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Does Being Kind Matter?

“Marketing types have latched on to this story as an example of the power of social media and "virtual word-of-mouth" to boost a company's reputation. But I see the reaction to Sue Fortier's gesture as an example of something else — the hunger among customers, employees, and all of us to engage with companies on more than just dollars-and-cents terms. In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that remind us what it means to be human.” ~  Reference to the social media explosion after the manager of a Panera Bread restaurant who made a bowl of clam chowder for a young man’s dying grandmother in article written by Bill Taylor, HBR Blogs (Harvard Business Review)

 

Maybe it is more important to be kind, rather than offering Specials and concessions to our Prospects and to our renewing Residents to entice them to live in our communities.. There are sure to be some cynics out there that will disagree with this, that Gen Y and X will choose price over any other offering when apartment shopping, that our current Residents only want to maintain a status quo without enduring the dreaded rent increase, that our Team members only want raises – that the almighty dollar trumps our ability to offer a connection to one another.

 

I posted a comment to one of Maria Lawson’s Blogs on Multifamily Insiders regarding loyalty recently. I wrote of how during an extremely emotional moment, an act of kindness brought me from the brink of despair. How many opportunities do we have onsite to show kindness to someone? How many opportunities do we let slip through our fingers because of time constraints, because it is not ‘Policy,” because we do not NOTICE a simple opportunity?

 

How many times do your Leasing Consultants receive a phone call asking if you accept Section 8 or are an income-based property? How many times do your Leasing Consultants answer curtly, “NO, we do not,” and hang up? Wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, the Leasing Consultant gently said to the Caller: “I’m sorry, but no, our community doesn’t accept those at this time, but may I offer other choices in our city that do?”

 

How many times do your Service Techs enter an apartment of an elderly person to complete a minor work order and never acknowledge or speak to the Resident? Wouldn’t it just be kinder to notice the Resident and ask about the program they may be “watching” on television at the time, or ask how the person is feeling that day? Yes, I know – the Tech is liable to be there for fifteen extra minutes but that time may be well given in service of a lonely older person. (Yes, I know the Tech is also liable to hear all about the latest aches and pains, too!) How many times are opportunities to excel in customer care lost because the Tech does not ask if there is anything else needing attention in the apartment at that time?

 

It is just amazing to me that there can be so little direct connection with people any more. We talk about the newest generation of renters being Tribe affiliated and I guess I just feel there may be a whole generation (Z, perhaps?) that will miss out on what a real relationship is all about. What is the point of “talking” to people via text message, posting to our Twitter accounts, and posting “updates” on our whereabouts on Facebook, Foursquare and always checking in if you don’t know how to relish a face-to-face conversation? Is it possible that because this is the focus of so many people’s ability to relate to others, our employees/employers, Residents, and Vendors don’t know how to recognize the opportunities to have a meaningful impact on someone else’s life? Sometimes, a person needs to experience a smile directed his way, perhaps a hand placed on his arm or shoulder, to hear the soft tone of voice letting him know he can make his home right here in your community and how you can assist him in making this a reality.

 

I rent a lot of apartments, sight unseen, but it is all so gratifying to see the actual Resident show up and see the apartment home for the first time. I want to be able to actually connect. Otherwise isn’t that person just an apartment number, an address for the post office? Don’t get me wrong – I love and embrace the opportunities to make connections using social media venues – but I think sometimes reaching out and talking is necessary, too. There really is an art to conversing with someone with whom you are just meeting for the first time. I once remarked that I thought loneliness is the bane of society. When people are isolated, ignored, and left alone to wither, that is what they do. Or, they become our residents who are chronic complainers, the thorns in the sides of their neighbors, and the nemesis of every property manager out there.

 

Walk your property and speak to your Residents. Smile.

Follow up with those who placed Work Orders and ask how the service was.

Bend down and tie a small child’s shoe.

Write a thank you note to a Vendor who performed the job – better than you expected.

Write a thank you note to your boss, Regional, Maintenance Supervisor.

Place little gifts at your Residents’ doors on days that “don’t have any significance.”

Call a “long lost” friend. Call your mother, father, brother, sister, grandparent, uncle…

Apologize.

Send a congratulations on your new home card to the couple who bought a house.

Buy a Service Member – anything! It will be very much appreciated! Like a haircut J

Pick up the trash you see – any where – doesn’t even have to be your property’s!

Thank the Greeter for being at church each week.

Bring a sandwich to a shut-in and spend a couple of minutes chatting.

Sing! (Or, in my case, hum – I don’t really say I can carry a tune.)

Share your time; share your talents. Share your ice cream cone.

