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Customer Retention is Built on Your Staff

The average rate of turnover in apartment rentals reported by the NAA is 60%.  Who can make a profit with such a rate of turnover?  Not only is customer retention built on quality leasing, it's also built on your staff.  Buildings and grounds don't maintain themselves, people do that work; apartments don't lease themselves, people do that work too. Often, management resorts to using a "rule of thumb" for determining an appropriate level of staffing.  A "rule of thumb" is kind of like knowing that the average depth of a lake is 2 feet - a person can still drown in the part that is 20 feet deep.  No two properties are alike; there are so many variables - location, unit composition, design, age, amenities, demographics, etc., along with special characteristics that affect its operation (we can get as much as eighteen feet of seasonal snowfall). An assessment of staffing requires a comprehensive analysis of staff work load and your expectations, arriving at an optimal configuration of contracted work and in-house labor. MAINTENANCE.  We have 346 apartments and a full-time maintenance staff of five.  One person is dedicated to performing daily customer service requests.  Three people prepare vacant apartments for new customers.  The supervisor coordinates contractors, troubleshoots, and takes care of those maintenance issues no one else can.  Painting, vacant cleaning, carpet cleaning and most lawn services are contracted out.  Snow plowing and snow shoveling is performed in-house. In most cases we expect to provide same-day service to our customers.  Further, we do not differentiate our service from business......
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Where the heck is the laundry room?

laundry roomTwo weeks ago I moved into a 2 bedroom 2 bath with one of my friends. For me this move was from one apartment to another in the same complex. This is my 4th lease in the 1,200 unit complex that I live in. Since it has been a while since I was a newbie to this village of an apartment complex I had forgotten how confusing it was when I first moved in ... that is until I became the live-in question answerer for my roommate. In the past 15 days I've: told her on two different occasions she was parking in a place residents aren't allowed to park overnight directed her to the nearest ATM given her directions to the grocery store directed her to the laundry room in our building directed her to the place on the property where she had to go to buy a card to pay for the laundry machines And still on MY to-do list is to figure out how she can get her name and cell phone number on the call box in our building so she can buzz people in. As well as ... show her where to put in a service request online for our silly oven drawer that falls on the floor if you open it. So my question, and really my point is - why on earth did no one tell her any of these things when she moved in? Granted there is a lot of information to share......
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Resident Retention: I Swear

I don't know if it's my imagination or not, but sometimes it seems that profanity and expletives have become more common in regular business interactions. And there are a few that take those choice words to a whole new level when they are not happy with the service or the answers you provide. What to do when a very disgruntled resident decides to rapid-fire every nasty, dirty, rude, crude and foul word in your direction to try and get what they want? Control your physical or verbal reaction, because a reaction is often what the person is looking for. By catching you so off-guard and putting you in a potentially humiliating situation, he or she is betting on the fact you'll agree to anything just to get them out of your hair. In many cases, it's very effective to take the bull by the horns and say, "Did I personally do something to offend you? If so, I'd like the opportunity to apologize." This turns the tables a bit. Most often the person will admit that it wasn't anything you did, personally, and they will then tell you the real situation (giving you the opportunity to provide a solution!). Calmly agree, but selectively. When the resident goes off about how ?#@*&%! ridiculous it is that she didn't have any hot water, go ahead and agree. "Twenty minutes is a long time to wait for the hot water to be restored. I can see why you are upset." And then continue with......
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Ten Things You Need to Know About Working On Site

1. If the resident moving in says they have a cat, they generally have two. Or more.2. Some of the residents who are behind on their rent will actually LIE to you to gain more time. Imagine that!3. Dating a resident really isn't a good idea. 4. Failing to inspect a leased apartment home the morning of the resident move in can be disastrous.5. Regionals who come to your property and spend all day on the phone with other people are not there to help you. They are there because they are supposed to be there.  (Most of the time this holds true. Occasionally, they really have to be on the phone.)6. No one is above cleaning an apartment, plunging a toilet or doing vacation services for a resident. We're all in this together, you know?7. Some people call in numerous service requests because they are lonely and want someone to talk to that day. Humor them. Clearly, they need you.8. Your leasing office has an energy all its own. Whether or not it's positive or negative is up to you. But who wants to live or renew at a property that's got bad energy going through it? No one I know.9. Your maintenance teams have much more contact with your residents than you probably do. Make sure you've given them the tools to communicate effectively.10. You have one of the best jobs in the entire world. You can make a difference in a persons' day and if you're really good, you......
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Resident Retention: I'll Bet You Think This Song Is About You

Egocentrics. You know the type: the world is their stage. The world is their audience. The sun rises and sets for them. You, and everyone else, are there as an extra or bit of scenery for their performance. It's truly all about them. The only person they will speak to is the highest ranking employee in whatever establishment they are in. They see no need to wait in lines. Manipulation is a favorite past time through dropping names of their important or powerful friends. Their acts of superiority and loud demands can be exhausting and intimidating. However, they are our customers, so it's important to have some tools and tips in your back pocket for when these encounters do happen. Special treatment is not necessary or appropriate, however simple acts such as remembering his or her name can make the individual feel like the VIP they believe they are.Taking some kind of immediate action can demonstrate your capability as a problem solver, something an Egocentric doesn't expect from anyone. If a measurable step is shown, there is a much greater likelihood that the individual will be more willing to work toward a resolution with you (not just your supervisor).Avoid stating policy or standards, since Egocentrics generally feel the rules don't apply to them. Use wording such as, "I'd like to offer you..." and then offer what you can offer anyone.Focus on looking approachable, pleasant, and willing to help. Often our inner cringing translates too clearly to our facial expression and posture.......
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Stop Running All of Your Ads Now!

