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Improve Your Resident Retention by Changing the Way You Speak and Think

As a property manager, I had some 'rules' that I made everyone follow. Perhaps some of my staff thought they were silly; hopefully, they realized the value in them. Here's a sampling:1. Never use the word 'problem'. Substitute the word  'opportunity' in its place. Let's face it. If you view every potential 'problem' as an 'opportunity', you've placed a much more optimistic spin on whatever issue you have, right? I found that it helped my team tackle the problems from a different point of view. I'd ask myself and my teammate what kind of opportunity we had been presented with- whether it was an occasion to promote our brand, deliver outstanding customer service, or create a new advocate of our community (or all the aforementioned and more), it really gave us a chance to think things through on a  much more positive note. 2. Turn your least favorite resident/customer into your favorite.  Here's how this one worked. Almost everyone of us who works or has worked on site has had a resident who just seems to rub us the wrong way. And our tendency is to head in the opposite direction when that person comes in, or to hand off the phone call or email to someone else when we receive it. It's human nature. This 'foe into friend' technique required each person on staff to welcome opportunities to work with their least favorite resident. Our job was to work with the resident on every possible occasion and in so doing, find their really good qualities. Yes,......
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The Numbers on Resident Retention

A huge thank you to Doug Miller and Jen Piccotti from SatisFacts, who led a great conversation about resident retention on last Friday's Apartment Chat. They provided lots of hard-hitting stats about the true costs of resident turnover. Here are the questions that were discussed: Why does controlling resident turnover matter? What matters most to residents when considering renewal? How does technology impact resident retention? When does the resident renewal decision begin? Check out these interesting stats provided by SatisFacts during the discussion: Average cost of turnover = $4500 per move-out (Includes avg. rent, vacancy loss, wages, ads, promo, concessions, repair/replace, etc.) The average resident turnover for 2008 at properties nationwide was 59% (According to the NAA). If a 5,000-unit portfolio can reduce turnover by 9.5%, that portfolio's NOI can increase over $2 million. The same 9.5% improvement in the same 5,000-unit portfolio can increase asset value over $26 million. 60+% of turnover is controllable, primarily by improving office staff performance and responsiveness. Communication from staff and work order resolution are generally more important to residents than apartment appearance and condition. 60% of residents want to communicate via email. That has DOUBLED in the last two years! Yet, on average, property managers only have about 15% of their residents' email addresses. You can calculate the NOI impact of reducing turnover with the SatisFacts turnover calculator. Here's the link to the full transcript. (Over 600 tweets!) What are you doing to improve resident retention at your property and throughout your portfolio? Leave......
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"Residents, Don't Bother Us! We're Busy Trying to Lease"

I'm 'friends' with a lot of apartment properties on Facebook. (No, I'm not going to get into the whole page -Vs- fan page issue here). As a result of being their friend, I get their newsfeed on my home page. A few weeks ago, I saw this:
Don't forget Saturday, September 12th is our Open House! Residents, please remember we will not be available for package pick up, work orders, renewals or common questions. We will be available during our regular hours on Sunday so please come... see us then for any of these things! You will also be able to leave messages on the voicemail and get ahold of maintenance if you have a maintenance emergency. 
    (The bolding is mine; I want to make sure you read the really important part.)
Now, is this just me, or is it simply wrong to basically 'cut off' your residents on a Saturday for virtually ANY needs they may have (other than emergency maintenance)? I kept thinking, "If I were a resident and wanted to get a package on a Saturday -my only day to do that sort of thing - and I was told I couldn't because the property was too busy leasing - I think I might want to move out.
Am I nuts? Am I missing something? I'm looking at this simply from 'facebook value' as a resident. How would a post like this make you feel?


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Resident Retention: Come On In! The Appliances Are (urm) Fine...

Houston, we have a problem


Houston, we have a problem
Houston, we have a problem!

Hopefully, we all understand very clearly how critical the move-in process is for establishing a positive resident relationship from Day 1. However, in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, an astonishing figure has come to my attention:

According to 2nd Quarter 2009 data from SatisFacts Research, only 73% of residents indicated that all appliances and fixtures worked properly upon move-in!

That means more than one-quarter of all new residents had an appliance or fixture that did not work!

Are we okay with this stat? I hope not, because unresolved issues at move-in reduce the percent of residents "very likely" to renew by one-quarter!

So, what to do? Let's re-evaluate the make-ready inspection process. One tip I learned from Bill Nye is the concept of "walking right," or "follow the wall."  This means, for the final inspection, the maintenance team member enters the apartment and follows the wall to the right stopping to check each light switch, outlet, phone jack, window treatment, doorknob, appliance, light fixture, etc. Eventually, you end up at the front door again.

