing every lock on every door and window, as well as the lighting outside their front door.  Do they function as they should? If not, fix it. Residents should have absolute confidence in the basic safety mechanisms available in their home. 2. Lighting Be obsessive about conducting weekly lighting walks, including the lights outside resident doors or building entrances. Consider motion detector lighting for swimming pools. Walk every corner of your parking lot or structure after dark. Are there any dark corners? Fix it. Point out your abundant lighting to prospects and encourage residents to report any burnt out lighting that they discover. It's not as much fun to behave badly in well-lit areas, so keep the lights shining brightly! 3. Clear walkways We love beautifully landscaped communities. We don't love overgrown, hidden corners. Collaborate with your landscape vendors to w......
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Somehow. Some Day. Somewhere!

b2ap3_thumbnail_Reaching-up.JPGI look to the sky, and wait for an answer!   "When will my toilet be fixed, and has my request to move my assigned parking spot even been looked at?"   For most residents on most days of living in an apartment community, the routine is simple: They wake up, they go about their daily obligations, they may fit in some leisure activities, they go to bed.  But then there are those certain days when their routine gets derailed, in large ways or small. A burner on the stove stops working. They receive a late rent notice. Someone parks in their assigned spot. There is dog waste outside their home for the 3rd day in a row.  That is when residents look to their property management teams for help. For answers. For solutions.  Do they raise their hands in futility as they wait endlessly for assistance, or do they have confidence that the team will listen and help immediately?   These are the moments of truth. These are the memorable moments. And YOU have the power to make them memorable in a really good way, or a really bad way. Either way, keep in mind that it is very likely that that memory you make together will be broadcast across the world wide web within minutes.  So, how do make your interactions divinely memorable, worthy of a virtual thumbs-up? Respond! Whether a resident calls, emails or stops by, really listen to what they are saying or asking. Let them f......
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How Satisfied Am I? Do You Care?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Meritage-view.jpgCall me a glutton for punishment or call me someone dedicated to her line of work.  Either way, I got a little curious about the outside survey world and decided to respond to every single survey requested of me for about 60 days. In all, my experiment lasted from December 2012 through the first week of February 2013. I wanted to see: Would I ever win any of those drawings most companies use as incentives to complete their survey? How many companies would respond to my completion of their survey? Over the course of those two months, I faithfully stored up my receipts for grocery stores, drugstores, drive-thru’s, department stores, and the post office. And each evening I would follow the instructions on those receipts to go online and complete those surveys. I clicked on survey links for hotel stays, flights, online purchases, and website opinion surveys and let them know what I thought.  I even answered a few phone surveys (as painful as they were) regarding local radio stations and my banking experience. All told, I completed over 60 surveys. February passed, and each day I would trot along to the mailbox hoping for an announcement of my winning at least ONE of the drawings I had supposedly been entered in. Unfortunately, the answer to my first question above was a resounding, “No. You will not win a single drawing.” Oh well. I also checked each of my email accounts daily, wondering when I would hear from some of these org......
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Resident Retention: Make Your Tomorrow Easier

Resident Retention: Make Your Tomorrow EasierThe weekend before Christmas! I'm guessing there are a LOT of little kids running around the property with that look of elation and anticipation of Santa... presents... and MORE presents! And then there are their parents and other adults scurrying in and out of their homes with a look of panic and anticipation of in-laws... forgetting SOMEONE's gift... having to attend THAT event. The office and maintenance teams are extra busy, soothing frazzled nerves, fixing all those little things that weren't really a big deal until Grandma confirmed she would be stopping by this weekend, throwing last minute holiday parties and then getting all their regular work done, PLUS end of year requirements, and so on. It's a part of every year, this holiday bustle with emotions running high. And there are reasons this year that crank those emotions up even higher for many people. Knowing that, give yourself permission to do just one thing each day to make tomorrow easier. Return one more phone call so that THAT resident won't be freaking out over the phone or in person tomorrow. Print out one more finalized lease package so that the family moving in during the holidays can keep their momentum rolling and not have to wait for one more thing. Set a timer for 15 minutes and do a quick email box clean-up, responding to or passing along any questions or requests that can take a minute or less. Finish that one report this evening before you go home -......
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The Patchwork Prospect

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG-20121126-00335.jpgMy Grandma took up quilting in her mid-fifties. After deciding to go after her goal of graduating from college and becoming an elementary school teacher, she thought it was time for a new challenge. And so, quilting it was! She gave me one when I took off for college. It served as my bedspread in all my dorm rooms. She made one for the birth of each of my 2 daughters. Over the years, her work has become more intricate and bold. Not only does she choose the colors, prints and sizes of squares for each quilt, she now hand crafts and works in embroidered squares. If you've ever seen a quilter at work, it's always interesting to see how incredibly symmetrical and clean the lines are. What the world sees is nothing short of perfection. But turn an unfinished quilt over and you see all the dirty work. Seam allowances are varied, the thread may have become knotted and gnarled in this or that section. The square that was beautifully embroidered on one side is a lumpy, mangled mess on the back side. The recipient isn't intended to see that part, however. The batting and finally the backing are sewn on to hide the internal controlled chaos.  Once finished, all you can see is beauty and precision. My 8-month-old's quilt split at the seam recently. It has been used, washed and loved so much in such a short time, we've already started to wear it out. As I was ha......
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Resident Retention: The Heat is On

Apartment maintenanceTemperatures are slowly dropping across the country, and that means residents will be turning up the heat in their homes - which means a fresh round of service requests for our maintenance teams!    So while they are proactively asking residents to check and test their heating systems, ovens and stove tops before the holidays arrive, it's a great time to "turn up the heat" on the little graces and courtesies that encourage the residents' love for your community to Burn, baby, burn!- When it comes to service requests, T.M.I. does not apply! Write the most detail you can to set up maintenance teams for success!- Maintenance teams: smile and greet residents by name whenever possible. They'll feel like V.I.P.'s and will spread the word on your personalized service.- Wear shoe covers when entering a resident's home. This is a physical sign of respect for their home and can reduce the amount of dirt or precipitation that you might track in during the winter months.- Leave the work area as clean as or cleaner than you found it. When the work area is spotless, residents have greater confidence in the quality of your work.- If the repair will be delayed for any reason (i.e. super short staffed for the week, part needs to be ordered, warranty issue, outside vendor needed), notify the resident and give estimate of when work should be completed.- Follow up on completed service requests to ensure everything was completed to their expectation.Remember that "Quality of Maintenance Services" as the......
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Resident Retention: Southwest Airlines and Their Remarkable Recovery

In the grand scheme of things, I’m a fairly recent convert to Southwest Airlines. There were a few things that changed my perception of them: when they changed their old ‘cattle call’ boarding process to numerical order, for example. And they added ‘Business Select’ to give frequent flyers the ability to board in the first group, thus having better seating choices and quicker access to overhead storage for their roller bags. And they were consistently on time! At a time in the airline industry when delays and cancellations became the norm, Southwest continued to have the highest on time departure stats.  Whenever I fly on the West Coast, I will only fly Southwest because I know I’ll get there when they promised I will. Cut to Friday. In celebrating their 3 millionth Facebook fan, they offered 50% off flights. As you can imagine, the response was overwhelming. So overwhelming, their system began to do very bad things. As it happened, I was booking travel that day and noticed the web site having some issues, but I didn’t think much of it. When I went to purchase my flight, a notice came up that said there were issues with my credit card and to try again later. Even then I figured their system was having issues and I decided to revisit it that evening. Seconds later, I received 3 separate flight confirmations and confirmation numbers for the same flight. My credit card had been charged 3 times. I tried to call Southwest......
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