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Quit Trying to Wow Me. Just Help a Girl Out

Quit Trying to Wow Me. Just Help a Girl Out
"Hi. I called about 30 minutes ago asking for a new set of sheets for my room, and I wanted to check on the status?" I say into the phone at 11:55 p.m. as my kids are piled in bed with their dad, their own bed damp due to a leaky diaper.  "We're SO sorry for the delay! I'll put the request in again. As a way to apologize for the inconvenience, we'd like to offer you dinner on us at the hotel restaurant." "Thanks, but we're leaving in the morning. Can I just come to the front desk and pick up the sheets myself?" "Oh, no, no, don't worry about that. We don't want to inconvenience you! We'll get them up to you as soon as we can!" Another 20 minutes and I finally get some sheets. And 10 minutes after that I was gently trying to redistribute my family members to their appropriate beds without a major meltdown.  Look, I get it that we've all had it drilled into our heads that 'Exceeding Customer Expectations," "Going the Extra Mile," and "Knocking Their Socks Off," is how we're going to earn our customers' loyalty, but sometimes it's a lot more basic than that. Sometimes a girl just need some dry sheets. Right now. Dinner, a hotel credit, free laundry service is nice. It looks fabulous on paper. But the memory that will linger is the amount of time I paced the floor in the middle of the night, checking out......
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The Consumer Diet: Why Digital Messaging Is the "Healthy" Option

The Consumer Diet: Why Digital Messaging Is the "Healthy" Option
In a perfect world, I could pop a pill and instantly have six-pack abs and a 32 waist. You also wouldn’t need to market to prospects or communicate with residents because people would lease on the spot and then never have questions! Yeah right. Back in the real world, you know that communications with current and prospective residents can take up a majority of your day. Business pros call it the “primary workday distraction” (phone calls and unscheduled meetings are the worst culprits). Yet over half of respondents to the 2013 “Preferences of Today’s Renters” study indicated that the properties they visited could do a better job of contacting them in a timely manner, and that’s not even counting residents. So what can you do? You look for solutions to ease the stress without losing the personal touch. You look for ways to increase productivity without losing results (like building a good relationship). I liken it to going on a diet—a consumer communication diet.  Changing for Better Engagement  Just as you have to eat correctly and exercise often to get healthy, you need to engage prospects and residents when, where and how they prefer for the best customer experience. In fact, consumers Demand Immediate Engagement Today. That’s the “diet” they want. That’s what we, as businesses, have to follow to get the results we want.  I’m not talking about doing away with email and phone calls. I’m talking about adding healthier, smarter communications like digital messaging. With messaging, you can offer one-to-one interactions tha......
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2015 NAA Conference Preview: The Data-Driven Don Draper

2015 NAA Conference Preview: The Data-Driven Don Draper
In the last 5 years, marketing has become a more technology-driven, data-oriented career path.  The rise of technologies, specifically focused on creating, disseminating and tracking marketing campaigns has created a cross-functional job description, wherein marketers must become technologists.  In order to better understand customer demographics, customer needs and customer communication channels, marketers must gain an understanding of the fundamentals of their company’s technology to create a holistic marketing technology strategy.   In essence, the lines between marketing and technology have blurred, and the multifamily housing industry is no exception.  We have typically seen the IT Department fall under the CFO or Operations; but, this organizational structure creates an IT focus built on cost containment or back office operations.  When marketing and IT operate in tandem, technology can supercharge the customer experience and customer engagement. Property management is in the business of people, our customers.  As multifamily marketers, then, we are responsible for the customer experience.  Thus, we are responsible for all customer-facing technologies.  If we can marry an understanding of basic technology, programming and data architecture with an understanding of financials, communication, customer behavior, market analysis and marketing best-practices, we have the ability to produce an amazing customer experience.  We need to become Consumer Technology Managers and Marketing Technologists, yet, there are many challenges that marketers, especially multifamily marketers, still face when it comes to better managing the technologies we use. First, the pace of change has shifted and marketing is being disrupted constantly.  Technology has driven consumers to a real-time, s......
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All that glitters is not gold...Or Platinum!

