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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: The Importance of a Culture of Responsiveness

Even as we’re able to start pushing rents in the market, it is still “Mission Critical” to increase or, at least, maintain net operating income (NOI) and asset value – which happens when we increase resident retention.  However, it isn’t the resident functions or monthly drawings that will help residents feel better about rent increases and renew their leases.  In surveys conducted by SatisFacts Research, “office staff responsiveness to calls and emails” still has the greatest impact on the decision to renew.  By creating a culture of responsiveness, a property management team can not only increase resident satisfaction, but can even increase retention despite rent increases!

Here are some examples of resident quotes taken from completed resident satisfaction surveys: 

“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.”

“The expectation is for me to be a model resident, respect the property, pay rent on time, etc. That’s fine. In turn, my expectation is to have my concerns addressed in a timely manner. Not being informed of the status of things disturbs me and conveys a lack of respect.”

“The attention and service from the leasing and office staff is great before you move in; and after you move in, it all stops.”

So what can the average property management company (with limited time, resources and staff) do to nurture a culture of responsiveness, and turn the above quoted frowns upside-down?

1.  Collect current contact information (phone and email) for every resident at every interaction.

It’s impossible to be responsive if you don’t have the ability to contact your resident. When’s the last time you audited your property management system to see how many phone numbers and email addresses you have on file? Every phone call, email and in-person interaction with a resident is an opportunity to request or confirm contact information.  “Well hello Mrs. Jones. Yes, I can help you with that. While you’re here, is this still the best number to reach you? What’s your email address?”  My doctor’s office does this; my hair salon does this; even the retail store where I buy my favorite soap does this.  It is just a matter of asking for, or confirming, the information. SatisFacts Research has found when conducting surveys for clients, 85% of survey respondents provide their contact information when asked.  If they will tell us, they will certainly tell you.

2.  Implement a standard of responding to phone calls and emails same day.

Property managers and office team members may think it is a given that calls and emails should be returned quickly, however, the reality is that often existing residents are pushed a little further down the priority list in favor of prospects walking in the door or any number of situations that arise throughout the day.  Put yourself in their shoes. When you leave a message for your doctor, mechanic, babysitter, etc., how long are you willing to wait to hear back?  A standard to consider implementing: All calls and emails received by 3 p.m. will receive a same day response. Anything received after 3 p.m. will receive a response no later than 10 a.m. the following morning.  This puts the entire team on the same page and underscores the priority of this action. This standard shouldn’t just apply to on-site team members, however. This standard needs to be implemented by the entire organization, whether you’re the CEO, the marketing manager or the assistant property manager. All customer requests, whether an internal or external customer, should be handled as a top company priority.

3.  Promote online services – all of them, all the time.

Technology enables organizations to provide even more avenues of communication and interaction, which means residents can conduct business with you 24/7 rather than just the typical 9-5 office hours. In this day and age, nearly every apartment community has an office email address available. Many communities also have a resident portal that offers online work order requests, online rent payments, email the manager, community news, and more.  And as community Facebook pages and other social media outlets become more common, this provides one more avenue to provide consistent, useful information to your residents. Unless your residents know about these options, however, these services are worthless.  By constantly promoting these online services, residents find it easier to communicate with you when and how they want, without the constraints of office hours.  Post these services on a billboard in the office, hand out refrigerator magnets with the information, run reminders on your Facebook page, or include a “tour” of your online services as a part of the prospect tour route and the move-in process.

Retention begins with a solid foundation of communication, and thrives within a culture of responsiveness. By having good contact information, and making quick, thoughtful responses a priority, along with embracing technology as a communication partner, your residents will continue to experience the value of staying in the home they have created in your community.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hey Jen! Love this post. Everyone knows what it feels like when your calls and e-mails seem to fall into a black hole - so frustrating. Responding to messages in a timely manner is one of the best ways of showing people that we value and respect them. And thanks for bringing up online services! Like you say, there are so many great tools available, but residents need to be aware, and maybe sometimes be reminded

  Tashina Wortham
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks Tashina! I appreciate your comments. It's pretty interesting to see how many organizations do have wonderful resources available online to their residents, but very few of their residents are aware the resources exist. One way to encourage team members to promote online services is to spotlight one service each month. March can be all about online rent payments, for example. Have a 10 minute refresher with the team on how it works, and then encourage staff to mention it to every resident they encounter throughout the month. Watch and see how participation jumps in just 30 days. Portfolios may even want to have a competition between the properties with the winning property team getting a free lunch.

  Jen Piccotti
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Jen,
I took over a property three months ago where the residents were being ignored by the previouse staff. I shocked so many of the residents by responding to their calls, letters, and taking the time to visit. This property is in an area where WOM is a big marketing tool, just from responding to the residents they were so happy they spread the word and my traffic/leases increased. It amazes me how so many on site forget to respond to their residents. As you said residents will pay more in rent if they know their concerns or needs are met.

.

  Jolene Sopalski
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Jolene - Thanks for sharing your experience. I couldn't imagine a better example for this topic!

  Jen Piccotti
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Jen! Great words of wisdom here. More and more we see people using Text to let residents know: (i) work orders have been received; (ii) when the services are scheduled to be performed; (iii) when a repairman is in their unit ; and (iv) (afterwards) that everything is fixed and to let management know if they have any further issues. Text is a quick, easy way to communicate that residents really appreciate.

  Jennifer Persson
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks for the great post. I wanted to share something I always try to do when I am trying to contact a customer and we begin a game of phone tag. If I have to leave a second voice mail message and the customer and I have still not spoken with one another, I always offer to arrange a phone appointment. This offer accomplishes so many things, but the benefits that I think really stand out are: 1. I establish credibility with the customer before we even meet or speak about their current issue by offering a solution to our voice mail hurdle. They know I can get things rolling and they generally think a phone appointment is a pretty cool idea; and 2. Involving him or her in the solution to the voice mail hurdle also lays the ground work for collaborative problem solving. Whenever the service provider and the customer are both involved in a solution both parties take ownership and appreciate the solution more. Taking actions which provide beneits like these takes "responsiveness" to a more meaningful level than just "calling 'em back."

  Brandon Mathis
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

This is a great post. I agree with the key theme in retaining residents - Responsiveness. To put a fine point on this, I just did some statistical analysis on the correlation between the timeliness of maintenance response to work orders and resident turnover and found a statistically significant correlation. This means that the more timely the response by your maintenance team, the lower the resident turnover. This can mean huge retention of revenue and avoided turn costs. Both the office and maintenance teams have to present as a single highly responsive team.

  Dan S.

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