Great point, Brent! That's also where AFPOE can be helpful. Responses which come off like "because...
Wendy Dorchester
Hire for culture, train for skill! Love this. Jared, you have always emulated great culture in every...
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Maria Lawson

Maria Lawson

Maria Lawson is a 20+ year apartment industry veteran and VP of Training and Development for Ellis Partners in Management Solutions (EPMS). Maria blogs regularly for multifamily websites and organizations in an effort to promote awareness of, and help others learn to listen effectively and to better understand, the Voice of the Customer.

Posted by on in Resident Retention
It’s not a typo. This is not a blog about Smartphones.       Nearly a third of consumers believe that businesses are now paying less attention to providing good customer service. (Echo 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer) Many years ago, I was told by someone much wiser than myself that the real sale doesn’t begin until after the sale. I was a rookie leasing consultant and pretty naïve at the time, but I listened. Years later, I understood exactly what she meant.Sell and Service cannot be separated because you can’t have one without the other. What many leasing consultants fail to realize is that closing a sale is the first step to increasing sales, not the last. Providing good after-sales service shows customers you want to build a long-term relationship, earn their loyalty, and keep their business—this is Sellservice. Sellservice (verb)  the act of providing your customer with intentional attention and positive experiences throughout the relationship, so that when it comes to leasing, renewing, or referring a friend, they feel guilty about choosing anyone but you.    Joe Gandolfo’s success story epitomizes Sellservice. He is a legend in the life insurance industry. Joe is the only life insurance agent in the world to sell in excess of $1 billion in a single year. At the start of his career, he made a vow to himself that he would ALWAYS follow up on every one of his clients every year no matter how big or small their investment. He continued to provide exceptional...

Posted by on in Property Management
  As a huge online shopper, I am a fan of customer reviews.  I've found them very helpful for various purchases, but I'm realizing they are now guiding most of them. I have become a skeptic when it comes to all advertising, blasting through ads, pictures, and testimonials presented by the seller, and heading straight to the customer reviews. In fact, I tend to search primarily based on "customer reviews" now, sometimes ignoring those products that don't have reviews and dismissing those that have too many negative reviews.   In 2013, BrightLocal released the findings of their Local Consumer Review Survey. The study which explored consumer consumption of online reviews confirmed that more customers are reading reviews as part of their pre-purchase research before selecting a product or service.  Key Findings: — 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses (up from 76% in 2012) — So the path from reading online reviews to purchasing from a business is short which means it’s crucial for local businesses to have a positive online reputation so they convert ‘searchers’ to customers. — By the time a consumer has started reading reviews they have identified an issue/need they have, worked out what service or product satisfies this need and now want to select a business to use.   Apparently, I am not alone.    1. The Path is Short  If you are like me, you probably cringe at the price of Gillette or other name brand razors at your neighborhood store. Soon, we will all have...

Posted by on in Property Management
Strong leaders, who put themselves on the front line, are quite often those whom others want to follow. Weak leaders, who cling to the back office, often lack enthusiasm or personality that no amount of training will ever change.   Who is running your business?   According to a leadership study conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI) together with and the Institute for Human resources, back office clingers can be costly. How costly? A survey of 300 Human Resource professionals revealed the following about weak leadership:   69% said it caused lower rates of employee engagement 65% said it caused a loss of productivity 59% said it resulted in higher turnover “of themselves or team members.”  This study also revealed that 56% of those surveyed agreed that the number one reason for leadership failure is lack of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.  People who work on developing strong interpersonal skills are usually more successful in both their professional and personal lives than those who don’t.  It can be difficult to practice and fine tune these skills if you are clinging to the back office.   In contrast, front line leaders often lead by walking around. The “walk around” leadership approach traces its origins back to the 1940s. Its popularity expanded in the 1980s after being included in the book, In Search of Excellence. Steve Jobs was the ultimate practitioner of this leadership approach, taking it beyond...

Posted by on in Property Management
In the past, many apartment communities have been able to survive even with very limited amounts of innovation. They focused on providing quality products and services, and simply updated them to a level that maintained their competitiveness in the market. Today, customer expectations are placing more demands on company innovation. They are used to products that continually advance and make their life easier and they don’t expect any less from your team and community. If you are not up for the challenge, they can always go somewhere else. Innovation is one of the main ways to distinguish your product and services from the competition. If you can't compete on price, you'll need innovative products and ideas to make your community stand out from the crowd.  In this final 3-part series post, we move over to the “Easy-Going” community. It falls between “Hell on Wheels” and “Push Button.”  1.             Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community.  2.             Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.    3.             Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community. This is a very blissful place to work.  Maybe you remember this community? It was on every manager’s radar. It was euphoric—a Push Button community with an occasional apartment flood, theft, or even surveillance on a resident, just enough disruption to add a little excitement to the day.  But like all of the others, spending too much time at the Easy-Going community has its disadvantages, too. It’s called complacency—that warm and cozy feeling of being satisfied....

Posted by on in Property Management
Every apartment community has its own unique personality.  In fact, it is very likely that the one you are working at right now will fall into one of the following three personality categories: 1.       Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community. 2.       Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.   3.       Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community. In my previous blog, Can a “Push Button” Community Impede Employee Potential, I discussed how spending too much time at a “Push Button” community could potentially mask an employee’s true performance abilities.   Now it’s time to head on over to the “Hell on Wheels” community. If you are currently working at this type of community there is good news. You are being challenged!  I know it might feel more like a daily struggle but there are plenty of differences between the two. The energy of a challenge is totally different from the energy of a struggle. One sucks the life out of you, while the other makes you stronger—really.  A struggle makes you want to shrink back. A challenge helps you grow. A struggle wants you to give up or give in. A challenge encourages you to press on. A struggle breaks your strength. A challenge develops your strength. A struggle exposes what’s lacking. A challenge unveils abundance. A struggle says, “You can’t do this.” A challenge says, “You have what it takes.” Through each challenge and conflict, you become energized.   Here’s the thing – leadership...

