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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: Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella on a Rainy, Rainy Day

Does anyone remember that song from the Sesame Street soundtrack? Then there are the sayings, "Take those lemons and make lemonade," and "Every cloud has a silver lining." Whatever rah-rah pep talk floats your boat, it's time to dust it out and lay it on the troops. Yes, things are challenging. Yes, there are move-outs we can not control. But you've got to remember that whenever a door is closed, a window opens. I heard the greatest idea from Valerie Sargent at a stop on the Multifamilypro Brainstorming Tour last week here in Southern California.  She suggested that when a good resident gives their notice, and it is something that can absolutely not be influenced (job transfer, home purchase, etc.), and the resident gives verbal kudos to the team, don't be afraid to ask them something to this effect: "Thank you so much for the compliment! Would you be willing to write that in a letter or email and allow us to use a quote for our web site/print ads/brochures?" "We're so glad you've had such a good experience! May I ask you to share your experience online at www.apartmentratings.com (or whatever apartment search site is most popular in your area)?" While our research shows that 60% of turnover is controllable, and can be impacted by our service delivery practices, there's that 40% or so that we may not be able to affect. In those cases, and when appropriate, let those departing residents be a part of your referral and promotion......
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Resident Retention: You Had Me (or Lost Me) at Hello

I have to say it. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. How many times have we heard that? It has turned into one of those phrases we've seen and heard so many times that it doesn't mean anything any more. Let me re-introduce you to it now.  In every leasing and service situation, we have a few opportunities to make a first impression. The first time a prospect calls or emails us. The first time they drive up to the leasing office. The first time they take a tour. The first time they enter their new home as 'official residents.' First impression time is not over once they sign the lease. There is always Move In Day! And in my opinion, this is the most critical first impression you've got! I heard a great example of a fabulous Move-In Day first impression from military housing, though it translates beautifully to any move-in.  On MoveIn Day, the leasing agent saw the maintenance team had confirmed the home was clean and ready for the family, so she did a last minute walk-through to give it a double check. Everything was in order. She then reviewed the lease documents and made a mental note of all the family member names. When they arrived, she stood and greeted them with, "Welcome to Sunny Meadows! We have been expecting you." She shook hands with the husband and wife and greeted them with, "Good morning, Mr. Sanchez. It's so good to see......
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Resident Retention: Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's (???) Door...

Have you ever seen anything that is awesomely bad? You spot one of those songs or hairdo's or outfits from the 60's, 70's, 80's (what the heck, maybe you see someone sporting Hammer pants), and think to yourself, "Someone thought that was a good idea once." Our human history is full of those decisions that, at a particular moment, seemed like a good idea. And yet, upon further reflection or changing social norms, those decisions come back to bite us on the hindquarters. This sign, I believe, is one of those decisions. The intent? Probably to let a prospect or resident know that a closed door might not mean 'closed,' nor might an unanswered door mean, 'no one is here to help you.' And yet, I have to say, this sign awesomely, spectacularly, and most unfortunately conveys, "Your time is not as valuable as mine. If you REALLY need to speak to someone, sit around for an unspecified amount of time, and if you're lucky, someone may notice you there." I had the delightful opportunity this weekend to be treated like a valued customer, and I'm going to tell you all about it because is was so incredibly simple, but so overwhelmingly powerful. I was visiting a local golf course, and I had a question for the woman at the reception desk. Just as I stepped forward to ask my question, her phone rang. I began to swallow back the words that had been forming in my mouth, knowing that she......
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Resident Retention: If it weren't for all the residents, I'd love apartment management!

