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On Being the "Blip"

Remember those old movies that inevitably had some scene that took place in a submarine where there was a guy wearing headphones bigger than his head  and watching the screen of concentric circles for the little radar "blip" that meant something was out there?  Well success today, it's all about being the "blip."As a vendor, you don't want me on your doorstep every week, no matter how great the bagels are that I bring.  You probably want maybe one call a week from me, MAXIMUM, unless you have business for me or a problem that maybe I can help you solve.  My temps that go out to work most often are the ones who "stay on my radar" without annoying the fudge out of me. And, Leasing Consultants of the world, being the "Blip" on the radar of your future, current and even past residents will guaranteed bring you more leases and renewals.  Remember, being the "blip" takes some finesse, too.  The "Blip" is subtle, suave and secretive.   The "Blip" never makes sounds that last incessantly.  It's there and then it's gone.  The "Blip" reminds you once an a while that it's here, every so often, blinking on the radar screen so that you remember it's there when you need it.  Just when you've forgotten about the "Blip" it pops back up, just to say hello or maybe to bring you bagels.  The "Blip" also never tells you everything about itself.  It leaves you wanting a little bit more.  More conversation,......
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Everyone Needs a VIP Sash

Recently, on a trip to my home state of Wisconsin, I found myself with a few extra hours and an opportunity for lunch with my old college roommate (and maid of honor and godmother to my oldest), Katie.  It was one of those impromptu opportunities that you just know before you get there is going to be fun, fun fun.  Not to mention, Katie is hilarious. As usual, both of us were running late, and we didn’t get to the restaurant in Oshkosh until after 1pm, so the sparse crowds didn’t surprise us.  Heck, it’s par for the course, these days.  That actually may have been a good day. Our server was Lisa and she quickly got a handle on our wild and raucous entrance by letting us know if we signed up to be VIP’s we would receive a substantial discount on our lunch.  No catch.  Just sign up.  Of course we did, and Katie wanted to know when she would get her VIP sash, that is, unless there was a crown available, then she would prefer that.  We all laughed and continued on with the VIP humor until I am sure most were nauseated listening to us.  During lunch Lisa informed us that it was her last day, and she was about to start her career as a social worker in Wausau. I’m sure it is a very exciting and stressful time for her, and looking around the restaurant, probably a financially challenging one as well. Needless to say,......
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Lease Renewal Form Steps In it

I am a proud apartment renter, and today I received my lease renewal offer as it slid through my front door. I thought it would be a good example to share with the group and see what people think! (My comments are in italics) "Dear Brent Williams, (my fiancee, incidentally with her name spelled wrong):The lease on your apartment #XXXX will expire on 03/31/2009. We are currently offering the lease renewal terms and rates shown below.You may sign a 12 month lease renewal for $XXXX per month. (a $96 increase)You may sign a 6 month lease renewal for $XXXX per month. (a $107 increase)This offer will expire on 3/31/2009. If you do not choose to renew your lease, you may remain month-to-month for a new rent of $XXXX. (68% higher than the 12 month lease offer)We hope you will continue to make your home with us. Should you have any questions, please call or come by the management office. Sincerely,XXXXX, Property Manager"So before we get comments from everybody, here are a few of my own: 1)  This was the first time they have ever contacted me since I moved in. 2)  The letter came the evening before I had to make my decision based upon the 60 day notice to vacate. Do they think their residents appreciate that type of timeline, or is it a way to bully them into staying because they cannot make the 60 day notice? Either way, you can tell what type of impression it made on me.3)  The......
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Resident Retention: Low Cost / No Cost Strategies

