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Great (or Horrible?) Marketing Idea...You Tell Me!

On http://www.consumerist.com/, there's a GREAT story about a pizzeria in San Francisco that has taken ‘marketing is a conversation' to a whole new level.They have taken 1 star customer reviews about their restaurant from the consumer review site http://www.yelp.com/and placed them on employee tshirts. Bold move? I'll say!I checked some of the 1 star reviews on Yelp for Pizzeria Delfina. Here's what the servers there could be wearing on their tshirts based on the reviews I read:*Never again**I will not be back**A four year old could do better by pouring some tomato sauce on a piece of bread**My wine was about as interesting as Kool Aid*As I said, bold move. But quite possibly a brilliant one. Think about it. It puts the idea of writing a Yelp review right in the face of every customer. And it probably keeps the ideas of the potentially bad reviews in the forefront of everyone's mind who works there. And it makes people talk. Like me. Like the Consumerist and who knows how many other bloggers out there.And if I go to San Francisco anytime soon, I might just have to go into Pizzeria Delfina and see if the wine really IS like Kool Aid and if a four year old could make better pizza.Seriously, though, I am liking this idea more and more! While I probably wouldn't use the lowest possible ratings, I think taking some great testimonials from AptRatings.com and placing them on staff tshirts is a really interesting idea. With summer coming up and......
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Resident Retention: Just the Facts, Ma'am

 Have you heard the phrase, "Perception is reality?" It's a phrase that is tossed about rather frequently, and I think it's time to shake up our perceptions a little bit. Once we've been in 'the biz' for any number of years, we become accustomed to certain situations, certain challenges, certain personalities, etc. In response, we develop personal systems, catch phrases, solutions that can easily address those certain situations, challenges, etc.  It's how we adapt. It's how we avoid what has come to be known as "re-creating the wheel." However, times change, customer requirements and preferences change, and our stock solutions, phrases and systems must change with them.  For example, historically the assumption has been that if a property is low-income, the residents may not have as much access to, or savvy regarding, technology (internet, in particular).  The facts show otherwise. In a resident technology study SatisFacts conducted for NMHC in 2006, we found that across all demographics 78% of all residents surveyed used computersand the internet at home and 74% used the internet at least 1 day per week. That was 2006. I guarantee that number has increased dramatically in 3 years.The 2008 SatisFacts Index showed that 59% of residents indicated email as the preferred method of communication with their leasing office. That's up from 30% in 2007. What do your residents prefer? Stop guessing. Stop assuming! Resident preferences change, and in times like these, we can't afford not to know the facts about what is most important to them.  THROW YOUR......
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Resident Retention: Love You Long Time... I think

I've lived in a handful of apartments over the years, and though I might not be able to tell you what I ate for dinner two nights ago, I can tell you how long I lived in each of my apartments. There was my first apartment in a historic home. No A/C, poor heat, but I loved it. Just over a year. Next one? 1 year. Then 2 dreadful months. Then 18 lovely months. I could go on, but I won't. The 18-month place, I would have stayed for years, but I ended up moving out of state. The next long-term apartment was 2 years, and I would have stayed there longer too, but we bought a house. I remember how long (or short) I stayed and exactly why. Most residents do. However, very few property owners bother to track length of residency for their residents. They look at turnover, occupancy, traffic conversion, but not length of residency. And why not?  This one metric tells you so much. It can be one of those indicators of how well (or badly) things are going on site. Check it out: In 2008, out of more than 30,000 satisfaction survey respondents, we found that nearly 30% had been living in their apartment for 1-2 years. Over 16% had lived there for 3-5 years, and over 10% claimed more than 6 years in their current apartment. Are these residents celebrated? They should be. These are your bread and butter customers, the foundation upon which your......
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The Move-In Experience...Moment of Truth (Part II)

When I first began working as a Leasing Consultant in this industry, my company's move-in procedure with new residents consisted of presenting the lease, an addenda or two, reviewing a few points such as where the mailbox and laundry facility were located (on a site map), collecting the remaining portion of the security deposit and first month's rent, handing the resident the keys with a logoed keychain, shaking their hands and welcoming them to the community and yup, basically smiling and wishing them luck. "See yah!" "I hope everything goes well with your move." Internally I would be thinking, "I hope their apartment is okay." "Gosh, I would hate to see them come back unhappy." "I really like them."Well that was two decades ago and many companies have improved their move-in procedures. Luck has nothing to do with customer satisfaction or retention. You can control the resident's move-in experience and ensure it is superior with these additional critical steps:5. Provide VIP Treatment - On the resident's move-in day introduce the Community Manager. Preferably the Community Manager should come out of his/her office and welcome the new resident(s) to the community with a smile and small talk. He or she should give them their business card and advise them to call him/her if they should ever have a problem or concern. This is an important part of building a good relationship with your residents. If they meet the Property Manager and feel that he/she genuinely cares for them, they will be more......
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Hand Jive

Recognizing when a client is ready to walk away from the bargaining table, in contrast to when they are open to negotiation can be catamount to leasing success.  Richard Newman, a professional body language coach offers the following tips in the March issue of Forbes:  Putting hands palm down is a sign that someone means business.  When haggling over price, for instance, Newman says “palms down” is often a clear, nonverbal signal that a potential buyer intends to walk away.  By contrast, when someone keeps his or her hands open and palms up, it suggests he or she is open to negotiation

The next time you find yourself negotiating a renewal, or trying to seal a deal, watch the hands.
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The Move-In Experience...Moment of Truth (Part I)

