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Customer Service: Missing the Target

On a lazy weekend at our house, there's nothing better than taking the girls shopping at our favorite major multi-store (who shall go un-named for fear of retributive lawsuit).  Shop til you drop, enjoying popcorn and icees along the way... and an hour later, you have a full basket and stroller.Inevitably, if you shop like I do, there comes a point when you need to try something on.  All I require is a large enough dressing room to accomodate the stroller, a pair of jeans that promise to fit, and a good mirror who drops me two sizes.  Not too much to ask, right?  Wrong.   I proceed to the fitting room area with two very happy children and a pair of jeans in tow.  Only to be met by an attendant who tells me that I can't take the stroller into the fitting rooms.  However, to offset this rule, she does volunteer to watch the girls while I try on the jeans... WHO DOES THAT?  When I declined her offer, she returned to her no stroller stance.  So I asked to speak to a manager.  I got a frustrated sigh in return.Bad decision.  The manager, who responded to the store-wide page for a customer service issue, came accompanied by a store sercurity officer.  WHO DOES THAT?  They again explained their no stroller policy in the fitting room, even though they did accept that it was not posted.  When I explained that I carried a store account and had approx. $150 of merchandise to purchase from their......
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Resident Retention: Accentuate the Positive

"I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do." Grrr.As a customer, there's nothing worse than those words. As a customer, I don't want to hear about what you Can Not do for me. I want to hear what you Can do for me. And yet, as service providers, we are often asked to do more with less. Less capital, less staff, less flexibility in work hours or time off, and more. So how do we find a way to say , "yes" to our resident concerns and requests, when all we are hearing from our budgets is "no?"It's time to Accentuate the Positive! It's easy to say no. With our hands tied regarding some of the bigger capital needs of our communities for the time being, it gets exhausting trying to explain the situation over and over to different residents who are looking for an improvement. The important thing is to find a way to say "yes" to something. There's not enough in the budget to replace this long-term resident's carpet? Can we offer to steam clean? Not all the elevators can be replaced this year, but can we replace some of the hardware to make them look a little better until the capital can be approved? According to our research, in the top five satisfaction topics that have the greatest impact on the resident likelihood to renew, "office staff responsiveness and dependability" rank as #3, and "office staff courtesy and professionalism" rank as #4. How residents perceive our willingness to assist them......
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Lose the Amenity: Tanning Beds Need to Go

A compelling story that may have been lost this week in the furor over the Horizon Realty mess was the WHO's study on the dangers of tanning beds. As an industry, we need to be aware of this and address it at our apartment buildings and communities.

The dangers of tanning have been known for several years. Sadly, my generation not only tanned religiously, we even added iodine to baby oil to 'darken' ourselves even more! (Yes, we really did that.) But finally, even more information on how dangerous it is to 'fake bake' has been made public.

The World Health Organization's analysis found that the use of tanning beds can raise the risk of skin cancer by up to 75%. This new classification makes tanning beds as dangerous as arsenic and mustard gas.

Get rid of the tanning beds. Do something healthy for your residents. Make a statement. Or not. The choice is up to you.

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Asset Manager vs. Property Manager

Property ManagementI was interviewed by a potential client last week and one of the first questions that he asked me was: "How do you perceive the management style of your company? In other words, if I were to hire you, what do I tell people your company does for me?" My answer came quick: "We proactively manage and advise on your investment property. Think of us as asset managers, not just property managers." The client was pleased and we went on to schedule a face-to-face meeting.The interesting point to note here is not my answer - but the fact that the prospect actually asked such a question - and straight out of the gate! The question was to the point and he cared very little about the various other benefits we would provide. He simply wanted to know what we - as a company - thought of ourselves. The prospect was not looking for a company to collect checks and handle complaints - he needed someone to shed insight on and provide guidance for his $10 million asset.This appears to be an example of the shift in the way owners are approaching property management companies. Not only do owners need quality service, quick turnovers and fair management rates - they need a management company to take the reigns and drive the multifamily investment towards a profitable goal. This need (in my opinion), when fulfilled, establishes the property management industry as bottom line advocates, working for the betterment of the investment as a......
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Great Example of Customer Service

This week in altering our Ellipse Communications company page on LinkedIn I ran into a technical issue that prompted me to send in a service request to LinkedIn's customer service.

I believe, their response process is a great example of a customer service procedure:

I received an auto-responder within moments stating:

"LinkedIn has received your question. A service professional will review and respond to your inquiry as quickly as possible. Thank you! Meanwhile, we’ve listed links to popular LinkedIn Frequently Asked Questions below ..."

This let me know that my request (that was sent via online form) was received and there is a possibility the links to the FAQs may have answered my questions.

Within 3 hours I received a personalized email that:

  • Thanked me for contacting them.
  • Acknowledged that my issue was a concern that they are currently working on.
  • Provided a solution that worked for now.
  • Encouraged me to contact them with any further questions.
  • Thanked me for being a valued member of their community.

Some people have a stigma about using auto-responders, I personally appreciate the confirmation that my request was sent. On Grace Hill's chat a few weeks ago on the topic of follow up techniques there was a split opinion about using them on the property level. What are your thoughts?

