"I can never get in touch with the office!"
When I was a Property Manager, as recently as last spring, I would hear repeatedly from sales prospects that they could never get in touch with people in the management office. I'm pretty stubborn (yes, sometimes to a fault), and found these comments hard to believe. I thought these folks may be exaggerating a tad bit. Or a property may have staffing issues. As a whole, the multi-family industry can't be that irresponsible. Could we?
One of my favorite sales managers used to sing, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch girl..." His choice of song always made me giggle, as yes, I am old enough to remember that Osmonds song. And I used to think, "That one bad apple may not spoil the bunch. But it probably tastes pretty bad, and I wouldn't want another one."
In an ironic twist, for the first time in my life, my husband and I are now living in an apartment community. It is managed by an Atlanta firm with about 300 units. Being in the multifamily residential business for the past 12 years, I want to be their biggest cheerleader, and help out any way I can.
But my goodness - these guys are making it hard for me to show them love. Why? No one will answer the phone or respond to emails. The crazy thing is how easy this is.
- The phone rings, you answer it, and assist the caller.
- Open an email, read it, then respond to it.
- That's it.
- Doing these two, simple forms of communication, will land you new residents and help retain your current ones. Don't believe me? Read the excellent blog titled "7 Trends that Influenced Resident Retention & Acquisition in 2022," by Stephen Baker. https://www.multifamilyinsiders.com/multifamily-blogs/7-trends-that-influenced-resident-retention-acquisition-in-2022-1
Take a look at Mr. Baker's graphic below. Based on his article's research, 32% of current residents renewing their leases can be attributed to effective communication (Management Communication & Responsiveness, and Sense of Community/Connections of Relationships) . The second column shows 49% of residents non-renewing their leases due to ineffective communication, which includes the additional category of "Community and General Community Concerns."
So let me get this straight. Due to our own inability to communicate, we could lose almost half of lease renewals? Yep. And it gets worse. Mr. Baker writes:
It's evident that there's a serious business case to maintain high resident retention rates. And 2023 will be a critical time to meet or exceed your residents’ expectations. As the market begins to cool, renters are taking stock of what they’re receiving in their community. If they feel they are paying in excess of what their community delivers, there’s a strong likelihood they will move on when their leases are up. Unfortunately, this impacts acquisition too. Underwhelmed residents do not post positive online reviews, making your communities less desirable to prospective renters.
Think of this as a domino effect. Let's say a resident had a less than stellar move-in experience. This happens, and can be forgiven if the remaining living experience is a positive one. This resident then tries to post a "For Sale" item on RentCafe back in October. The post is still "pending review" to this very day. This same resident needs to know the square footage of her apartment's study, for tax purposes, and reaches out to the office. Zero response. Each resident pays $25 monthly for a trash valet service that rarely picks-up. You guessed it - no response from the office. Finally, this same resident then receives a water bill that seems unusually high and contacts the office, to no avail.
Now this resident is losing her patience. She is not going to post a positive review, nor recommend this property to anyone. And that is a shame. How do I know this? This resident is me.
I have been in my current apartment since August, and really like it. The location is perfect for my husband to walk to work, which is at Georgia Tech. We love the floorplan. But when our lease is up in six months, chances are we will not be living here anymore. Most residents can forgive things that are out of anyone's control like broken security gates, stolen packages, and busted pipes. But not answering the phone? Or replying to emails? That sends a message that no one in the office cares. Now I get it.
It really isn't that hard to make people happy and feel like their voices have been heard. The cherry on the top? More leases, more renewals = more bonus $$$. So answer those emails. And pick up that phone. If that plastic receiver could speak, it would simply whisper in your ear, "I make you money."