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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: The Truth About Retention in THIS Economy

It's exciting to see so many property management companies and individual communities devote more time and attention to retention efforts. In a recent MFI blog post,  the question was raised regarding the claim that the average resident turnover across the nation is at 60%. While turnover has hovered around 60% for the past several years, according to the annual NAA Income and Expense Survey, we are seeing some bright spots. 

For those organizations who are focusing on the key areas affecting service delivery, it is indeed paying off. According to the new SatisFacts Index that was just released this month, the percentage of residents who say they are "Very Likely to Renew" actually increased over the prior year!

The other great news was that those residents saying they were "Not Likely to Renew" decreased!

 Of course, this shift did not take place on its own. It happened because individual property management professionals, individual property teams, and individual property management companies made the decision to focus on the things that matter most to their residents. They took the time to find out what those things were, and they listened.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing more of what matters most to residents and prospects based on our latest  research. Congratulations to all of you Multifamily Insiders who are making a positive daily impact on your residents and seeing the results of lower turnover!


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Resident Retention: "It's Not Really 'Stripping,' It Takes Skill"

I happened to be in town visiting some relatives when I was invited to go along while my cousin picked up some paperwork for her new apartment. With me, her mom, and an additional aunt in tow, we all trooped into the leasing office of a sizeable community, where a very friendly leasing agent helped us. I come from an extremely conservative family, so imagine my magnified horror when two of the other leasing agents gabbed at a nearby desk with one telling the other, "It's not really 'stripping.' It takes some serious skill. Besides, I've always been comfortable with my body, and I know my parents would support the idea of me using my dance training. Plus, I can get some fat cash in just one or two nights a week!"I could see from the look on my cousin's mother's face that the fate of the apartment lease was hanging in a very delicate balance. In the end, my cousin did end up with the apartment, but it could have just as easily gone the other way. Customer service isn't just about answering questions, providing solutions, and being available. It's also about creating a comfortable environment and making it easy to be a resident. And these are things that don't cost a cent! It's a New Year, so how about these ideas for an office makeover resolution:1. Always stand and smile to greet anyone who enters the office, whether existing resident or new prospect. 2. If on the phone when someone enters, make......
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Resident Retention: Do We Have To Renew THAT Resident?

You know the one. Maybe even "The Ones." Those residents who can cause an entire staff to inwardly groan upon their entrance to the leasing office. Suddenly everyone is incredibly busy. It's the be-all-end-all game of musical chairs, with the last one standing having the "deal with" said resident. Let's be honest. Not everyone is going to like us, and we're not going to like every single person we meet. However, part of being a professional is acting professionally - which infers the ability to handle all situations in a professional manner. And professionals are always prepared. (As are Boy Scouts, but I digress.) As a Leasing Professional, you would never dream of conducting a prospect tour without having explored or planning the tour route ahead of time.When you come on board at a new property, that's one of the first things you do: walk the tour route, familiarize yourself with the property, its amenities, its perks, etc. And as a Leasing and Customer Care Professional, having a plan for "Those Residents" so that you are always prepared enables you to be the professional you are. So, how do you possibly plan ahead for these unexpected encounters?First of all, acknowledge to yourself the residents you tend to want to avoid the most. You don't need to share with anyone who these people are. Just be honest with yourself that these are individuals with whom you have challenges.Second, remind yourself that your next interaction will be a positive one, with a positive......
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Resident Retention: The Dirt on Dirty Jobs

 This resident called at 9:13 a.m. this morning telling the Leasing Manager that her Master bedroom toilet was running. The Leasing Manager took down all her information, entered a detailed service request into the PM system. The Maintenance Supervisor assigned this service request, among others, to the maintenance team. A Maintenance Tech arrived at the resident's home and fixed the constant water running by 1:57 p.m.  The resident was not home at the time, but the Maintenance Tech left a note behind letting her know what had been done, that the work was complete, and to please call the office if she had any questions. When the resident arrived home from work, she found that her toilet would now only run occasionally if she forgot to jiggle the handle, and she also found this:    Two questions:1. In her mind, is the service request complete?2. What is her new opinion of the community's  maintenance team?Based on year-to-date stats, when residents were asked if the maintenance team cleaned up their work area after completing a service request, 95.12% said yes. This is great news! Give your maintenance teams a pat on the back for excellent service delivery! As with all things, there is still continued room for focus as it should be a basic standard that the work areas is left as clean or cleaner than the way the maintenance team found it. When it's not (as seen in photo) the resident questions what kind of 'work' was really done! However, when residents......
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Resident Retention: There's a Hole in the Bucket

  Service requests, maintenance requests, work orders, maintenance work orders, MSR's - whatever you call them, they arrive in abundance each and every day on site. It's one of the benefits our residents have: to not worry about repairs and maintenance. That's our job. However, a slow or ineffective service request process can have one of the greatest negative impacts on a resident's experience at our community. It may be time to step back and take a look at what we do and how we do it when it comes to service request resolution. The first step is to ensure the entire team realizes they are a critical part of the service request process, not just the maintenance team. Here's why: 1. Detailed Service Requests - Often, it is the leasing team who is receiving calls and emails for service request submission. Have your maintenance supervisor conduct a 10-15 minute overview for the entire team of all the information they need for a service request every single time. If a toilet is having a problem - which bathroom (if there is more than one)? What part of the toilet is having problems? These types of questions help eliminate the time maintenance will have to spend playing 'detective' when they get to the home. 2. Requests are Immediately Entered into the System - Leasing offices are busy places. There is no denying this truth. So most of us can relate to a hectic day when residents are throwing questions and requests at us and we......
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Resident Retention: The New World Order - Brace Yourselves

