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Is poor active listening causing you to lose residents?

Is poor active listening causing you to lose residents?
Don’t have time to read the entire article? ***Click on this link to listen to it now!*** It does not matter how luxurious your properties are or what amenities you offer. The one thing that will make you stand out from the competition more than anything else is to have excellent customer service. In fact, an article released on forbes.com suggests that great customer service is more important than having the lowest price. Let's break this down a bit. Most people know the importance of good customer service, but the most important element that is often left out is active listening. Active listening shows your prospects that you care about their needs. There are several key components to being an active listener, but one of the most critical is to write down any concern they have or any information they provide you.                                              Writing down information serves two goals in your active listening strategy. The first one is to help you remember all of the details that the resident has given you. Many people may think that they can remember everything, but they can't. In fact, our memories are not nearly as reliable as we would like to believe. A few studies that have been done on memory recall suggest that we are not only more forgetful than we realize, but our brains sometimes make up false memories to fill in t......
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The Cookie Conundrum: When Resident Retention is More than Hot Cookies

The Cookie Conundrum: When Resident Retention is More than Hot Cookies
There’s no question that exceptional customer service leads to increased resident retention. However, according to the NAA Survey of Operating Income and Expenses1, the resident satisfaction rate over the last three years has remained fairly constant at about 76 percent, but residents’ intent to renew declined from 58 percent to 53 percent over the same period. If a large majority of residents are satisfied, why are they still undecided when it’s time to renew? This puzzler may be best explained as the Cookie Conundrum. Imagine that Property X puts a tray of hot cookies in the leasing office. Throughout the day, delicious cookies are eaten by delivery guys, property staff, neighborhood children, and the occasional resident or prospect. After eating a cookie, the resident is asked to fill out a satisfaction survey. With the delectable memory fresh in their mind, they rate the property positively. Unfortunately, a few months down the road when it’s time to renew, the tasty cookie is completely forgotten and the resident’s decision to leave the property is based on factors that cannot be masked by the temporary satisfaction of cookie - no matter how sweet. In short, sometimes resident retention efforts provide temporary happiness but fall short of creating long-term resident satisfaction. Renewal decision factors gathered by the 2015 SatisFacts Online Renters2 survey suggest renters are increasingly focused on the value of customer service they receive at the property, which is largely determined by interactions with the office staff and by the quality of maintenance services provided. The key to overco......
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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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Are We Becoming Anti-Resident?

Are We Becoming Anti-Resident?
Late last week Camden Property Trust decided to stop accepting resident packages across its 167 property portfolio. The company estimates it takes 10 minutes of work time to handle a single package, causing about a 3.3 million in annual losses.  When I first learned about Camden’s decision I felt let down, both as someone in the industry and as a renter myself. Handling packages for residents is one of the last courtesies we offer our residents and it’s disheartening to see such a big operator stop offering the service. I certainly can appreciate the company’s concern about the rise in package handling but, the decision does feel a bit like an overreaction. I question whether all 167 properties needed this new policy or if there were maybe a few the company could have saved. The fact is, residents that are no longer able to pick up packages at the clubhouse are left to fend for themselves, possibly opening up their communities to increased theft and overall poor customer experiences.  It feels like we, as an industry, need a moment to re-calibrate our views on resident relations. Property Management Memes is a Facebook Page with just under 20,000 subscribers where people in the apartment industry post their work experiences in “meme” form. When you look at Property Management Memes and the many, many other similar online communities, it’s hard to ignore the feeling of contempt staring back at you.  Most of these posts are expressing anger and frustration about, well, their residents’ anger and fru......
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If it goes missing…6 Simple Steps to Avoid the “Maintenance Took It” Syndrome

If it goes missing…6 Simple Steps to Avoid the “Maintenance Took It” Syndrome
No one actually loses anything anymore.  Maintenance took it. So if you can’t find your gold ring that you KNOW you left right on the table, it can’t be your memory or that you misplaced it.  Or if you are a beer short in your refrigerator, it can’t be that your teenager sneaked it while you were out.  Or if you left change on your dresser and it’s gone, or if the blinds are moved, or any other of a list of other things, it has to be that Maintenance did it.  I even remember one resident who stopped up her commode late one night, and then fussed at me because Ben (SUPER Maintenance Supervisor) supposedly used her towels to clean up the after-hours overflow.  It was actually towels he brought to the scene of the crime, and she neglected to apologize for accusing Ben.  Our maintenance team is so vulnerable, so it’s important to hire well, train well, and then protect your maintenance team from accusation.  Some ways Maintenance Professionals can do that are: ·       Keep track of any keys to apartment homes that leave the office and when they are returned ·       Document how long you are in the apartment on a particular work request ·       Don’t go in any part of the home you don’t need to ·       Don’t move anything you don’t need to ·       Always put a “Maintenance Is here” door hanger on the door handle while you’re inside ·       Leave the resident  a clear description of what work was completed, a......
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A Case For Helping 'Stupid' Customers

A Case For Helping 'Stupid' Customers
  Not too long ago I received a letter from an airline asking me to try out their “platinum” upgrade for a couple of months, for free. As part of this upgrade trial I’d receive free seat upgrades when available and access to the airline’s airport lounge. Needless to say, I was very excited about sitting in first class and being able to sip free adult beverages before my flights.  Then I did something stupid … I accidentally started my free trial before I wanted to (it’s a long story) which meant that the flights that I had coming up that would have enabled me to take advantage of my (temporary) “baller status” would come after my trial upgrade had expired.  The baller becomes the blockhead! After years of working in customer service, I had now become one of those customers who did something wrong-and wanted the airline to do something about it. (What do people say about payback being a …. ?)  I contacted the airline and explained what had happened and wanted to know if they’d grant me an exception to their policy, as a customer service gesture. Basically, I wanted them to extend my free upgrade by a week so I could take at least one flight in luxury. They told me no. Twice.  In the second email I received I was told by the customer service representative that “As I mentioned previously, if we grant you this exception, it would be unfair to everyone else who has complied by the terms......
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Let's get positive people!