resortHave you ever heard this saying?  It strikes a real chord with me after a recent vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  All inclusive has some real and clear benefits, but what happens when all-inclusive removes the incentive for great customer service?  As you would expect, the photos of our resort online were amazing!  I perused through them picturing myself and my family in each of the settings.  On the private “Platinum Beach”, relaxing on the luxurious chaise lounges, while sipping a tropical adult beverage, gazing upon the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, reading a book I have been waiting to have the time to read…not a care in the world, not a bother from the outside world, just pure bliss!  Floating in one of 12 sparkling pools, wading up to the swim up bar for another one of those tropical umbrella drinks.  Dining in style at one of the many restaurants situated throughout the resort.  The pictures on the Website took me right to this oasis!  The rooms pictured were pristine, shiny and clean with the perfect appointments to make the accommodations beyond my expectations.  Pictured was a private outdoor hot tub on the balconies of only those who paid the extra to be upgraded to the “Platinum Suites.”  Along with this “Platinum” privilege came our very own swimming pool, lobby with private concierge, private beach, and that all important “Ocean View” that my travel agent promised.  As I did my homework and researched the perfect resort for me and my family,......
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Be Likable

People want to rent apartments from people they like. Even if they don’t realize it, they want to connect on a personal level. It creates trust and a sense of belonging.

Being likable isn’t always easy. But a few years ago, I learned a trick that has helped me tremendously. Shut up and listen.  If you know me at all, you know how hard it is to not insert my opinion. Simply listening to someone makes her feel special. It makes her feel like the most important person in the room.  Most importantly, it shows her that I’m interested and that I care.  

If you listen, you can find common ground with your prospects.  It gives you the ability to look for opportunities to connect personally.

Laugh at her jokes (even if they’re not funny), smile during the conversation, and ask questions.  A lot of questions.  But of course not in a trial lawyer sort of way. Make it casual and relevant to the common ground you discovered.

The point is, let her shine. And, truly enjoy what she has to say.

I have found that my conversations with prospects and strangers will often get so focused on the other person that I actually do very little talking.  Sure, it can feel a little unfulfilling for me at times, but it makes the prospect feel like they just met the most interesting person in the room, the person they just like them.

 

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Believe It, Live It, Share It

I was recently in the market for a pair of eyeglasses.  I was actually pretty excited to shop for them because it was an opportunity for a new look. But I needed them quickly, because my new puppy ate my old pair.  This limited me a bit. Like apartment communities, shopping for a pair of glasses is pretty customer experience driven.  You think about how each will make you look and feel, but also ask yourself if it is practical. And you depend on the sales person for feedback and information. When you wear something on your face the emotional factors weigh a little heavier, so the first store I selected definitely had the “cool” factor. They’re trendy, their branding is fantastic, they share a great story about the company and their employees, they’re affordable, and they give back to those in need. Sounds like a perfect storm, right? Wrong. The in-store experience was awful. The store design continued their brand, and they hired really hip and attractive people to work there.  But that is where it all ended.  Those hip and attractive people were shells. They didn’t make an effort to have conversations about what I needed or desired.  There wasn’t even a sincere welcome, or an effort to help me find the right frames. After 5 or 10 minutes of frustration, I walked out empty handed without so much as a good bye from the employees.  The point of this story is to remind all of us that having an amazing ......
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Are You Creating a Great Customer Experience?

Are You Creating a Great Customer Experience?
As a corporate speaker and trainer I am often asked by my clients if I have any specific needs or requirements when I am invited to speak at an event. My typical answer is usually something like this…   “I really don’t have any specific requirements, I’m pretty easy-going. The only thing that I must have when I speak are Pellegrino and only green M&M’s.”   I like doing this because it tends to break the ice, it helps my clients see that I do have a personality and hopefully reinforces the idea that we’ll enjoy working together. The line usually gets a laugh from my clients … well, once they realize that I really am not some sort of “divo” (Is that even the word for a guy diva??) and the conversation moves forward.   My Gift   Recently I did a speaking engagement in Atlantic City, New Jersey for an incredible company as part of their annual employee conference. After I finished the presentation the president of the company thanked me for speaking and handed me a gift bag. When I went back to my hotel room, I opened the gift bag and found …    You guessed it! A bottle of Pellegrino and green M&M’s.    I immediately started laughing. I couldn’t believe that Mary (the person at the company who invited me to speak and who put the conference together) actually remembered that I said that and then went through the effort of buying the Pellegrino and an entire bag of green M&......
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The Power of SELLSERVICE

