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The First Date Principle

If you’re reading this article I know that you know the importance of seeing things from a customer’s or resident's point of view. But have you ever found yourself frustrated with the people on your team who don’t ever seem to “get it?” During my property management career I tried a lot of different ways to help the people that I managed and trained to see things from the customer’s point of view. Using what I call the “First Date Principle” has been the most effective method I’ve found to do this. The First Date Aren't first dates stressful? We’ve all been there right? You try outfits until you find the perfect one. You experiment with different hairstyles, make up and accessories to look your best. Perhaps you’ve made reservations at a restaurant whose name you can’t pronounce and whose appetizers alone cost more than your monthly car payment.  During the date don’t you find that you try to avoid anything that could make you look bad, or be taken the wrong way? If you can’t afford what your date ordered for dinner, you don’t say a word. If you think the waiter is really cute you resist the temptation to take another look. If you feel like you need to burp, or anything else, you make sure that you are far away from the table before it happens, right? Why do you do this? Because you know that the person sitting across from you is watching everything you do! ......
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I Bought Another Pair of Shoes

I know you are not surprised by the fact that I bought another pair of shoes. I love my shoes. Today I am on a 4 day trip and I have 5 pairs of shoes with me! Years ago, no one would have imagined buying shoes on the Internet. Of course we would want to try on the shoes before we buy them. Or do we? Online shoe retailer, Zappos, changed this mindset when they started selling shoes online. In order to gain the trust of the customer, they had to not only have great shoes, but great people helping the customer buy the shoes. In my first experience with Zappos, I spoke to a customer service agent who wanted to help me get the right size. Because the event I needed the shoes for was just a week away, we only had time for one shipment. Zappos shipped me three sizes to be certain one of them would fit. And, there would be no charge to return the pairs of shoes that did not fit. When the boxes arrived at my home, I found that one of the shoes fit perfect. Did I return the other two pairs? Nope. My assistant bought one of them! So, because they extended themselves with over the top service, they sold two pairs of shoes.What is your company known for? Do you have a legacy of doing what ever it takes to earn the customers business? Zappos shows us it is not only easy,......
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How Pitbull Turned #Exile into Social Media Accolade

So maybe you heard about this: Earlier this year, rapper Armando Christian Perez, or “Pitbull”, partnered with Walmart and Energy Sheets in a social media campaign which took a turn for the worst. In June the trio announced a Facebook contest, in which the local Walmart store that received the most page “likes” would receive a personal visit from Pitbull so he could “share the experience of using Energy Sheets with [his] fans.

That’s when David Thorpe, writer for The Boston Phoenix and the off-color comedy site Something Awful, got wind of the promotion and hijacked the campaign by encouraging people to #ExilePitbull to a remote Walmart location on Kodiak Island, Alaska. The prank spread like wildfire season in the interior arctic, and by the conclusion of the contest, a city with a population of 6,000 incinerated the efforts of 4,000 other U.S. locations, achieving over 70,000 Facebook “likes.” 


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Does Being Kind Matter?

“Marketing types have latched on to this story as an example of the power of social media and "virtual word-of-mouth" to boost a company's reputation. But I see the reaction to Sue Fortier's gesture as an example of something else — the hunger among customers, employees, and all of us to engage with companies on more than just dollars-and-cents terms. In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that remind us what it means to be human.” ~  Reference to the social media explosion after the manager of a Panera Bread restaurant who made a bowl of clam chowder for a young man’s dying grandmother in article written by Bill Taylor, HBR Blogs (Harvard Business Review)   Maybe it is more important to be kind, rather than offering Specials and concessions to our Prospects and to our renewing Residents to entice them to live in our communities.. There are sure to be some cynics out there that will disagree with this, that Gen Y and X will choose price over any other offering when apartment shopping, that our current Residents only want to maintain a status quo without enduring the dreaded rent increase, that our Team members only want raises – that the almighty dollar trumps our ability to offer a connection to one another.   I posted a comment to one of Maria Lawson’s Blogs on Multifamily Insiders regarding loyalty recently. I wrote of how during......
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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: Are You Boring Your Customers?

On my last trip to the bank I realized how boring the entire process had become—walk-in, complete the transaction, and leave—yawn. I have been a member of this bank for more than 10 years and the experience hasn’t changed—I am just more aware of it. The same people that have worked there for 20 years are sitting at their same desks with little to no enthusiasm. In fact, as crazy as this might sound, I find myself trying to motivate them if I spend too much time in the waiting area. I have a better customer experience at the dairy farm where I purchase a $5 gallon of milk than I do at the business that holds the majority of my life savings. Something is wrong with this picture! I believe that there are a lot of customers out there just like me. They get used to doing business with a company for so long that they become numb to the experience—they settle for boring. Then one day a new business comes along that delivers a great experience with “a cherry on top” and it makes you realize that you have options—better ones. 1. ADD A CHERRY ON TOP A friend recently sent me a text about a kid’s club program being offered at one of the new banks in town. She stated in her text that they offered a great interest rate on this account and unique rewards for the kids, too. I thought it would be a great e......
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Four Ways to Stay on Top with Proactive Customer Service

A friend recently told me, “I just can’t stay on top; I’m always reacting. I don’t have time to be proactive.” Who doesn’t get that? No time for sweeping changes? A few small ones can net great results. Consider these four basic tips… all centered around one key aspect of property management—communication! 1.       Set expectations; residents don’t like to be surprised. Surveys show that residents want more communication from their property managers. It’s a fact: people aren’t happy when their expectations aren’t met. Make that work for you. 2.       It’s easier to get the word out than to respond to inquiries. “The parking lot will be closed for repaving on Monday.” “The west gate isn’t working and will be repaired tomorrow.” “Saturday’s pool party will start at 4 PM instead of 3.” How many phone calls, conversations and complaints would these messages save you? 3.       Invite feedback; it helps you plan. “Let me know if you plan to attend.” “Please report storm damages by Friday.” “Respond if you want to help at the cookout.” People like to know their voice counts. 4.       The right tools make all the difference! A proactive approach depends on you reaching your residents rather than them seeking you. Try putting affordable technology to work with an automated message notification service. Look for features like: one flat rate and use it often; voice, text, and social media messaging to multiple contacts per resident; automatic language translations; and the ability for residents to instantly respond. “Automated” doesn’t m......
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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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Student Retention: We're Not Gonna Take It

college kidsIt may come as no surprise that students generally score their satisfaction with rental housing a full quarter of a point lower than the average renter. Those who manage student housing can attest to students (and their parents) having higher expectations and being more vocal about their opinions.  This makes sense, as this may be the first time a student is away from home and their parents are not caring for the home. Many have no idea what housing in the real world is like! And while school may be out for the summer, there are many students (and their parents) who are finalizing their decisions on where the student will be living next fall. Here are some standards to put in place in order to position your community to be the student's home away from (mom and dad's) home.1. Be courteous and professionalAccording to the SatisFacts Student Index, students give their property management office team an "Average" rating when it comes to basic courtesy. Students are people too! What you may be interpreting as entitlement or rudeness may be a cover for insecurity and misunderstanding. Use every interaction as a positive opportunity to educate them on what they can expect from the property team, the best way to go about submitting work orders, what the timeline for resolution might be and why. Just as parents aim to shape their children to be self-sufficient, confident members of society, Student housing providers can aim to shape students into responsible, educated renters.2. Communicate - their wayStudents,......
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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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