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Carpooling to Resident Retention?

I was reading yet another article today about rising gas prices and how people cope, either by taking mass transit more or finding carpools, and it occurred to me that our communities have a perfect opportunity to provide a value-added carpool matching tool for our residents! I'm sure this has been going on for years in more environmentally friendly cities for quite some time, but this could really be a benefit across the country.

The obvious benefit is to reduce your residents' gas expense every month. But what about another, less apparent, benefit of creating resident connections? Suddenly you have groups of 2,3, or 4 riding in the same car every single day, talking about their hobbies, their families, their lives in general. Not all groups are going to become fast friends, but at the very least they have familiar faces in their own community, somebody to call in an emergency that is only a few seconds away, and a general sense of connection to their current community. And at the very best you have created pairs or groups of very good friends who strongly impact eachother's decision to renew.

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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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Student Housing and Resident Retention

Earlier today I took part in the monthly Grace Hill chat, this one focusing on student housing. Unfortunately, I was busy with other projects so I wasn't able to devote a lot of attention to it, but I did notice something odd about the chat. Normally, the Grace Hill chats, although very informative, usually end up focusing 90% on apartment marketing and only 10% on resident retention topics. I understand that the questions are user driven, but it always bugs me that we spend so much time on the less profitable of the two. But today, from what I saw, it was quite different. In fact, it seemed that it was highly focused on resident retention items such as parties, group games, such as the Wii or Guitar Hero, and surprisingly, service! Now I'm all for positive resident retention ideas, but it was just odd to see that much discussion on the topic when before it played such a second-place role. Spending so much time on student housing retention is even more interesting considering the large obstacles it faces. The lifecycle of any student resident is almost required to be short as they will graduate (hopefully) or move home for the summer. Also, students often initially stay at the dorms, which means a lot of renters are already upper classman, meaning closer to graduation. In addition, college renters often have roommates - if that roommate happens to be a year ahead, then he/she will graduate before the younger resident, forcing that resident......
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Matching Resident Life Transitions

Is your company providing a retention plan that incorporates your residents' life transitions? It occurred to me tonight that we are trying to retain residents into apartments that don't "fit" them anymore. On a very basic level, consider that most people have incomes that trend up over their lifetime. If we try to retain them in the same apartment, their experience is not trending with them. Although their income goes up, the relative value of their apartment (older carpet, longer period since last painting, etc) goes down. Therefore, we are not providing solutions that evolve as their life does.Let's flip through an "average" life cycle for a person: - Leave the parent's house and either go to school or get job, likely with a roommate. - Get first "real" job that allows them to live alone - A few raises without dependants results in acquisition of new furniture, requiring bigger, and nicer, one-bedroom apartment - Gets a significant other and they move in together. They get a two bedroom so they can spread out, although tight funds may require a lower class of property. - Starts a family and needs a nursery, which sometimes requires a 3rd room - 2nd child definitely requires another bedroom, and often a move into a house with a yard for the children. - 50% get a divorce at some point, with one or both parties likely moving back into apartments. - Retirement brings a desire for "simpler" living without home repairs, which brings an older......
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Spending On New Residents VS Existing Residents

[Note: You must be logged in to Grace Hill to follow the links in this blog post.]I started brainstorming new polls to submit to Grace Hill and decided it would be a good idea to go over the previous polls to make sure I wasn't overlapping a prior poll. So as I sifted through the literally hundreds of past polls, I came upon two that both shocked and depressed me. I'm hoping I'm reading the results wrong!The first poll I saw asked how much communities spent in resident retention per month. Almost 50 percent of responses selected only $50 per month!! I couldn't believe it - how is it possible that communities were only paying $50 per month on those that are vastly more profitable than obtaining new residents? (the overall average was $136/month - larger, but not that much better)So as I stewed on that info for a while, I kept going down the polls and found one that discussed cost per resident acquisition. As you can see, the average cost of acquisition was between $100 and $250 per new resident. So how much does that really translate into? Well, it's a little hard to say, but let's take the industry average of roughly 60 percent yearly turnover, a 150 unit property, and an average cost of acquisition of $175. If you average that out over a 12 month period, it comes out to $1,300 per month for marketing to prospects!So here you have residents who are already living there,......
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Hygiene Theory - Not as Scary as it Sounds!

As most of you will find out, this blog will not follow other publications with "neat ideas for a summer party." I always find those types of articles as just a band-aid to the problem of resident retention. Let me clarify: Even though I'm not a fan of the typical summer party, if it is part of a larger resident retention program it can sometimes work. However, if the only thing you provide is a yearly summer party, save your time and your money! So what is this blog about? Well, one of items that I find important is to really understand your community and, more imporantly, how your residents view it. I am a big believer in creating a resident retention program, not just a "cute" party every once and a while. In order to create this program, however, you really must understand what makes your residents satisfied and what community features do you have that can achieve that. A few years ago, I read about a concept called "Hygiene Theory", which was initially designed to help employers create employee satisfaction. The moment I read it a light bulb went off, and I realized how applicable this was to our own industry! So I wrote an article about it, published in the must-read MultifamilyPro magazine, and want to share it with you here. It's too long to include in this blog post, so please click the link. It will help you understand your residents expectations, as well as your employees'. I......
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