On a sidenote: If you would like to create a company page on LinkedIn you can do that at linkedin.com/companies

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Let’s build a list of Social Networking (SN) Management “best practices”! Part One

How much time do you spend on Social Networking? How are you managing it? Here are a few ideas I have found to work. I feel like I am learning everyday. I have received so much great advice from others, and I thought this would be a great space to create a list of "best practices". What is working for you? What have you learned? Let's build a special Multifamily Insiders list we can all use. Sharing with others is the best part of social networking. I will get the party started with seven suggestions, three now and four more in part two on Friday. Where do your SN email announcements go? I had it mixed with my business email and it got crazy! I now have one account that is dedicated to social networks. You can set up a free account on yahoo, gmail or other service that is purely for social networks then adjust your settings to match. This electronically organizes your social networking news into a communication central. I delete as I read and only go to the social site to respond. I often just review my messages as I "check in" to see what is going on and then go on with my day. I don't feel compelled to respond in real time. Trying to respond in real time will EAT TIME! I have stopped leaving it open on my desktop and "peaking".  I don't know about you but it is just too tempting. CLOSE THE FILE!!!......
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The Power of a Simple Thank You

thank you signIf you've ever been privileged to visiting our Dallas office, you may know that our office tends to be a constant whirlwind. Our brightly colored space is filled with people rushing around to meet deadlines, looking for the folder that needs to be signed off on, and (on most days) echoes of Lisa laughing. We work hard, stay late, and pretty much do whatever it takes to make things happen. Sometimes that means jumping up, being a team player to help one of our team members complete a rush project. This week, Daniele Brannon, one of our Business Development Managers, had a great deal of prep work to prepare for a meeting with Pace Realty. On a short deadline, several people gave a helping hand to have Daniele's meeting go smoothly. Yesterday after the meeting was complete, when Daniele had a moment to reflect, she sent out a very short thank you to those of us who helped her out. I just wanted to thank all of you for your help and input in preparation for my Pace meeting today. The meeting went well, but no matter the outcome it’s a perfect example of the quality and character of people I get to work with on a daily basis. Thank you! While I was happy to help out, it was great to feel appreciated. After reading her email and noticing my own response to the recognition the little mouse on the wheel in my brain got to running. I know that......
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Resident Retention: Movin' On Up

  or  ?I just got back from Boise, Idaho recently to visit family and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Northwest U.S.  I found out a cousin who has been living with her parents for various family reasons is now looking for a rental situation. I asked her what kinds of deals she was finding in the apartment market in Boise, and while she told me what I expected to hear – that the move-in deals were pretty amazing – she had chosen to submit a rental application for a single family home with a yard. This is no new story to any of us, and she shared all the reasons we’ve heard before: - Fenced in yard - Same price as an apartment - No shared walls - Lots of space - And the neighborhood even had a pool and clubhouse! Yes, the shadow market is alive and well, there’s no point in denying that. We’re competing with it for prospects as well as our existing residents! While there are many experts on the leasing side who can offer strategies and approaches to get new prospects in the door, there is a need to continue to use some of these same strategies to keep the residents we have. Remember the TV show, The Jeffersons? The theme song is all about moving to a “deluxe apartment.”  How do we re-kindle that pride of residency in our own community?  When it comes to existing residents telling us at renewal time that they......
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Managing Problem Tenants

residential tenancy agreementChances are every landlord will encounter a problem tenant at one point or another in his career. Whether issues arise based on noise levels, delinquent rent payments, illegal roommates, or any number of other violations, dealing with problem tenants can be tricky. Following are some tried and true suggestions for dealing with issues as effectively as possible and—better yet—avoiding renting to problem tenants in the first place. Prevent problem tenants from getting a foot in the door. The importance of carefully screening tenants before locking yourself into a lease cannot be overstated. No matter how eager you are to occupy a unit, renting to an unqualified tenant is never worth it in the long run. In addition to checking credit and criminal records, be sure to call former landlords for applicant references. Remember, some landlords may be unwilling to explicitly state that they do not recommend renting to a potential tenant for fear of litigation. Bear this in mind when speaking with references, and be sure to read between the lines when necessary. Sometimes what a reference doesn’t say is just as important as what she does say. Ask the applicant’s former landlord if she would rent to the tenant again. If the answer is “no,” think long and hard before handing over that lease. Have a system in place. Many leases neglect to cover behavioral expectations. Be meticulous and specific when it comes to setting forth your expectations, whether it be in your lease or as part of a lease......
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Consistent Leadership--Learn From the Restroom

Consistent Leadership  Consistency holds a special place for all different aspects of life.  Even in our subconscious, our mind craves it.  I happened to appreciate that even more reflecting on different restroom experiences I have had in restaurants.   I put my hand in front of the soap dispenser and the motion sensor kicks in and out comes the soap.  I then place my hands in front of the faucet and for that brief moment I was waiting for the water to come out automatically.  Another brief moment passes and I realize there is a manual faucet of which I must turn.  Now on to the towel dispenser, I am looking frantically for the wheel or lever to roll the paper out and then the brain has to make its adjustment and once again it's back to the motion sensor. After reflecting on that for a while, I came to realize that this is really nothing new.  Many restaurants do this, for which I do not know why.  You go from motion sensor to non motion sensor items in order to complete your mission in the restroom.   This made me think of the impact it had on my brain's craving for consistency.  With so many things on my mind, it was amazing to me that an inconsistent restroom experience could contribute to a lapse in productivity and time management. Now take this small insignificant situation and amplify that into our workplace.  If such inconsistency in a restroom contributed to a lack of productivity, how more......
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