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CUSTOMER REVIEWS: I Am YOUR Customer.

CUSTOMER REVIEWS: I Am YOUR Customer.
  As a huge online shopper, I am a fan of customer reviews.  I've found them very helpful for various purchases, but I'm realizing they are now guiding most of them. I have become a skeptic when it comes to all advertising, blasting through ads, pictures, and testimonials presented by the seller, and heading straight to the customer reviews. In fact, I tend to search primarily based on "customer reviews" now, sometimes ignoring those products that don't have reviews and dismissing those that have too many negative reviews.   In 2013, BrightLocal released the findings of their Local Consumer Review Survey. The study which explored consumer consumption of online reviews confirmed that more customers are reading reviews as part of their pre-purchase research before selecting a product or service.  Key Findings: — 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses (up from 76% in 2012) — So the path from reading online reviews to purchasing from a business is short which means it’s crucial for local businesses to have a positive online reputation so they convert ‘searchers’ to customers. — By the time a consumer has started reading reviews they have identified an issue/need they have, worked out what service or product satisfies this need and now want to select a business to use.   Apparently, I am not alone.    1. The Path is Short  If you are like me, you probably cringe at the price of Gillette or other name brand razors at your neighborhood store. Soon, we will all have to take out......
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Is It Time to Rethink Your Marketing?

What should we stop doing?  It seems like every day we are presented with something new that we have to do to remain competitive.  This means our list of musts keeps getting longer.  But, what should we stop doing now?  What no longer drives traffic or retains customers? What is being done just because it has always been done?  Or what gets done because our competitor does it? Following the pack is not always a good thing.  This is especially true if the pack is slow to innovate. Or if the pack has gobs more money than you do.  I can’t drive through a submarket without seeing a half dozen apartment communities under construction. That’s kind of scary for the established properties, right?  Maybe not. The established properties have clearly done something right along the way. There is a reason why so many groups want to infringe on their area.  All of this new competition might be a good thing. The competitor with the shiny, new construction is spending a lot of money to let people know how amazing that area of town is.  Observe where they are spending, and don’t try to keep up with them. Don’t follow this pack.  Why? The audience they are targeting is probably going to find you as well. And when they do, be better and be prepared. Right now you need to rethink your brand. Rethink your story. Rethink your customer experience.  These new properties have bigger budgets, probably better units, and they may even ha......
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Do You Have a Customer Journey Map?

Do You Have a Customer Journey Map?
Do you have a customer journey map? I know this is kind of a rhetorical question, since you can’t immediately respond, but it is something I am very curious about. The more I ask people about it, the more I realize that understanding and owning your customer journey map is not the norm for our industry. Actually, I don’t think it is the norm for most industries, because it’s a lot of work.  We are still designing, marketing, and selling for ourselves, or a very skewed version of what we think the customer wants. Whether we realize it or not, our ego often gets in the way of seeing the perception and the truth. I mean, come on, no one wants to admit they are experiencing ugly baby syndrome. So, it is easier to think our years of experience give us all the answers. For example, I recently spoke with a group about the customer journey map, and a woman responded with, “It’s too new agey.”  You can probably imagine my giant eye roll. It was so big it almost gave me a headache. But, it also made me feel a little defeated. A customer journey map is not anything new. It is often what determines any company’s future growth and success, especially when communication and information sharing changes as quickly as it does today. Put in the work, and do your research. And, commit to not making another reactionary decision until you have completed your customer journey map.  I might have gotten o......
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You Are an Experience Company