In preparation for some meetings, as well as for some ongoing client work, I've been eshopping properties for the last two weeks.

The results are in a word: horrendous.

Some companies took a full week to get back to me. Others relied on their auto responders that said, "Contact us if you have any additional questions."

Sadly, the majority of the ones I DID receive back were littered with poor grammar, misspelled words,  information on the wrong bedroom configuration and more. So here's my question:

If you're not going to train your people on how to answer the emails, why bother advertising?

After all, why spend the money if you're not going to utilize the results? So just stop running all of your ads now.

Ignoring your emails is like letting the phone ring and ring with no one to answer it. Or letting a prospect come into your office and simply stand there while you pretend they don't exist. Would you ever do either one of those things?

Training is ESSENTIAL. If you don't arm your teams with the proper instruction and procedure on how to answer their emails, you're bound to fail.

I will now step off of my soapbox and you can return to your day.

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Business is Personal... But Don’t Take It Personally!

Recently I asked a group of onsite property managers to answer the question: What does 'business is personal but don't take it personally' mean to you? Their responses are interesting and on target.  Before you read on... what’s your interpretation?  Here's what they had to say: 1. This is a good one for me. I have a nasty habit of taking EVERYTHING personally. I think this means, you have to put a lot of yourself 'personally' into your work but you can't let it run your life or effect you 'personally'. It is an interesting paradox in this business because you want the people you work for and with to feel that you care.  But if you care too much (loose yourself in caring) it can have a negative affect on your own life. This is something that I have to remind myself everyday. It is really hard to keep personal feelings out of anything that you spend so much time working on. Yet, it’s essential. 2. For me this is an easy one. To conduct business, we have to meet our client/residents and our staff on a personal level.  Our client is looking for or living in a home where there personal life takes place.The staff has a personal life outside of work which can effect their performance or their perspective on a client. It is important for us as managers to understand that while we may be taking part in someone's personal life, their 'acting out' is not truly about us.  3.......
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FISH!

In the course of my browsing the other day, I came across a curious thing. It's called FISH! Maybe you've heard of it and I'm just rehashing old information, but maybe, like me, you're a little curious.  From their website:The FISH! Philosophy includes four simple, interconnected practices:Be There is being emotionally present for people. It's a powerful message of respect that improves communication and strengthens relationships.Play taps into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind, as in "Let's play with that idea!" It's a mindset you can bring to everything you do.Make Their Day is finding simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way. It's about contributing to someone else's life, not because you want something out of it, but because that's the person you want to be.Choose Your Attitude means taking responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Once you are aware that your choice impacts everyone around you, you can ask yourself, "Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?" I swear I am not being paid to promote these folks, nor do I work for them, disclaimer et al etc. But I personally found this to be a very powerful message and a very neat, precise way of packaging it. In many ways it's just the basic principles of establishing relationships and growing them, although the......
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Lessons Learned From Horizon

By Erica Campbell & Gillian Luce Social media is proving that free speech has extended its reach to new media platforms where conversations are being held between private individuals. Social media is all about people sharing opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other through online media channels. So you would think that one should not be sued in court for simply sharing a thought online, right? Last week's big Twitter story revolved around a pending libel suit brought by Horizon Realty Group, a Chicago real estate management company, against one of its former tenants, Amanda Bonnen, in Cook County Circuit Court. This case has received extensive publicity and touches on issues such as consumer protection, limits of libel, free speech, and strategic lawsuits against public participation. Amanda Bonnen complained via Twitter to about 20 followers that her landlord was apparently allowing her to live in mold-infested filth: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks its okay." The response from Horizon was a lawsuit! A short complaint filed in Cook County court last week accused Bonnen of libeling Horizon in 140 characters or less, and sought $50,000 in damages. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Horizon's spokesperson responded to the situation with a quote, "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization."Let's take a look at some of the lessons we can learn from this: Consumers are the new media and they know it Embrace consumer criticism as opposed to overreacting ......
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The Apartment Community Circle of Impressions

Apartment community Circle of ImpressionsTo best describe the impressions made on your community and how they impact your brand, it's easiest to explain it as a circle. Certain key factors such as appearance; residents' perception of the property; how residents talk about it and the way former residents talk about it are all impressions that impact your brand.Let's start with the first part of the circle, overall appearance. Appearance and landscape of your community impacts the prospective residents' first impression. You can greatly influence how the outside is perceived using little finances, such as hanging plants by the leasing office, community center and laundry facility. Making sure the grass is green and the trees/bushes are trimmed. Continuous upkeep on your property's exterior will help make prospective renters' minds after your leasing office is closed.The next part of the circle would be how residents perceive your community. After a prospective renter becomes a resident of the community, why should they continue to fancy the community they reside in? Offering programs such as health and wellness events, programs on the environment, family safety and financial planning are all ways you can make the property feel like home. These initiatives will also help the way current residents perceive the community which will help for the remaining portions of the circle. 4 Arrows Circle of ImpressionsKeeping current renters happy by providing great programs they would be interested in and providing stellar customer service will generate a sense of pride within residents for their community, which in turn will influence......
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