Let's get positive people!
Today, one of the ladies in the office and I were talking. She’d spied my white board’s message: “Reminder…what are your blessings today?” This sparked a conversation about what were our blessings for the day. Of course family, friends, health and our jobs made the list.   She went on to say she uses positive affirmations in her computer passwords. I’m not going to give out any of her top secret information so calm down, people. She uses things like “LoveEveryone” and “Encourage” and changes them every three months. She says she can come into work in a cranky mood, then will type in “LoveEveryone” and it helps bring her back to a better place.   I thought, what a fantastic idea. Because you know what? We don’t think enough about the positives in our daily lives. Often our thoughts are consumed more by that utter idiot who just cut us off on the freeway. The resident who yelled at us. Or and I'm talking about clearly the worst human on the planet here, the person who has 25 items in a 20 item or less check stand. AND COUPONS! AND FORGOT SOMETHING!! And then they WRITE A CHECK?!   Ok calm down, think about blessings. (A CHECK?! OMG Who does that?!) Deep breath. Blessings. Positive.   How often do we take the time to say “thank you” “I appreciate you” “you’re the best?” Something simple like that can truly make a person’s day (especially after they were at the grocery store behind check-woman—ok, I’ve really ......
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Go get that coffee! Some thoughts about customer service.

Go get that coffee! Some thoughts about customer service.
How do you think your residents see you? What role do you play in their lives? Have you thought about it? In the hustle and bustle world of property management, it’s hard to stop take a breath and really think about things like that.  I manage the social media for all our properties, and see a lot of different requests coming through Facebook. Posts like, “I can’t reach the office, can you help me?” and “my neighbor is making too much noise, do something.” You know, the typical requests that come in through the leasing office every day. It’s just another format for them to ask. I always reach out to our teams to follow up. Last night, I received one that read, “Can you get me a TV guide? I looked on the provider’s website and I can’t find it.” I’m not going to lie, that request did make me chuckle. When I sent an email to the Community Manager, her response to me was, “we are not just managers and leasing agents, we are everything from cable repair men to therapist.” I thought that was a great attitude. You’re doing it right. You go girl! I started my marketing career in commercial real estate. When I first started, one of our VPs sat down with me and explained his job was like being a waiter. (Hmmmm, this should be interesting, I thought). He said his one and only job was to find out how his clients liked their coffee and give it to them that way.......
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If You Don't Want to Serve Customers Maybe a Job Serving Customers Isn't For You!

If You Don't Want to Serve Customers Maybe a Job Serving Customers Isn't For You!
After working in some type of customer service profession for over 25 years and speaking and training thousands of people around the country on the subject for the past four years, I feel confident in saying this…. If you’re not really into helping people, or you know, “serving customers” then you need to “move on with your life’s work!” Now! There is no shame in saying that having to work with the public is not your thing. There is no problem in admitting to yourself and to others that you don’t like helping people … (although, admittedly, the people around you already know it) and deciding to get out of a customer-service related job and moving on.  The problem is when you don’t admit it-and you hang on to a customer service oriented job, when you’re clearly not cut out to do it! Let me give you an example… This weekend I needed to pick up tap shoes for my daughter who is starting a summer dance class and found a pair from a seller on Craigslist and we decided to meet at a Starbucks. Before picking up the shoes I decided to order an iced coffee … mistake number one.  The barista didn’t make any kind of eye contact as she took my order; when she was finished ringing it up she walked away from the register to resume a conversation with co-workers, without thanking acknowledging me and without giving me my receipt.  I then walked over to where I assumed my coffee would be ......
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We know you have a choice...

We know you have a choice...
How many times have you traveled by air and heard the flight attendant say something like this..."We know you have a choice when you fly and we thank you for choosing our airline?"  I've always thought..."no, I don't really have a choice, unless it's based on price, flight times or if you are part of a rewards program."  I've never chosen a particular airline because I like them over another. It's not all that different when choosing where you want to live (which apartment community that is.) Most choose based on location and then price.  Then there is a chance that the sales associate might tip the scales and be the reason someone chooses your property over another.  I want to share a recent air travel experience that has completely changed my perception and going forward I will always try to find a flight with this airline when possible!   Picture this...I had to travel for work last month and when I arrived at the Delta gate I found it clean and fresh looking with newer carpet, new chairs and electrical & USB ports in between every few seats.  "This is awesome, I thought, because I'm a little early to the gate and don't want to drain my phone battery while I check my email and post to social media about my trip." The plane was newer and the flight attendants seemed especially friendly and helpful! Offering to help passenger with their bags etc.. The flight was non eventful and I arrived at my destination on time.......
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