I was recently speaking with a man that is about to rollout a supplement line for women. His first thought was to use a soft script and pink package. Yes, he thought making his product pink would make it appealing to women. Now don’t get me wrong, I love pink…a lot. But, I don’t want my vitamin packaging to be a generic “woman” pink.  It’s kind of insulting. He was making a very broad and inaccurate assumption. He was generalizing women, because it’s the easy solution.  Well, we kind of do the same thing in multifamily.I would bet that most properties give every single customer the exact same customer experience, the exact same pitch, and even the exact same follow-up. Oh, you’re in your late-20s and live in the city? You must like to party, so we are conveniently located next door to this liquor store.  And, I know this sounds crazy, but not everyone likes auto-generated follow-up emails or scripts. They don’t exactly make you feel warm and fuzzy.    We often forget that the experience, the package, the conversation, etc, should be all about the customer. Not what is easiest or cheapest for you. When a prospect walks in your doors or contacts you, a strong sales person lets the prospect speak (and actually listens). They let the prospect share their thoughts and blabber on for a minute before they dive into their sales story. This is a big part of relationship development. The prospect is going to reveal who they are, what they want, and even why they......
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LEADERSHIP: Is Your Property Manager a Back Office Clinger or a Front Line Leader?

LEADERSHIP: Is Your Property Manager a Back Office Clinger or a Front Line Leader?
Strong leaders, who put themselves on the front line, are quite often those whom others want to follow. Weak leaders, who cling to the back office, often lack enthusiasm or personality that no amount of training will ever change.   Who is running your business?   According to a leadership study conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI) together with HR.com and the Institute for Human resources, back office clingers can be costly. How costly? A survey of 300 Human Resource professionals revealed the following about weak leadership:   69% said it caused lower rates of employee engagement 65% said it caused a loss of productivity 59% said it resulted in higher turnover “of themselves or team members.”  This study also revealed that 56% of those surveyed agreed that the number one reason for leadership failure is lack of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.  People who work on developing strong interpersonal skills are usually more successful in both their professional and personal lives than those who don’t.  It can be difficult to practice and fine tune these skills if you are clinging to the back office.   In contrast, front line leaders often lead by walking around. The “walk around” leadership approach traces its origins back to the 1940s. Its popularity expanded in the 1980s after being included in the book, In Search of Excellence. Steve Jobs was the ultimate practitioner of this leadership approach, taking it beyond Apple emp......
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Help Your Prospects Find Their Aha Moment

Help Your Prospects Find Their Aha Moment
It is simple.  Your residents get really emotional and passionate about their experience, and then they become your advertising.  But this means you have to have a pretty fantastic customer experience in place… I have been in the real estate industry for almost my entire career.  I have marketed and advertised everything from $3 million homes to manufactured homes (that’s a fancy word for trailers).  And you know what?  I am still not tired of it.  Why?  Because it is such an emotional purchase for the prospect, and it is a really important decision. When a prospect visits your community, they are looking for an experience and that aha! moment that tells them they have found their place.  They are making one of their biggest decisions for the entire year; they are choosing their home.  You know, the place where the majority of their paycheck goes.  It’s also that place they want to proudly share with friends and family.  That means you have to figure out what makes you and your community special.  Hint: it is not one of your amenities.  Now get strategic and think about how you are going to tell your story through your customer experience.  A well-honed experience and story connects you with your residents, prospects, and even employees.  This is one of your most valuable assets.  Whether you are part of a large management company or you work for a little guy, your customer experience and story is what guides you.  It also unifies you as a compa......
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Driving Action and Innovation at the Seriously Easy-Going Community

Driving Action and Innovation at the Seriously Easy-Going Community
In the past, many apartment communities have been able to survive even with very limited amounts of innovation. They focused on providing quality products and services, and simply updated them to a level that maintained their competitiveness in the market. Today, customer expectations are placing more demands on company innovation. They are used to products that continually advance and make their life easier and they don’t expect any less from your team and community. If you are not up for the challenge, they can always go somewhere else. Innovation is one of the main ways to distinguish your product and services from the competition. If you can't compete on price, you'll need innovative products and ideas to make your community stand out from the crowd.  In this final 3-part series post, we move over to the “Easy-Going” community. It falls between “Hell on Wheels” and “Push Button.”  1.             Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community.  2.             Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.    3.             Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community. This is a very blissful place to work.  Maybe you remember this community? It was on every manager’s radar. It was euphoric—a Push Button community with an occasional apartment flood, theft, or even surveillance on a resident, just enough disruption to add a little excitement to the day.  But like all of the others, spending too much time at the Easy-Going community has its disadvantages, too. It’s called complacency—that warm and cozy feeling of being satisfied. This type of community ne......
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How Do You Get the Resident Story?