   Browsing some other multifamily blogs today, I noticed one that read, "Do New Residents Make People Move Out of Your Apartments?" I liked the author's line of thinking, because the heart of the matter is that perception of Value.  As we wine and dine any prospects we can get our hands on, offering discounts, upgrades, vacations and what not, our long-term residents can begin to feel, "What am I? Chopped liver?" Quotable quotes from real resident satisfaction surveys: "The attention and service from the leasing and office staff is great before moving in; after you move in, it all stops." "The biggest problem to me is to get a response from the person who was my leasing agent. I have tried to set up a meeting with the manager about my concerns, but have had no luck." "Getting a returned call or email now that I have moved in would be nice." Yikes! As we place more focus on closing the back door, remember it's a question of whether the resident is seeing the value your community provides. Yes, the rental rate is one big aspect of value, but another aspect of value is what they get for that rate they are paying: - Quick resolution of submitted service requests - Quick responses to calls and emails - Notification of delayed work order resolution, or upcoming inconveniences (slurry seals, office closures, etc.) - Convenient service offerings, such as online work order submission, online rent payments, text work order submission The decision......
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Resident Retention: S-E-R-V-I-C-E! Find out what it means to me!

I grew up in a town where the nearest Nordstrom was a 6-hour drive away. Needless to say, the folk-lore surrounding the Nordstrom level of service was the stuff of legends by the time I moved to Southern California and had no less than 3 of the stores within a 15 mile radius of my home. You can imagine the anticipation that had built up as I walked through the doors of this promised land. I was going to buy a New Suit. From ‘Nordy’s,’ as those in the know call it.

I walked through the appropriate department, eyes bright, scanning for that most-helpful-in-the-world sales person. There she was! I couldn’t imagine how the exchange would begin. I smiled. I held my breath. She was speaking with another woman. I slowed my walk to allow their conversation to finish. It did not. I slowed even more. This was going to be great. I came to a full stop at a rack of suits within her line of sight, maybe 5 feet away. I noticed the other woman was also a sales person. Surely they would stop what they were doing! Surely they would be more than happy to help me find my New Suit. But they didn’t. They weren’t. I got a glance. A look up and down. And their conversation continued.

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Resident Retention: Just the Facts, Ma'am

 Have you heard the phrase, "Perception is reality?" It's a phrase that is tossed about rather frequently, and I think it's time to shake up our perceptions a little bit. Once we've been in 'the biz' for any number of years, we become accustomed to certain situations, certain challenges, certain personalities, etc. In response, we develop personal systems, catch phrases, solutions that can easily address those certain situations, challenges, etc.  It's how we adapt. It's how we avoid what has come to be known as "re-creating the wheel." However, times change, customer requirements and preferences change, and our stock solutions, phrases and systems must change with them.  For example, historically the assumption has been that if a property is low-income, the residents may not have as much access to, or savvy regarding, technology (internet, in particular).  The facts show otherwise. In a resident technology study SatisFacts conducted for NMHC in 2006, we found that across all demographics 78% of all residents surveyed used computersand the internet at home and 74% used the internet at least 1 day per week. That was 2006. I guarantee that number has increased dramatically in 3 years.The 2008 SatisFacts Index showed that 59% of residents indicated email as the preferred method of communication with their leasing office. That's up from 30% in 2007. What do your residents prefer? Stop guessing. Stop assuming! Resident preferences change, and in times like these, we can't afford not to know the facts about what is most important to them.  THROW YOUR......
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Resident Retention: Love You Long Time... I think

I've lived in a handful of apartments over the years, and though I might not be able to tell you what I ate for dinner two nights ago, I can tell you how long I lived in each of my apartments. There was my first apartment in a historic home. No A/C, poor heat, but I loved it. Just over a year. Next one? 1 year. Then 2 dreadful months. Then 18 lovely months. I could go on, but I won't. The 18-month place, I would have stayed for years, but I ended up moving out of state. The next long-term apartment was 2 years, and I would have stayed there longer too, but we bought a house. I remember how long (or short) I stayed and exactly why. Most residents do. However, very few property owners bother to track length of residency for their residents. They look at turnover, occupancy, traffic conversion, but not length of residency. And why not?  This one metric tells you so much. It can be one of those indicators of how well (or badly) things are going on site. Check it out: In 2008, out of more than 30,000 satisfaction survey respondents, we found that nearly 30% had been living in their apartment for 1-2 years. Over 16% had lived there for 3-5 years, and over 10% claimed more than 6 years in their current apartment. Are these residents celebrated? They should be. These are your bread and butter customers, the foundation upon which your......
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Resident Retention: (Rolling of the eyes) "We don't DO that"