I hope this comes as no surprise, but based on the productivity studies I've conducted with nationally acclaimed property management organizations, at least 50% of a leasing agent's time is spent with existing residents. One-half. That  ain't no small potatoes. So, if that much of our leasing team's time is spent on basic customer service, and if resident retention is the key to increasing, or at least maintaining our property's cash flow and net operating income, it's time we all face the facts and accept the New World Order. Our prioritization deck has just been shuffled. Based on all our research and the impact this has on turnover rates, here is your new priority mission (should you choose to accept it).When finding oneself with any free moments - and I know firsthand how rare those can be -  return these calls and emails in the following order:#1 Existing Residents. They have a question, a service request, a complaint, a suggestion. And we know from our data that this one action on your part, getting back to them immediately, has the greatest impact on their decision to renew. It makes it easy for them to continue to be a resident.#2 Completed Service Requests. This is your G-O-L-D-E-N opportunity to see if the request was completed to their satisfaction, catch anything that may have fallen through the cracks, immediately correct any outstanding problem, clarify any misunderstandings/miscommunications, and ask the million-dollar-question: "And is there anything else I can do for you?" This action has the......
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Time, Time, Time, See What's Become of Me

What is it with doctor's offices?  Why is it acceptable to both provider and patient to expect a delay of a half hour, an hour, or more?I set up my annual eye exam last week specifically with Dr. D. I arrived 5 minutes before my appointment time and waited about 15 minutes before being ushered into exam room #1 where they take initial readings. I was then ushered into exam room #2 and instructed to remove my contacts and the doctor would be right in. Out came the contacts, and I sat blindly for 15, 20, 30, 45 minutes. No doctor. I felt my way to the door and let the office manager know it was over 1 hour past my appointment time, and I needed to leave soon to pick up my daughter from daycare. The response, "Yeah, well she's still in with the a patient." She? My doctor is a man. "So, my appointment is not with Dr. D?""Uh, no. He's on vacation." No acknowledgment of missing an opportunity to communicate a change of plans, no recognition of the amount of time I had been waiting. No reassurance that the doctor would be with me as soon as she could. I waited five more minutes, put my contacts back in, and let them know I might call to reschedule, though I know I won't. I'm going elsewhere. This is the second time in my three annual visits where I've had a similar experience.As I analyzed the situation, my concerns, their response -......
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3-2-1 Contact

 Can we take a step back from social media for a second and focus on the 'social' aspect of the concept? As we all know, providing excellent service to our residents involves communicating with them and being 'social' to some extent. And yet, if we truly examine our ability to reach out to our residents with any hope of success, we have to be able to make contact with them, call them, email them. Problem #1: On average, property management systems only have 50% of current resident phone numbers.  Problem #2: On average, these same PM systems only have 15% of email addresses for residents.  Before you propose the latest "Resident Contact Update Form," let's let go of what's been done in the past (typically unsuccessfully), and learn from the medical, insurance, and even hairdressing industries. Whenever we contact our doctor, our bank, and any number of other service providers, the first question they ask is, "Is this still the best number to reach you?  What is the best email address for you?"  The thing is, we provide the information. Your residents will too. Start your October off with a commitment to having the ability to contact your residents. Every time they stop in or give you a call, pull up their record in the PM system and ask, "Is this the best number for you? Is this the best email?" Set a goal for your team to achieve 80% coverage by the end of the year. You can do it! You can......
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Resident Retention: Come On In! The Appliances Are (urm) Fine...

Houston, we have a problem


Houston, we have a problem
Houston, we have a problem!

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?

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Resident Retention: The Most Interesting Man in the World

He is the most interesting man in the world.I have greatly enjoyed the Dos Equis ad campaign spotlighting 'the most interesting man in the world.' He's like James Bond and George Clooney rolled into one. The idea of being charismatic and interesting to draw others in is an often-used relationship building (and sales) tactic. However, the idea of being the most interesting man (or woman) in the world, and trying to convey the actuality of being that interesting most often are two very different things and have very different results. He is the most interesting man in the world.When it comes to establishing  or solidifying connections with prospects, existing residents, co-workers and even vendors, it is more effective to find out what is important to that person, their expectations, questions, objections, interests, etc. rather than showcase how interesting or fabulous your community, apartment homes, amenities, rental rates or staff are. That information is best and most impactful when used in response to the other person's interests. In Nicholas Boothman's September 2, 2009 blog post, Humbility, he shares a story illustrating this point exactly: "Benjamin Disraeli became a Member of the Parliament of Great Britain at thirty-three, and its prime minister at sixty-four. Disraeli's main political rival was William Gladstone, a four-time Liberal prime minister who was renowned for his abilities as a speaker. One evening, Mr. Gladstone took a young woman out to dinner: the following evening the same woman had dinner with Mr. Disraeli. Asked later what impressions the two distinguished men had made upon her, she replied,......
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