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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: The Drill and Hole Philosophy

Have you ever wondered what your residents really need and want? Is it a well-designed apartment offered at a fair price? Yes, but this only begins to scratch the surface. Do you remember the day when you leased your first apartment? I do. I was living in Plantation, Florida, and decided it was time to spread my wings and move out of my parent’s house. I was too broke to afford an apartment on my own, so my best friend agreed to split the rent with me. While price, size, and location were important “want” factors, there was more to the story.     1.  We both needed to feel safe. Yes, I know that this is a bad word in our industry but that is exactly what we needed. The fact that this particular community was gated was a huge positive for us. 2.  We needed to be cared for. We were still young kids and we needed a management and maintenance team that we could count on. People that would be there when we needed them and hold us accountable to our actions if necessary. This is exactly what we got! 3.  We needed a good experience. At the time, my friend worked in the food service industry and I worked in retail. Great service was something that we provided our customers and we expected it from our landlord, too. Anything less would have been extremely disappointing. They did not disappoint us. 4.  We needed to feel like we we......
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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: Is Your Company Engine Running Low On Oil?

FLASHBACK TO 1992: It was a very hot summer morning in Miami, Florida. I was driving my car to work on I-95 and all of a sudden the engine stopped running. It was rush hour and you can imagine how happy all the people driving in my lane were about this situation. As the cars began to move around me, the honking and rubbernecking began and I was feeling quite desperate. As painful as it was, I called (yes, we had cell phones in the early 90’s) my best friend’s husband that I knew would NEVER let me live this moment down. He was always giving me a hard time about everything—this would be no exception. My car was eventually towed and the diagnosis was that my engine had ceased up due to lack of oil—actually, no oil. I was so busy leasing apartments (we were in lease-up mode…again) and managing a community that I failed to remember that my car needed oil to function. In a vehicle’s engine there are many moving parts that operate together. The oil in an engine circulates throughout and is responsible for lubricating all of the moving parts. Without it, these moving parts rub against each other, create extreme friction, and tear each other apart. Eventually, these parts will wear excessively, and the engine will ultimately fail—just like mine did.    A company is no different. When the working parts are not lubricated and moving smoothly, the moving parts rub against each other, create extreme......
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RESIDENT RETENTION: How To Avoid Getting DUMPED

Yesterday, I attempted to contact the cable company to make some changes to my account. I was left on hold for 15 minutes listening to, “Thank you for holding. A representative will be with you momentarily.” I hung up and decided to take the LIVE CHAT option. After 30 minutes passed (yes—I am serious), I momentarily stepped away from the computer to attend to my 2 year old. When I returned a few minutes later, these were the words flashing on my screen notifying me that our conversation had ended.   Ashley H.:  With the understanding that your time is valuable, our objective is to provide world class service within a timely fashion. We notice you have not responded within the last 60 seconds. Please note that this chat session will remain open for an additional 60 seconds awaiting your response. It appears that my 45 minutes of waiting was worth 2 minutes of their time. That sounds like “world class service within a timely fashion” to me! This was just one example of many poor customer experiences over the past 10 years with this company. I will NEVER recommend them to my friends, family, or anyone for that matter. If I could dump them, I would! In fact, that’s exactly what my 7 year old son told me to do, “Mommy, just dump them!”  Unfortunately, they are the only game in town—and they know it. So, my only option is to share my story with others through social media, customer......
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CUSTOMER LOYALTY: What Do You Know About Generation X?

