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How to Overcome a "Bad Reputation" and "Sour" Resident Reviews

How to Overcome a "Bad Reputation" and "Sour" Resident Reviews
Keeping all of your residents happy is the goal of every property manager, but this realistically is impossible. Often residents end up going through negative experiences whether it is by mistakes made by employees, something wrong with their apartment, or sometimes just bad management decisions—yours or someone else’s. Upset residents are quite capable of rapidly spreading the word and tarnishing the reputation of a community. Regardless of the reason, the reputation of your community can go sour when something negative is posted on an apartment review site and it becomes instantly visible in search engine results. According to the 2012 Managing Customer Experience Survey, there is a correlation between actual delivery of customer experiences and impact on brand reputation and strength. I was inspired to write this blog while returning home from a recent trip to Branson, Missouri. This is a true story of a management team that is focused on turning around their bad  reputation and making lemonade out of sour lemons!  1. Sifting Through the Mess Our family decided to start a new Thanksgiving tradition this year. Our plan was to load up into our motorhome and head for Silver Dollar City, in Branson, Missouri. The kids were really excited about the idea of enjoying the rides and the attractions at the “Old Time Christmas” festival. I was charged with locating the “perfect” campground. We had a long list of “must haves,” such as an indoor pool, free shuttle to Silver Dollar City, playground, etc. After an hour of research, I realized we had one option that fit all of our needs. I imme......
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GENERATION Y: When I Grow Up I Want to "Share" a Car

                   According to a recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of a typical family’s spending today goes to transportation and housing—unless you are a member of Generation Y. It appears that this often misunderstood generation has now turned against owning a car. ·         According to research, in 2010, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985. Miles driven are down and the proportion of teenagers with a license fell, by 28 percent, between 1998 and 2008. Auto makers are deeply concerned that Generation Y does not care about vehicles nearly as much as they do about their iPhone. General Motors has enlisted the youth-brand consultants at MTV Scratch to give their vehicles a Gen Y edge while Subaru is trying to get the emotional connection right with Gen Y using social media. Generation Y (80+ million) is even larger than the highly influential Baby Boomers (78 million) and their lack of interest in owning an automobile is alarming. They are “hugely significant in terms of raw numbers alone,” said Sage Marie, a senior manager at American Honda. “Capturing their business and ensuring their loyalty is crucial for the future. Understanding this generation is a step that cannot be overlooked when attempting to market to and retain them.” While automobile sales are down, car –share is up! Have you ever heard of Zipcar? It is a car-sharing......
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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: The Roller Coaster Ride

                                                                Our experiences as customers can often resemble a roller coaster ride—taking us up and down hills, twists and turns, and sometimes facing sideways. Read any number of customer experience blogs or articles, and you'll see a popular theme. It's this notion that, in order to earn customer loyalty and referrals, you must consistently exceed their expectations—give them the ride of their life—every time!  Is this realistic? Does the ride (experience) become exhausting at some point? Does it break down?  While I certainly appreciate setting high expectations, the reality is there are the occasional hard falls. I am sure you have been there. You set the expectations too high (the customer or the service provider) and sometimes you end up with the “Gee, I wasn’t expecting that!” moment—it’s not always pleasant. Then just as you are about to throw up your hands, the ride takes a quick turn and the thrill begins once again.   Every day residents are riding the apartment community roller coaster. I believe a great resident experience is  built around a series of “moments of truth” during their interaction with your employees. Those on the front line, the resident’s primary contact, are expected to help them and deliver a pleasant experience—but it doesn’t always work out that way. Every person on your team, even those you may not think of as customer service personnel, has the ability to make a positive impact on the experience, improve resident retention, and in some cases even turn a ......
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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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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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CUSTOMER LOYALTY: Go Ahead…Encourage Your Residents To Complain!

Research shows that customers who complain and are satisfied with how their complaint is handled are actually more loyal than customers who had no problem at all. Most people don’t like confrontation and most times don’t bother complaining when they think nothing will come of it. There are also those that assume they’ll end up feeling angrier or more irritated because their complaint was ignored or dismissed as unimportant. Encouraging resident complaints and handling them well is important to building customer loyalty. Instead of running to the back office or pretending that you are on a phone call when your #1 complainer walks in, embrace them. I know this might sound crazy BUT these are the people that can help you improve your business---view their complaint as a gift.  1.ENCOURAGE RESIDENT COMPLAINTS That's right. Encourage your residents to complain and give them multiple channels to do it in. Let's face it, as we have repeatedly heard, residents are talking about you whether you listen or not, so you may as well reap the benefit. If a resident doesn't complain when he has a problem he simply isn't invested enough to put effort into fixing it. He would rather put the issue aside and simply move down the road. He certainly isn't interested in recommending your community to others. A friend of mine made the following post on her Facebook page this week: In October I bought a Cuisinart Coffee Pot with a carafe that was supposed to keep my coffee hot.......
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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: How to Get Your Residents to “Stick Like Glue”-Part 1

True customer loyalty is perhaps the greatest asset a community can develop. Loyal residents are more likely to renew and—equally important—refer their friends and family. In my blog last week, Are Your Satisfied Residents Defecting?, I made a point that satisfied residents are not always loyal AND there are times when loyal residents are not loyal. Resident loyalty can be difficult to build and even harder to sustain, but when you consider the fact that the cost of attracting new residents is significantly more than that of maintaining a relationship with existing ones, you have a powerful incentive to keep that core group happy.    At our house, we are always building, repairing or improving something. Glue is an important tool and our glue of choice is Gorilla Glue. The manufacturer claims that it can handle the toughest jobs on planet earth. Visit their website and you can read about customer experience in their “Tough Stories” section. I am not embarrassed to say that I have read every one—I am a research addict. This one in particular sparked a few thoughts: “In January 2010, I Gorilla glued a new 2010 penny to my sidewalk to see how long it would stay. As the weather was cold, I was not sure if it would work. That year, we had a record snow fall and shoveled our sidewalk numerous times. Many people have tried to pry the penny loose. As of May 2012, that cent, although very weathered, has remained in place. I ......
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