 

The point is, these aren’t random acts of kindness. These are purposeful acts. Do them intentionally. Everyday. Do them when you are tired, when you are weak. I really think, especially for those of us who are a part of a lot of people’s lives, when you set your mind to making a difference, you gain strength by creating the attitude of being the best human being you can be. Residents will notice, I can guarantee that.

 

And just to be completely me, I will tell you I am not an intrinsically kind person. My mother was VERY fond of telling the story of how once, when I was about six years old, a little friend at school asked me if I liked her new dress, and I replied, “No. I don’t like it at all. I think it’s ugly.” I have since learned this is not the kind way to behave and there is such a thing as learning to be tactful.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Mindy,

Those are good tips. As property managers, it's easy to value our residents, and make sure they stay happy so they stick around! In fact, it's the reason we launched [url]clevertower.com[/url].

Here's a question for you though. What about your employees? It's one thing for the owner to always be courteous, but how to you make sure that those thoughts and values apply to everyone in your organization?

  CleverTower
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Mindy, ummmm-WOW! Here's me thinking that is all gone, and here's you doing a kindness ReDux! Were you around in the 50's or 60's--70's (even)? (Some of the BeeGee 80's?) If not, your excellent post sure sounds like you were. Your giving me pause to reflect I assure you.
Ok, I am not a good subject. I still live in a town where you don't lock the door to run to the bank, and you can park on the square and leave your keys in your truck. You can't get in the bank without someone buying you a coffee, and the bank won't take your money until they find out how your wife is doing with her new hairdo. So you see I am not a good commenter on this topic.
I still say----Ummmmm==WOW thanks for your post!!! Refreshing!!!!

  Herb Spencer
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An old boss of mine used to use the phrase " kill 'em with kindness " when referring to customer service.

This was when I was working retail and the only mystery shop where we lost points while he was the store manager was when I wasn't wearing a name badge. As it turned out, I had spent that morning building a large display and had broken mine while doing so. We fought for those points and got them back because we had proven that we had placed an order for a replacement badge before the shopper showed up. It was only 3 points, but it was the principle. We automatically placed orders for second name badges for all team members that day; on the off chance the same thing happened again to someone else or a team member left their badge at home. All future new hires received 2 name badges as well.

  Johnny Karnofsky
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I agree whole-heartedly. I was on a B property and consistently leased to people that were not treated well when they visited an A property for an apartment. I always listen and keep eye contact with prospects. Everyone listens to WII-FM. (What's in it for me). They don't want to hear about us, but respond well when we pay attention to their needs and desires in a home. It works as well with resident retention. When they know you care, they stay....

  Adrienne Taylor
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@CleverTower: It all starts from the top down and builds back up from the bottom up, in my opinion. I think the CEO should visit properties for fun, not to find someone's behind to chew.:P It's kind of like the Hallmark saying about caring to send the very best.

When I talk about corporations and companies, big or small, I speak in terms of picturing your company as a person with the Owner/Investors at the top of the head who may not have any vision or compassion for the actual organization (it's true) so they should be making sure they hire someone with a heart behind their brain. They should make sure they have a department head who can communicate clearly the vision without a lot of bull - this can be Marketing, IT, and HR, which really do add soul to the soup. But the workers - the hands and feet - have to feel the love, too. Employees at this level are the nuts and bolts of the organization and they can get roughed up, develop blisters and callouses, so someone needs to demonstrate that it is okay to put some lotion on their skins to keep the operation feeling soft and supple, pliant, and healthy to complete tasks.

Upper management (VPs and Regionals) needs to be present, show up. They need to communicate. They need to recognize strengths, weaknesses, reward accordingly, fairly without bullying tactics. Providing this kind of internal workplace culture will produce long term employees who are happy, relaxed, giving at least 100% most of the time and when they can't, they are understood and someone else steps in to help. It's a team effort.

It's nice when you can offer flex time, benefits such as tuition reimbursement, health insurance, paid time off, chances for advancement and raises for everyone at all levels. But it's even nicer to offer someone a paid weekend off after they have excelled in some area, mentions in the company newsletter and on social media about someone's achievement, foster the ability for those who want to volunteer to do so...

@CleverTower: It all starts from the top down and builds back up from the bottom up, in my opinion. I think the CEO should visit properties for fun, not to find someone's behind to chew.:P It's kind of like the Hallmark saying about caring to send the very best.

When I talk about corporations and companies, big or small, I speak in terms of picturing your company as a person with the Owner/Investors at the top of the head who may not have any vision or compassion for the actual organization (it's true) so they should be making sure they hire someone with a heart behind their brain. They should make sure they have a department head who can communicate clearly the vision without a lot of bull - this can be Marketing, IT, and HR, which really do add soul to the soup. But the workers - the hands and feet - have to feel the love, too. Employees at this level are the nuts and bolts of the organization and they can get roughed up, develop blisters and callouses, so someone needs to demonstrate that it is okay to put some lotion on their skins to keep the operation feeling soft and supple, pliant, and healthy to complete tasks.