The road to Customer Loyalty can take many twists and turns. In last week’s blog, “I am the Complaint Department? Now what?” I wrote about the importance of teaching employees how to effectively respond to resident complaints. One of the key points I made was the importance of listening to the customer. Hearing and listening are two very different things—hearing just happens, listening leads to learning. While I do consider myself an above average listener, early on in my property management career I found myself surrounded by people that I listened to, but did not understand. It was as if we were speaking a different language! It turns out that we were—I was speaking Generation X, while they were speaking Traditionalist and Baby Boomer. How did I respond? I became a generational researcher. If you want to understand French, you purchase a French language book, if you want to understand the different generations, you purchase the book GENERATIONS, written by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Current studies show that the oldest of each generation is now entering a major new life-stage. The Baby Boomers are entering retirement; Generation X is entering midlife with established families and becoming influential leaders, Gen Y is entering the workplace, and Gen Z is still in school or in diapers! As each generation enters a new season in life, their wants, needs and habits will change, too. Are you serious about building Customer Loyalty? Understanding generational differences can help you uncover valuable information and build ......
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CUSTOMER LOYALTY: I Am the Complaint Department? Now what?

Welcome back! In last week’s blog, Go Ahead…Encourage Your Residents to Complain, I shared some examples of how encouraging customer complaints can improve their experience and increase customer loyalty.  While it is important that employees make it clear that they welcome complaints, all too often they are not given the tools they need to handle complaints effectively. So, before you pin your employees with the “I am the complaint department” button, teach them how to respond, and effectively handle resident complaints.  1. Shut Up and File Your Nails! My first leasing job was at a community located in South Florida. The Property Manager always had a drawer full of finger nail files and polish at her desk. I found it odd that she frequently gave herself a manicure while at work—but did not dare ask why.  One day as I was walking by her office I saw her filing and painting her nails—again! I was really busy and a little irritated. How dare she look so relaxed while I was running around like a crazy woman trying to help residents! When I finally got my nerve up to ask her about this odd behavior, she openly revealed her secret to me.  Each time I saw her filing and painting she was on the phone with an unhappy resident.  She told me that it helped her to stay calm and listen intently to the angry residents that were screaming at her over the telephone. Genius! If resident retention and loyalty is the......
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Welcome Means So Much

Welcome matWelcome means so much.  Have you been to a Wal-Mart recently?  If their greeter is out to lunch, and not replaced, you haven’t been greeted properly by their standards and you have missed out.  It is normally a senior citizen with a warm and friendly smile who goes out of their way to grab you a buggy. How do you greet your new prospects? Does your property say, live here?  First impressions are huge in every industry. Have you noticed that the sales force for pharmaceuticals, copy machines, and real estate are always dressed to perfection with big smiles, bright eyes, and ironed shirts with ties for the men and perfectly coifed ladies from hair to make-up and business suits, every detail in perfect order? So, how do you rate onsite? How about your community? Is your community dressed for success? Are your leasing specialists looking their professional best? Clothes make the man and woman, otherwise, would there be so many fashion magazines out there?  I hardly think so, something to think about. Swept sidewalks, groomed grass and flowers when in season, impeccably clean glass windows and decorated lobbies are all a factor when you want to put out the welcome mat. And speaking of, is your welcome mat clean and vacuumed?  Do you have a candy bowl or fruit available?  A kid friendly snack for children keeps little hands busy and bottled water is always welcome. How about courtesy and kindness upon entering the leasing office? Are you standing up......
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Using Facebook to Capture and Understand Resident Feedback

Christina LakesA big benefit of Facebook – arguably THE biggest benefit for property managers – is the ability to capture, understand and leverage resident feedback. Traditionally, gathering customer feedback was difficult and often expensive. With channels like Facebook, this is simply no longer the case as your residents can easily interact with your property on your Facebook page. Now, keeping in mind that comments can swing both ways – positively and negatively – you need to ensure that you have the tools in place to respond to and understand resident feedback.   Engaging with residents is critical since Facebook has become such an influential part of your prospective residents’ research process. A community that has a vibrant Facebook page and interacts well with residents makes a great impression on future residents. So what’s the best way to analyze and utilize resident feedback? Read on to learn about some helpful tools and tactics. Make a good first impression At this point you should be well versed in the features and benefits of Facebook Timeline for business pages (if not, read this). Your Timeline Wall is much like a brick and mortar retail store’s showroom – it’s where customers get a sense of your product, and it’s often the first place they interact with your brand. As such, it can have a huge impact on a resident’s opinion of your property. To keep your Timeline in ‘showroom shape’ and showcasing positive resident comments, we recommend the following best practices: • Review your Timeline often.......
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CUSTOMER LOYALTY: How to Get Your Residents to “Stick Like Glue”-Part 2

