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Everyone Needs a VIP Sash

Recently, on a trip to my home state of Wisconsin, I found myself with a few extra hours and an opportunity for lunch with my old college roommate (and maid of honor and godmother to my oldest), Katie.  It was one of those impromptu opportunities that you just know before you get there is going to be fun, fun fun.  Not to mention, Katie is hilarious. As usual, both of us were running late, and we didn’t get to the restaurant in Oshkosh until after 1pm, so the sparse crowds didn’t surprise us.  Heck, it’s par for the course, these days.  That actually may have been a good day. Our server was Lisa and she quickly got a handle on our wild and raucous entrance by letting us know if we signed up to be VIP’s we would receive a substantial discount on our lunch.  No catch.  Just sign up.  Of course we did, and Katie wanted to know when she would get her VIP sash, that is, unless there was a crown available, then she would prefer that.  We all laughed and continued on with the VIP humor until I am sure most were nauseated listening to us.  During lunch Lisa informed us that it was her last day, and she was about to start her career as a social worker in Wausau. I’m sure it is a very exciting and stressful time for her, and looking around the restaurant, probably a financially challenging one as well. Needless to say,......
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Resident Retention: Low Cost / No Cost Strategies

Numbers? We Ain't Got No Stinking Numbers! So, you need to obtain permission to enter, track down a late rent payment, return a phone call, or place a pre-renewal phone call.  But wait! Their phone number isn't in the system. Surprised? You shouldn't be. The sad truth is that the average apartment community has contact information for only 50% of their residents, and much of that information is outdated.  Perhaps, as an industry, we have the mindset of, "Well, at least I know where they live!" The problem is that when issues come up and we need to contact them, we can't.  Calling information, searching through their paper rental application, searching the White Pages online... It's a waste of the staff's time - and time is money!  There's a simple, yet EXTREMELY effective solution. We ask the resident for their contact information.  Sounds crazy, I know. But snark aside, by setting an organizational standard, property managers can train the team to ask for or confirm the resident's contact information at every interaction.  The impact of this basic cultural change will astound you."Well hello Mrs. Jones. Yes, I can help you with that. Oh, I see that we do not have a current phone number for you. What's the best number to reach you? What's the best email address to reach you?"  "Thanks for calling Mr. Lee. Is this still the best number to reach you: 555-1234? I see we don't have an email address for you. What is your email address?"  For whatever reason, our leasing teams......
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What to Cut and What to Keep? A Property Manager's Dilemma

The headlines are bleak. And it appears that they are going to get 'bleaker' (is that even a word?). And everyone, it seems, is cutting back. According to Chicago based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, 20% of companies are actively cutting perks and another 10% are considering doing so. You're probably getting pressured to make cuts at your property or company. So just where DO you cut? Well, I can tell you a couple of places that you shouldn't.As companies trim expenses, they're 'de-perking' perks. And one of the first perks to go seems to be the fitness center. Whether it's an in-house center, or a subsidized membership, those are going by the wayside. So now is the time to emphasize your fitness centers more than ever. And if possible, upgrade a  machine or two (if it's in the budget). I predict fitness centers will be busier than ever over the next 18-24 months. Keep the equipment in great working order and keep the fitness center immaculately clean. This could be the breaking point for a renter's decision if they've lost their work-perk fitness center.Another area you shouldn't cut: the free coffee. Customers are leaving Starbuck's in droves as this survey, commissioned by Advertising Age magazine found:60% of Americans have scaled back on fancy or expensive coffee in the past six months; 56% report cutting back just since the beginning of the year. The culprit was overwhelmingly the economy, with 90% of survey respondents saying they are doing so to......
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Isn't our business supposed to be personal?

First of all, I want you to know that I am all for technology.  I have a cell phone, a laptop computer, voicemail, an email account, and a Facebook account.  I love that I have access to information and can communicate with the touch of a finger.  I love the fact that I can communicate with someone across the country in the middle of the night if I want to.  It is amazing.Now for the reason for my post today - I am so sick of not being able to talk to a live person.   I can't tell you how many times I have tried to reach someone only to get a digital recording and the prompt to leave a message.  I can't count the number of times that I have called communities, left a message, and never received a phone call back.  I can't tell you the number of Regional Managers that I have tried to contact, left a message, and never received a phone call back.  What if I am a resident with an emergency?  What if I am a prospective resident in desperate need for an apartment?  What is I am a family member of an employee trying to get in touch with someone because of a family emergency?Technology is great but it shouldn't be abused.  People want to talk to a live person.  They want a phone call back.  They want to know that their needs and wants are important.  While I understand this problem isn't unique to......
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