Rework is always costly - whether in time, materials, customer patience, or all of the above. Ensuring the resident's new home is truly in move-in condition will be the first critical step in assuring the resident they have made the right decision in making their home in your community.

What make-ready inspection tips are effective for you?

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Renewal Letters? Seriously?

Dear Abby:I've lived at Happy Hills Apartments for almost one year now. I like it here. It's clean, the rents are a little pricey but I believe that you get what you pay for so I'm not complaining about that. When I looked here a year ago, everyone couldn't have been nicer. They gave me a little 'thanks for looking' gift when I first came out, and they stayed in touch with me through my whole apartment search. They were so attentive that I felt I'd be well taken care of here. But that's changed. Actually, it changed right after I moved in.It seemed like once I filled out the lease, they sort of forgot about me. I'd go in the office to drop off my check or give them a service request and they either didn't remember who I was or had to ask me my apartment number. I didn't like that. They also would interrupt talking with me to take phone calls for people who wanted information on the apartments. I think that's just rude. A couple of times, I had a package notice and I asked them if they could put it in my apartment because I wasn't going to be home in time to pick it up. They said they would do it if they weren't too busy. Once, I got the package. Another time, I didn't. It's been like this for a while now, but today was really the last straw. I got this letter from......
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Resident Retention: The Most Interesting Man in the World

He is the most interesting man in the world.I have greatly enjoyed the Dos Equis ad campaign spotlighting 'the most interesting man in the world.' He's like James Bond and George Clooney rolled into one. The idea of being charismatic and interesting to draw others in is an often-used relationship building (and sales) tactic. However, the idea of being the most interesting man (or woman) in the world, and trying to convey the actuality of being that interesting most often are two very different things and have very different results. He is the most interesting man in the world.When it comes to establishing  or solidifying connections with prospects, existing residents, co-workers and even vendors, it is more effective to find out what is important to that person, their expectations, questions, objections, interests, etc. rather than showcase how interesting or fabulous your community, apartment homes, amenities, rental rates or staff are. That information is best and most impactful when used in response to the other person's interests. In Nicholas Boothman's September 2, 2009 blog post, Humbility, he shares a story illustrating this point exactly: "Benjamin Disraeli became a Member of the Parliament of Great Britain at thirty-three, and its prime minister at sixty-four. Disraeli's main political rival was William Gladstone, a four-time Liberal prime minister who was renowned for his abilities as a speaker. One evening, Mr. Gladstone took a young woman out to dinner: the following evening the same woman had dinner with Mr. Disraeli. Asked later what impressions the two distinguished men had made upon her, she replied,......
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Resident Retention: Material Girl

It’s true that we are living in a material world, but some of us are more cunning in the way we finagle those materials. There are times when the customer’s idea of ‘compromise’ or ’solutions’ has to do with monetary compensation from you to them, regardless of the situation that is in need of resolution. The power was out for 2 hours. Why not a rent credit? The broken sprinkler splattered the newly washed and waxed car. A rent credit would be nice. A check would be nicer. The more aggressive “Material Girls and Boys” may even threaten lawsuits or Fair Housing complaints if they feel they are not getting their way. It’s a fine line we walk when it comes to providing exceptional customer service. After all, the customer is always right, right? Not necessarily. In the business world, and especially in the multifamily housing world, we have to face the fact that the owner is always #1, and one of the ways we can respect the owner is to treat the resident as though he or she is #1. This means that when a resident wants something for nothing, we have to consider the financial well being and the values of the company first, and the demands of the customer second. Where is the win-win? Listen to the problem with empathy and ask for specifics. Find out what the resident believes is a fair solution and why. Try to keep the conversation moving toward what specifically would resolve the......
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The Worthless Lone Summer Party

Imagine for a moment my diet is filled with donuts, Monte Cristo's, and Venti Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccinos, and one day I think, "I'm going to be healthy and eat some carrots today!" Let's be honest here - what is the point? Those carrots aren't going to do anything except upset the delicate hyper sugar balance I have already mastered. Although it may make me feel good for the day for being "healthy," in the end it really means just about nothing. Those carrots are the equivalent of a stand-alone summer party.  The infamous apartment community summer party may make us feel good thinking that we are making some sort of effort in our resident retention program, but really, you have essentially flushed $3,000 down the drain for no reason. If your resident retention program is limited to a summer party, it is almost guaranteed that it did not successfully achieve any meaningful goals. How could it? First of all, the rule of thumb for attendance at a summer party is approximately 25%, but only a portion of those residents will have a renewal anytime soon enough for the party to make an impact. So if only 25% of your residents actually have an upcoming renewal, then you have only reached 6% of your "target audience"!  (Many times apartment summer parties don't looks much better than this...) And even more so, what is the true benefit that is going to impact a resident's view of their community or their decision to stay? The......
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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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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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