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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

Employee Retention the Key to Resident Retention

It is often said that people lease not because of the apartment community, but rather because of the leasing consultant, and that sentiment was echoed at this year's AIM Conference during the session, "Customer Cartography: Mapping the Prospect to Resident Journey".  Considering how similar many apartment communities are, it makes a lot of sense that the leasing consultant is the differentiator, and the one that makes the emotional connection with the prospect.  Strangely, I don't see that same argument for renewals. 

It seems that many see the leasing consultant as almost like a doorman for the community - they show the prospect through the door to becoming a resident, but then all the residents become a homogeneous blob, where that initial connection to the leasing consultant isn't necessarily cultivated.  Instead, we let renewal letters do the selling the second time around, and if the leasing consultant leaves the community, there is rarely a plan of how to transition that relationship.  If the relationship with the leasing consultant was so important to the leasing process, why do we let it disappear so easily?  And in the context of this valuable relationship, do we understand how it adds to the cost of employee turnover? 

My guess is that many companies calculate employee turnover purely on the base costs, such as HR costs, search costs, etc, but they haven't included the inevitable drop in retention for residents who were connected to that particular leasing consultant.  If the relationship with the leasing consultant is so important during the initial sale, that drop in retention should be quantifiable on the renewal.  As a former resident, I remember it being much more uncomfortable when walking into the leasing office and realizing you don't recognize anyone.

So I would love to hear any stories about how communities handled this issue.  For example, do you leverage your leasing consultants' relationships with specific residents upon renewal?  Also, if a leasing consultant does leave, do you have any specific strategies on transitioning that relationship to another member of the staff, and then introducing the residents to the new leasing consultant? 

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great perspective. Thanks.

  Ellen Calmas
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Thanks, Ellen!

  Brent Williams
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Great topic! I recently transitioned from one property to another within the company, and I'm hearing that many of the residents at my last property are still asking about me. Thankfully, we brought on someone who knew the property well and quickly became a fixture in the residents' lives.

I don't think it's one person's responsibility to be the 'go-to' for residents; in fact, I suggest it's the team's responsibility. everyone should work to make that first-name basis (or at least recognition basis) a standard, not an exception.

I think that Leasing Consultants and office staff are a key part of the interaction and retention with residents, but the true "front-line" of the resident interaction (and retention) is the maintenance team. Work orders being completed quickly and properly, with minimal disturbance, lead to happier residents. It's like a sign I saw for an auto shop nearby: "You won't ever see our best work."

It's a community-affair, from the first contact until the last day, that takes leasing, management, and maintenance to run smoothly. Consistency is key.

  Jay Koster
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I agree completely, Jay, that it is a team situation. By saying we should foster that particular relationship, I did not mean that we should not also enhance relationships with the other members of the team. That said, that resident leased from a particular person because of their specific rapport, and I believe that relationship has value. So definitely, I think we should encourage strong relationships between our entire team (especially maintenance) and all residents, but we should still understand that special relationships do exist and know how to capitalize on them.

  Brent Williams
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I agree with Jay that it's a poor strategy to make one person responsible for every relationship. And I don't believe that people leave just because a well regarded team member leaves.

Again, Jay hit the nail on the head by saying resident relations are a team effort. Because if that one person was making up for other subpar team members who are now getting more exposure to tenants, that's when you'll see the exodus start.

  Jenette
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Jenette, I didn't mean that it isn't a team endeavor, but I think if someone was able to make that emotional connection for the initial lease, it makes most sense for that person to be the point person for the renewal. If we look at the supplier side of the equation, I bet any one of the sales reps would be happy to help if you had a question, but generally people call their particular sales rep because they have that relationship. It's the same situation here.

  Brent Williams
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I have been on both ends of this as the leasing/ management staff, and now just the tenant. I will say thatI leased at my current community because of the leasing agent, I worked with her before and loved her, she's profesional, courteous, and an overall great leasing agent. But I am moving as quick as I can... Here is the problem. There is absolutely not once once of resident retention being done at this community, NOTHING. The manager is unprofessional and speaks to no one, the maintenance is incompetent and it takes 3 months to get anything repaired even with me constantly remindering them of it being broken. Resident retention not only falls on the leasing agent but the entire staff as a team. My friend is still there and if it was just because of her I'd stay. But not even she can make the issues of the last 2 years disappear.

  Robin McEathron
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So many great parts to your comment, Robin. I love how clearly you show how many factors are at play in your decision to stay or go. Friendliness of the staff, quick maintenance, some sort of attempt at resident appreciation, friends at the property, and the initial leasing consultant all appear to be playing a role in your decision. No matter how good the leasing consultant is, it seems there are too many hurdles to make it worth staying for you. That said, IF those hurdles didn't exist, it does sound like the relationship with your original leasing consultant was valuable, and if she was the one approaching you (versus the manager), it would have made a big difference!

  Brent Williams
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I was brought in when the former manager of our small complex decided to pursue a new career after 18 years here. I was hired in October of 2012, he trained me and introduced me to several tenants over the next 2 months. I know it was a long transition but, when he did leave for good, I already had a good repore with most of our residents. There was still a large number that left when he left but I built from there.

  Autumn Chase Apts
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Sounds like you all had a great plan in place!

  Brent Williams
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Thank you for that valuable insight. You are so right! Although I do feel this can happen I feel very strongly that you have to make sure that there is a bond made with more than one employee. As a manager, I try to step in and help a resident whenever I can so I don't lose touch and/or their confidence. Following up on service requests personally keeps me in the loop and close to what matters most to them...knowing that we care (not just their personal leasing representative). We also ask that employees attend all most resident functions so residents can become familiar with others on the staff.

  Meg Robbins
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Thanks for the comment, Meg, and I agree with you completely. Although I think that the original leasing consultant should remain the "point person", broadening that relationship with the rest of the staff is also important.

  Brent Williams
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I work for one of the largest local property management companies in my area, and I know that the quality of service I provide to my residents is important to my management company and my owner. They see the results of my customer service on their revenue reports (and on the thank you notes on the wall in my office.)

As employees, we learn how to treat people by our supervisors. When they treat us with respect and kindness, it's easy to pass that along to our residents. :-)

  Rose M
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Couldn't agree more, Rose!

  Brent Williams

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