Upper management (VPs and Regionals) needs to be present, show up. They need to communicate. They need to recognize strengths, weaknesses, reward accordingly, fairly without bullying tactics. Providing this kind of internal workplace culture will produce long term employees who are happy, relaxed, giving at least 100% most of the time and when they can't, they are understood and someone else steps in to help. It's a team effort.

It's nice when you can offer flex time, benefits such as tuition reimbursement, health insurance, paid time off, chances for advancement and raises for everyone at all levels. But it's even nicer to offer someone a paid weekend off after they have excelled in some area, mentions in the company newsletter and on social media about someone's achievement, foster the ability for those who want to volunteer to do so without always worrying that no one is doing "their job" and they will have to make it all up when back at the office/property. But showing up really is the key - demonstrating you care about everyone in your organization makes a difference to how you are perceived as a CEO, COO, or President.

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  Mindy Sharp
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@Herb! Are you saying I am old? LOL! Thanks for your kind words, too. It just is such a pleasure to read your remarks!

@Johnny,good to have a boss back you up on your Shop! But - PLEASE, don't get me started on the topic of name tags! Hahaha!

@Adrienne, Thank you for commenting! I appreciate it and I know just what you mean about Prospects arriving to tour kind of in shellshock from another experience elsewhere. You sound like a great person!

  Mindy Sharp
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When I worked on site as a 'temp', I knew that some of the companies also used mystery shoppers and had seen a report from one of the sites I had worked at (shopped before I arrived, so I was not mentioned); this was a valuable learning tool for me as the things they were dinged on were things I would have not been with the exception of my not having a name badge. That day, I went and ordered one on my own (it only cost me $10) so that I would have it for all future assignments and kept it in my car.

No excuses!

  Johnny Karnofsky
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I have worn name tags of some sort almost all of my working life. I still don't know why these are important. You never wear an army uniform unless it has your name on one side (top of pocket)and "USARMY" on the other. I often thought they should just stencil "Human, property of US Army" and let it go at that.
However, when wife and I took our very first property, we ordered Hunter Green pull over shirts, and had the property name emblazoned on them, and our first name under that. We both then wore jeans, hers designer style, and mine, cheapo seconds from the top name brands. This served two purposes. (a) We looked "cool" and in charge of "something". (b) We both saved on clothing. I was usually covered with dirt, grass clippings, grease, and sewer slime at the end of the day. She was comfy, happy, and "looked younger" (something she valued).
Another thing we did was put in some piped in music (subscription) and picked tunes from the 80's. Lots of Air Supply hits and Bee Gee's. This made the atmosphere in the office and community rooms a lot more "ticky" as we liked to call it. I even caught some of the old gripe tenants humming along now and then.
I also brought my restored 1950's Coca Cola machine to the community room and sold the short, fizzy, bottled cokes for a DIME. I lot a lot of money, but enjoyed the reactions the tenants had to it. I did not do that forever, but about a year and then I took the machine back home. It was all fun!!!!

  Herb Spencer
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One more:
Fortunately, or unfortunately as you choose, I don't Tweet on Tweeter or "Like It" on Fakebook. We have a grand daughter who for the life of her cannot understand why papa and nana won't tweet. I told her I won't tweet until she agrees to rock and roll. This usually causes her to snicker and then look at me as if she is attending the Smithsonian Institute.
I grew up on face to face friends. These have paid me dividends I cannot fathom over the years. Bear with me on a quick story, (One of thousands but you only have to sit through this one!) Retiring from 30 years military service, a computer glitch delayed my final pay, which was outprocessing pay and was a wheelbarrow full of cash. I tried my phone numbers to DOD, Indianapolis, and Fort Sill, without any action being taken. This rocked on a while. Finally I spoke to two Brigadier Generals (both of whom had been Captains, with me their First Sergeant, and me having pulled their hide from the flames more than once.) Also I spoke to my 3D District Congressman (whom I had welcomed his girl scouts to build a float in my Armory, sponsoring their event, and accompanying them to DC for a parade). After I related this "pay glitch that has no answer" to these men, I had my money in ONE WEEK. So "tweeting" and "liking it" took a hard second to my first hand associations with these friends of mine. We need personal contacts, not tweets. The same will go for all businesses. A warm hand shake, an air of helpfulness, and a smile goes mega miles towards a prospective tenant, especially one a little antsy about renting for the first time. Aren't we all that way? Don't we want a human interaction?

  Herb Spencer
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Mindy! This is so beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us! I know I definetly get very busy with work and personal issues and i often overlook the most important thing in this world... all of the other people that share the world with me. You're awesome!

  Angelina Gonzalez

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