The Power of SELLSERVICE
It’s not a typo. This is not a blog about Smartphones.       Nearly a third of consumers believe that businesses are now paying less attention to providing good customer service. (Echo 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer) Many years ago, I was told by someone much wiser than myself that the real sale doesn’t begin until after the sale. I was a rookie leasing consultant and pretty naïve at the time, but I listened. Years later, I understood exactly what she meant.Sell and Service cannot be separated because you can’t have one without the other. What many leasing consultants fail to realize is that closing a sale is the first step to increasing sales, not the last. Providing good after-sales service shows customers you want to build a long-term relationship, earn their loyalty, and keep their business—this is Sellservice. Sellservice (verb)  the act of providing your customer with intentional attention and positive experiences throughout the relationship, so that when it comes to leasing, renewing, or referring a friend, they feel guilty about choosing anyone but you.    Joe Gandolfo’s success story epitomizes Sellservice. He is a legend in the life insurance industry. Joe is the only life insurance agent in the world to sell in excess of $1 billion in a single year. At the start of his career, he made a vow to himself that he would ALWAYS follow up on every one of his clients every year no matter how big or small their investment. He continued to provide exceptional service af......
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Cookie Cutter Problem

I had the opportunity to attend a multifamily development conference last week, which is quite the contrast to my usual marketing conferences. I was surrounded by a bunch of men in dark suits discussing cap rates and labor costs. And they start very early in the morning. I enjoy these conferences, because it’s always interesting to hear how developers think. It also immediately becomes apparent that my brain works very differently. By self-admission, they tend to be a bit overzealous when the market is strong. Building without a lot of concern about market conditions post or even mid lease-up.  After all, filling the apartments is marketing’s job, right? It’s a cycle we’ve all become accustomed to and can predict. Even if they say it's different this time. Well apartment marketers, this round brings us a new challenge.  During a panel, all of the developers said they were disappointed no one was trying anything new or pushing the status quo in the development world.  All of the communities coming online right now look the same.  Same finishes, same amenities, same packages.  This is especially true in Class A apartments.  They all appear to be following a template.  How boring. And how challenging for us. The lack of strategy or vision means we have to work that much harder to tell our story and find our differentiators. It also means that the customer experience should be at the very top of your list of priorities.  You are what make your community different than all the......
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RX: A Prescription for Better Resident Service

RX: A Prescription for Better Resident Service
We are officially in the age of the customer. Why’s that? In the tech industry there are two things that you can count on when you build a great product: your competitors will (eventually) catch up with you and someone will come in at the bottom and disrupt price. Apple is no longer the only company out there that builds a “cool” smartphone. The same is true for multifamily housing—a new development rolls in and suddenly your community is no longer the only good option in town. Now, more than ever, customers are empowered and informed by a little thing called the internet... A potential resident knows everything about your property before they even think about filling out an application. They've seen your ratings and reviews on Google and Yelp. You can bet they've also Facebook-stalked your property to get an idea of what their future apartment and community looks like. I’m not joking—they know everything. This is why “customer experience” has become the sexy new term in the SaaS industry, and it's why “resident experience” or “RX” will have the same appeal in the multi-housing industry. Resident Experience (RX for short) is the sum of all experiences that your residents have with a community throughout the duration of their relationship with that community. Notice I didn’t say, “throughout the duration of their lease” — the RX begins long before residents sign their lease. Additionally, the focus of RX is all about the customer’s perception of those experiences. It doesn’t matter how well you think you are doing something—it's how your residents interpret the......
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