Once the deposit and application is received, it is the moment of truth for the prospective resident. They are thinking "Is everything I saw and was told about and promised going to come true?" If you have been on the front lines for awhile you know that the better the move in experience is for the resident the more satisfied they will be long term. Deliver a substandard apartment or don't communicate well and their trust in you and your company will be destroyed. In order to provide superior service during the resident's move-in experience we need to teach our employee's how to walk it out. Superior service is far more than just ensuring that your team is professional and courteous. It's their ability to over communicate, build sincere relationships, anticipate their resident's wants and needs and exceed their expectations. Here are some great ways to ensure that your resident's move-in experience is superior. 1. Over Communicate - keep prospective residents continuously informed and connected. Send meaningful emails, text or instant messages (for all Twitter's out there), letters, postcards or personally call them at every relevant step in the process from the status of their application and tips on moving to the readiness state of their new apartment and scheduling or confirming an appointment to sign their lease paperwork and move-in. 2. Integrate them into your community's culture by sending them any newsletters or invites to gatherings happening at your community before they move in. Introduce them to team member's and other residents whenever an opportunity arises.  3. Through genuine interest and care, one will be ......
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Educating Residents Reduces Complaints & Costs

Shortly after completing construction on a brand new Class A apartment community in Michigan, residents began complaining about the operation of their dishwashers. The common complaint, the dishes on the top rack were not getting clean. The problem, the owner chose a low end dishwasher that did not have an arm under the top rack to help circulate the water. Many of our residents were accustomed to using higher end models that did not require a lot of attention to detail. The only way to resolve this problem, outside of purchasing new dishwashers and ensuring the hot water heaters were set at the appropriate temperature was to educate our residents on how to properly pre-rinse, stack and purchase the right dishwashing detergent so that their dishes on the top rack could be cleaned to their satisfaction.  In an effort to mitigate these complaints a flyer was created telling residents how to use their new dishwashers. They received this flyer during the move-in process. We soon recognized that if we did not verbally give the instructions to the residents until after they realized their dishwasher was not working to their satisfaction that our answer to their complaint was unacceptable. However, if we gave the instructions and verbally discussed the operation of the dishwasher before the residents used it, the complaints dramatically decreased. The lesson here is if one tells their residents what to expect rather than leaving them to their own expectations, they will be more accepting of the conditions so long......
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Short Term Gain...Long Term Sacrifice

It’s a Catch 22 – you need to reduce expenses at the same time today’s consumer is skittish, demanding and expecting better quality and value for their money.  Morale is low, your team is expected to do more with less, and job cuts have placed a strain on operational capabilities.  Tough call, but you’re saving money, right?  Not so much.According to Business Week, the Internal Customer Management Institute, a call center consultant, has done studies that show cutting just four reps at a call center of three dozen can send the number of customers put on hold for four minutes from zero to 80.  That’s right, 80.  It makes sense to reason that if there are less people in the office, there is a greater likelihood that a client, or potential client will be missed, or will need to wait a greater length of time to see product or resolve a challenge. The immediate reaction to tough times is to tighten the wallet and squeak every dime available out of it.  Think about the airline “charge for a checked bag” policy.  I cannot think of one person that isn’t highly offended, or at least greatly irritated by this policy. A trip requiring more than two nights will require a checked bag.  The consumer knows they have to eat it and have no option.  Makes me fester just thinking about it.  Unless, of course, they elect to fly Southwest, an airline that promotes the fact that they do not charge baggage fees.  ......
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Resident Retention Idea - Coupon Parties

After visiting several sites recently in one of our regions, I realized that morale was down, staff members weren't having much fun (largely due to the pressures of the economy/losing residents/difficult cost cutting measures), and they were all wanting more ideas that cost little to no money so they can hang on to each and every resident.  I thought I should tackle morale first.We decided to create a company wide leasing campaign and modeled it after the reality show "The Biggest Loser".  The contest goals are:losing as much vacancy fat as possible in 60 daysMaintain 1.5% delinquency or lowerweight check-ins each week (they start at a specific weight and gain/lose weight based on a point system for move ins, move outs, renewals etc.team enthusiasm (who exhibits the most creative tracking visual onsite)We kicked it off at our annual manager's meeting in February and the regional managers were all dressed as personal trainers (but with a twist from the 80's...I'll let your imaginations run with this but I will tell you that we did have a Richard Simmons look-a-like present).  Our fearless leader wore a fat suit because he needs their help in losing all of this vacancy fat...it was quite the rollout!Each week I send out a "diet tip" to help them with their weight loss program.  I thought I'd share the second week's diet tip with you all because I think it's a great low to no cost idea and would help our residents in tightening that spending belt and teach......
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Resident Retention: (Rolling of the eyes) "We don't DO that"

Over the weekend, my husband and I took our 10-month old for a stroll to take in the rather nice weather and also to stop in a coffee joint that begins with a "St" and ends with "arbucks." Because it was late in the afternoon, we decided to order basic decaf coffees to avoid caffeine that may make it difficult to fall asleep later. As I stood in front of the barista and placed my order, he actually rolled his eyes and then cocked his head toward me as though addressing an annoying child and said, "Um, we don't serve decaf after noon," as though this was a given... like not wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Or is it Memorial Day? Whatever. He continued to stand there and stare at me and glanced at his non-existent wristwatch as though I was purposefully wasting his time. I began to feel that I was on some 'Candid Camera' episode, the whole thing seemed so ridiculous. As I desperately scanned the menu board, searching for anything with minimal - to - no caffeine, he finally suggested a decaf Americano. I went with it. The fact that I paid with a gift card nearly pushed him over the edge, and it showed when he said, sarcastically, "Would you like a receipt?" I should have said yes. Fortunately, I was in the state of mind that I found the entire transaction very funny. Could he seriously be that put out by my lack of knowledge......
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