Over the weekend, my husband and I took our 10-month old for a stroll to take in the rather nice weather and also to stop in a coffee joint that begins with a "St" and ends with "arbucks." Because it was late in the afternoon, we decided to order basic decaf coffees to avoid caffeine that may make it difficult to fall asleep later. As I stood in front of the barista and placed my order, he actually rolled his eyes and then cocked his head toward me as though addressing an annoying child and said, "Um, we don't serve decaf after noon," as though this was a given... like not wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Or is it Memorial Day? Whatever. He continued to stand there and stare at me and glanced at his non-existent wristwatch as though I was purposefully wasting his time. I began to feel that I was on some 'Candid Camera' episode, the whole thing seemed so ridiculous. As I desperately scanned the menu board, searching for anything with minimal - to - no caffeine, he finally suggested a decaf Americano. I went with it. The fact that I paid with a gift card nearly pushed him over the edge, and it showed when he said, sarcastically, "Would you like a receipt?" I should have said yes. Fortunately, I was in the state of mind that I found the entire transaction very funny. Could he seriously be that put out by my lack of knowledge......
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Resident Retention: Please Re-Lease Me!

I see and hear reminders that 'leasing season is just around the corner.'  This makes me wonder, "Are you and I watching the same news?" Because from everything I'm reading and seeing on CNN, CNBC, WSJ, and all those other bearers of bad news, there are few new leases to be had!  I mean, yes, there will be some leasing activity, but not the volume to which we are accustomed. Not this year, anyway. I'm turning into a broken record (if you remember what that is) on the issue of retention, and here's another way of putting it: It's time to truly re-group and re-train our leasing teams and focus attention on the upcoming RE-LEASING season.  Leasing season is a nice way of saying many leases are ending, which leads to residents deciding to move, which leads to vacancies. Which we will have difficulty filling. So, now's the time to get our rears in gear and let our residents know how much we value them. This is All Hands On Deck! This is serious biz. But it doesn't have to painful... just consistent. And believe me, it will pay off! Remember I recently shared that only 76% of residents report their work orders are completed correctly the first time? One of our greatest challenges as an industry is a lack of focus on work order follow-up calls. To really WOW your residents, set a new standard that every completed work order will receive a follow-up call or email. All you have......
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Resident Retention: Recession-Proofing your Community

According to First Advantage SafeRent, year over year, 2008 vs. 2007, application volume has decreased nationally by 7.8% and this negative trend is consistent across A, B and C asset classes (http://fadvsaferent.com).  And RealFacts reported that rents decreased across the entire U.S., with occupancy dropping from 92.9% to 92.2%.  Talk about Gloom and Doom!  Things are not looking great. When faced with a shrinking applicant pool and net effective market rent decreases, retaining existing residents who are typically at higher rent levels becomes mission critical.   But check this out:   Annual Survey Respondent Renewal Intentions How Likely Will You Be to Renew Your Lease: Annual Survey Results   2008 2007 Change Very Likely 43.6% 43.6% 0.0% Somewhat Likely 28.0% 26.7% 1.3% Not Likely 16.4% 20.3% -3.9% Don't Know 11.5% 8.9% 2.6% Refused 0.2% 0.3% -0.2%  Source: SatisFacts Research (www.SatisFacts.com)   There’s an interesting opportunity presenting itself to those who will embrace it. The message that is loud and clear is that retention is the answer to recession-proof your community.  It is critical to hold on to the residents you have, as there are fewer and fewer prospects and rental applications coming through our doors.  With accelerated job losses and the subsequent move outs those losses produce, renters with job security become very valuable assets to property managers looking to reduce turnover costs and ride out the storm.  The national turnover rate has slightly declined, although it has been consistently high over the last six years ranging each year between 59%......
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