How often do you actually have conversations with your residents?  I mean literally pick up the phone and speak to them.  Or even stop them in the community? I just got off the phone with a colleague and we were discussing how we are going to follow up with residents after they take a particular survey.  Surveys and reviews provide amazing feedback and data that we need, but they don’t always tell the entire story.  So, we have decided to have face-to-face conversations with a group of residents.  Why make the extra effort that is also a bit time consuming?  Because surveys can leave things unspoken.  Important things.  Your residents have opinions and insights that don’t always fit into a checkbox.  And isn’t it easier to listen when you see the face and the emotion behind the message?  It drives you to want to make improvements for that particular person more than the anonymous data you get from a survey.  Now don’t get me wrong, surveys are imperative and provide a wealth of information.  They are a fantastic way to solicit specific feedback in a timely and consistent manner.  I just want to encourage site teams to continue the offline conversations as well.  You can’t forget about the human element when it comes to residents.  If you focus on getting the full story, you will probably find out there is a lot you didn’t know about your community. Get out of your leasing offices and talk to your residents.  They want to tell you......
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Problem-Solving at a “Hell on Wheels” Apartment Community

Problem-Solving at a “Hell on Wheels” Apartment Community
Every apartment community has its own unique personality.  In fact, it is very likely that the one you are working at right now will fall into one of the following three personality categories: 1.       Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community. 2.       Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.   3.       Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community. In my previous blog, Can a “Push Button” Community Impede Employee Potential, I discussed how spending too much time at a “Push Button” community could potentially mask an employee’s true performance abilities.   Now it’s time to head on over to the “Hell on Wheels” community. If you are currently working at this type of community there is good news. You are being challenged!  I know it might feel more like a daily struggle but there are plenty of differences between the two. The energy of a challenge is totally different from the energy of a struggle. One sucks the life out of you, while the other makes you stronger—really.  A struggle makes you want to shrink back. A challenge helps you grow. A struggle wants you to give up or give in. A challenge encourages you to press on. A struggle breaks your strength. A challenge develops your strength. A struggle exposes what’s lacking. A challenge unveils abundance. A struggle says, “You can’t do this.” A challenge says, “You have what it takes.” Through each challenge and conflict, you become energized.   Here’s the thing – leadership IS a full-contact sport and it’s certain......
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Does Your Company Need an “I AM ANNOYED” Department?

Does Your Company Need an “I AM ANNOYED” Department?
There are few things more frustrating to me than spending 20 minutes explaining my problem to someone in “Customer Service” only to be bounced to another person, explaining everything all over again, and then being bounced to yet another person. What these companies really need is an “I Am Annoyed” Department to call AFTER you speak to their “Customer Service” Department. A few months ago I decided that it was time to cancel our home telephone service. We rarely use the land line and it was an opportunity to save a little money. I was prepared to make a 15 minute phone call. Unfortunately, my telephone company didn’t offer an “easy button.” Instead, I became their Ping-Pong ball and was bounced to six different people (email, telephone, chat) over a period of 3 weeks before finally reaching a person who eventually cancelled my telephone service. I am not making this stuff up! This sad faced Ping-Pong ball eventually posted her experience on Facebook, a ratings and review site, shared it with many friends, and is now posting this blog.  Is this a typical problem in business today? Yes. Can it be solved? Probably not—but it can be improved. It begins with preparing, strengthening, and empowering the first point of contact.     Here are three ways you can reduce the number of annoyed customers at your community.     1.   Hire Good People vs. Nice People I read a very interesting article last week in YAHOO Finance “How to Hire Good People Instead of Nice Peopl......
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