Numbers? We Ain't Got No Stinking Numbers! So, you need to obtain permission to enter, track down a late rent payment, return a phone call, or place a pre-renewal phone call.  But wait! Their phone number isn't in the system. Surprised? You shouldn't be. The sad truth is that the average apartment community has contact information for only 50% of their residents, and much of that information is outdated.  Perhaps, as an industry, we have the mindset of, "Well, at least I know where they live!" The problem is that when issues come up and we need to contact them, we can't.  Calling information, searching through their paper rental application, searching the White Pages online... It's a waste of the staff's time - and time is money!  There's a simple, yet EXTREMELY effective solution. We ask the resident for their contact information.  Sounds crazy, I know. But snark aside, by setting an organizational standard, property managers can train the team to ask for or confirm the resident's contact information at every interaction.  The impact of this basic cultural change will astound you."Well hello Mrs. Jones. Yes, I can help you with that. Oh, I see that we do not have a current phone number for you. What's the best number to reach you? What's the best email address to reach you?"  "Thanks for calling Mr. Lee. Is this still the best number to reach you: 555-1234? I see we don't have an email address for you. What is your email address?"  For whatever reason, our leasing teams......
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Resident Retention: Low Cost / No Cost Strategies

Watching the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States today, I was struck with the message of hope now-President Obama shared with us.  It wasn’t just philosophy and feel-good jargon. It was a reminder that we’ve been through tough times before, and we have worked through those times with a sense of hope, with hard work, and tenacity. With that in mind, the purpose of this blog is to provide our hard-working property management professionals with practical tools and strategies that will enable you to hold on to those residents you do have, and even increase your net operating income despite these rough economic times.   So let’s begin.  It’s a different world than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. Technology continues to evolve by the day, hour, and minute.  The question is not, “What technology do we need?” The question is, “What technology do we have?” EMAIL.  I would venture to say it’s nearly impossible to find a leasing office that does not have at least one email address. But, do you use it to its full potential? I was speaking at an apartment association lunch club last week, and a leasing professional approached me afterward to give me her card and request a copy of the presentation I had given. She was laughing because she had to write her company email address on her card. That information was not standard issue for her property management company’s business cards.  What?????? In 2006, SatisFacts research was com......
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It's All Right In Front Of You

Keeping residents and attracting new traffic is no easy feat these days.  Everyone tells you to “add value”, but there is no money to add much of anything right now.  It’s time to get creative.  Take a look around your environment.  Look at what is right in front of you – how can you add value using what you’ve got?Step into that big empty room nobody ever uses.  According to Entrepreneur, Do It Yourself weddings are back.  Between food prices and the recession, if you’re getting married, or planning a reunion or even a baby shower, renting a venue is a big expense you might not have money for.   If you have a clubhouse, you have room for a party.  Think about adding value by making an area available for parties.  If you already do this, reinforce the offer in your newsletter.  If you don’t have the ability, or don’t have a clubhouse, what do you have?  My homeowner’s association picked eight Saturday nights during the summer and offered the pool area up for private parties (for a small fee) after 8pm.  The response was fabulous.  How can you take your common areas and add value to them?If you have a guest suite offer a free night’s stay as part of a renewal or leasing incentive.  Make sure residents understand the value offered by attaching “a $$$ value” to your presentation or collateral piece.  Invite your coworkers to a challenge to answer the phone each and every time it rings.  Value......
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Satisfied Residents Are Not Enough

Came across an interesting blog post today about customer satisfaction. The Consumer Electronics Association prepared a satisfaction survey earlier this year that discussed customer satisfaction and their decision to buy again from that provider*. Well, as you can see, having a satisfied customer doesn't really get them to the goal they anticipated. Instead, only the "Very Satisfied" customers seemed to really be impacted enough to be a repeat customer.

So why didn't "satisfied" produce greater results? Without more information, it's really hard to say, but I wonder if these results go back to Hygiene Theory I blogged about several months ago. What if being "satisfied" really just meant that the company had met their basic expectations, and nothing more? In other words, they provided what they were supposed to provide, but didn't "wow" them or go above and beyond. Those who were "Very Satisfied", however, may have felt that their basic expectations were met, but there were also additional perks that really provided the reason to continue to buy from that company.

Of course, this is all speculation, but it's worth thinking about. Regardless, it does show that providing adequate service or a product that just barely gets the job done won't cut it with your customers.
* Could not find source document

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