Posted by on in Multifamily Training and Career Development
Every apartment community has a personality. In fact, if you were to divide up all of the apartment communities in your company portfolio, it is likely that each one would fall into one of the following three categories:      1.       Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community. 2.       Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.   3.       Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community.   While every on-site employee deserves the opportunity to experience all three types of communities during their career, too much time spent at any one has its shortcomings. In this blog, I will focus on the “Push Button” community. The following story is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.   Molly Berry was a very successful leasing consultant. She had worked for Happy Resident Management for 10 years. She was referred to by management as the “leasing machine.” She could lease any apartment to anyone. Her office walls were draped with leasing awards. She was always #1 on the leasing list each month. Molly was sought after by every property manager. But…Molly was very content at her permanent home community. It was a “Push Button” community—it practically ran itself.    One day Molly received a call from a supervisor at the corporate office. They asked her to temporarily relocate to a beautiful brand new “Hell on Wheels” community that was located in a very competitive market. The apartments were small, the rents were high. It was...

Posted by on in Property Management
  You got a promotion! Who will you call to thank? You can probably recall the name of the teacher who inspired you in the 5th grade, but can you remember the name of the person who helped you achieve your professional success? For me, one particular person comes to mind.   Now, let’s flip the coin. One of your previous employees received a well-deserved promotion. Is your name on the list of people to call and thank?    While there are many ways leaders can inspire employees, the end result is the same: inspired employees desire to work harder, go the extra mile, and eventually taste success!    Employees want to be inspired and motivated by their leaders. But inspiration can only take place when a genuine emotional connection is made. These types of relationships can have profound implications.    Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I’ve heard this before,” but have you experienced it on a personal level?    Not long ago, I received an email from an individual who reported to me several years back. We have had little contact since my departure from the company, so I was surprised to see her name appear on my email screen. The purpose of her email was to tell me that she was interviewing for her “dream job,” and to thank me for “believing” in her. She wrote, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for you.”    As you can imagine, I was very touched and...

Posted by on in Property Management
Let’s be honest, when it comes to the keys for successful leadership, empathy is rarely included on the list. Demonstrating empathy can be difficult for some leaders. It takes time and effort. Yet, instilling a sense of empathy in how you lead those under your care can offer three distinct advantages.   1.      You can better understand the cause behind poor employee performance. 2.      You can help struggling employees improve and grow. 3.      You can build and develop relationships with those you lead.   Quite often, people confuse empathy with sympathy. Sympathy essentially implies a feeling of recognition of another's suffering, while empathy is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes." Empathy is a deeper emotional experience. Sadly, many leaders never make it to this level.     In the May, 2013 Forbes article, “Why Empathy is the Force that Moves Business Forward,” the author shared the following thoughts on empathy in today’s workplace;    “Though the concept of empathy might contradict the modern concept of a traditional workplace—competitive, cutthroat, and with employees climbing over each other to reach the top— the reality is that for business leaders to experience success, they need to not just see or hear the activity around them, but also relate to the people they serve.”   True empathy combines understanding both the emotional and the logical rationale that goes into every decision.   1.      Empathy can open doors, while the lack of empathy can close them. Empathy in many ways is a communication skill....

Posted by on in Property Management
There are few things more frustrating to me than spending 20 minutes explaining my problem to someone in “Customer Service” only to be bounced to another person, explaining everything all over again, and then being bounced to yet another person. What these companies really need is an “I Am Annoyed” Department to call AFTER you speak to their “Customer Service” Department. A few months ago I decided that it was time to cancel our home telephone service. We rarely use the land line and it was an opportunity to save a little money. I was prepared to make a 15 minute phone call. Unfortunately, my telephone company didn’t offer an “easy button.” Instead, I became their Ping-Pong ball and was bounced to six different people (email, telephone, chat) over a period of 3 weeks before finally reaching a person who eventually cancelled my telephone service. I am not making this stuff up! This sad faced Ping-Pong ball eventually posted her experience on Facebook, a ratings and review site, shared it with many friends, and is now posting this blog.  Is this a typical problem in business today? Yes. Can it be solved? Probably not—but it can be improved. It begins with preparing, strengthening, and empowering the first point of contact.     Here are three ways you can reduce the number of annoyed customers at your community.     1.   Hire Good People vs. Nice People I read a very interesting article last week in YAHOO Finance “How to Hire Good People...

Posted by on in Apartment Leasing
Let’s cut to the chase. Every apartment community has a "loser" apartment. Yes, there is a little voice in each one of us—the sales, marketing, and trainer voice that says, “Find the beauty and turn the negative into a positive,” but deep down we know it is the “loser”—right? This is a picture of an apartment community located in Coral Springs, Florida. It’s not just any community, but one where I learned two of my most valuable leasing lessons:  1. It’s Not for You—It’s for Them 2. Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Yes, lurking below the palm trees and their beauty was the “loser” apartment. It was the one with the “story”—they all have one. It was the victim of an eviction and was left in shambles. The owner chose not to replace the carpet due to all of the lost revenue. When I entered the picture it had been vacant over 90 days. I know what you are thinking—but he wasn’t thinking that way. BIO: Apartment # 711 · Peach carpet that had been dyed too many times · Stench of dog urine · Facing toward the “landfill” winds Does this sound familiar? This apartment had become the joke of the office, but to me it was a challenge and an opportunity to shine! I jumped in the golf cart with my “sparkle bucket” and headed to the apartment with great anticipation—then reality hit me—or maybe it was the aroma. I was not giving up! The stakes were high and...