Welcome back to my blog on “How to Get Your Residents to Stick Like Glue.” If you are like most companies, you already practice some of these items on the list some of the time. The idea is to keep reminding yourself and every member of your team how important it is to have these things in place all of the time. Consistency is the key! Yes, it takes discipline and sometimes a change in the way that you do business—it’s not always an easy task—but the payoff is high.   Whether your community is small or large, high-end or somewhere in-between, these points can be adapted to your business. 3.         HUMAN INTERACTION When it comes to making a large purchase I am one of those people that prefer to do my own research and keep my distance from the “in-person sale”—but when I am ready to buy I want to talk to a human being. If no one is available I get irritated. A few months ago our 13 year old refrigerator ran out of steam. I spent countless hours conducting online research to locate the one that would be perfect for our family.  It was 11pm on a Wednesday evening when I located the product that might fit our needs. There were two online stores that carried this refrigerator. I had a final question that I needed answered before I drove to the store to make my purchase the following day. I clicked on my favorite button, “Live......
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CUSTOMER LOYALTY: Are Your Satisfied Residents Defecting?

Resident SatisfactionYes, they probably are—but don’t take their defection too personally. It is not always related to you, your community, product, or the quality of the service delivered. There are many good companies and products that have customers defecting in large numbers. In fact, a consistent research finding is that 60-80 percent of lost customers reported being “very satisfied” or “satisfied” just prior to defecting. Surprised? The good news is that 98% of businesses today are satisfying customers’ wants and needs. The bad news is that good service is not good enough. There was a time when service was the economic value but today it is no longer a competitive position. We are now living in an experience economy. Don’t get me wrong…customer service IS necessary but no longer sufficient by itself. Your residents need something that will clearly distinguish you from being just another apartment community—one that can easily be exchanged for the competitor down the street. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? I often hear the words customer service, customer satisfaction, customer experience, and customer loyalty thrown around and even used interchangeably. I believe there is a difference and “attempted” to draw it out for you on a napkin. Please stop laughing and focus on the content. At the end of the day customer loyalty is built from the bottom up. It is the icing on the cake…the cherry on top! · Customer Service is supplying your residents with their wants and needs. · Customer Satisfaction is a measure of their expectations. H......
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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: Does Your Physical Environment Drive Positive Emotional Engagement?

NEWS FLASH: McDonald's Closing Temporarily These three words in a news headline and the notice below shocked a small town of 15,000 people.   Gainesville Texas Daily Register — “The restaurant will be closed beginning January 21st with a projected opening date of May 1,” McDonald’s franchisee Robert Gallardo said. “We are rebuilding the restaurant to bring our local customers a new and updated experience. For example, the new playground will have a zoo-theme, featuring the Frank Buck and Sissy the Elephant characters.” People around here get emotionally attached to odd things, old things and things they don’t even like to look at anymore. McDonald's is at the top this “love/hate” relationship list. Generation after generation have achieved the level of “golden spatula” while working at this restaurant, including my husband. In fact, he still has his uniform that carries all of those memories and the stench of the 1980’s french fries—yuck! This McDonald’s survived both the flood of 1979 and all of his friends—two miracles. In a matter of a few days it was all gone, including the not so friendly, unmotivated, often unprofessional staff who received a three month vacation.  FLASH FORWARD  Owen (my 7 year old son) and I visited the new McDonald’s for the first time yesterday. My experience...·         Smiling employees that appear to like their jobs  ·         The smell of fresh coffee (my favorite meal of the day)  ·         Food that actually looks like the pictures on the wallJ  ·         Laptop plugins and FREE WIFI  ·         The coolest playground......
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