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Communicating with Residents...Maybe it's Time for a Reality Check

  Communicating with Residents… Maybe it’s time for a reality check   Not all that long ago my planning calendar was my daily road-map. It would give me a good idea about how my day was going to go… what I needed to do. That’s no longer the case.   Thanks to the technology that allows us to instantly communicate with others, others can in turn instantly communicate with us! And with this high level of contact, comes high expectations of quick responses. Yet we all seem to be adapting to this spontaneous flow of just-in-time communications as we blast through our days checking in, reacting and responding.   So how can property managers make the best of this new normal? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how you communicate with your residents. Maybe it’s time for a reality check.   ·Newsletters are a colossal waste of time and money – and often outdated by the time they’re delivered. Don’t even think of starting one. ·Flyers are costly litter. ·Bulletin boards have limitations – they’re OK for general information, but not everyone will get the message. ·Websites work for seekers – don’t rely on residents to log on to retrieve important announcements. ·Email works, but it’s hit or miss for time-critical messages – not everyone spontaneously retrieves their email. ·Phone calls work, but can eat up staff time – if the timing isn’t right, your message may be forgotten. ·Text messages work – In my experience, text messages are picked up more frequently than voice or email messages. P......
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Doing More with Less - 5 Tips for Facing the Unrelenting Challenge

“We need to do more with less.” At work, at home, in our communities… the mandate is unrelenting. It’s a challenge; but it’s also a reality. So let’s approach it with a positive mind set. After all, doing more with less means becoming more efficient.   Here are 5 tips to consider when taking on the challenge: Get creative. Look for revenue-generating opportunities. I know a property manager who has set up bins to collect paper and aluminum cans for recycling. The drive fosters a sense of community. And the revenues are funneled back into the property’s activities budget, so residents are directly rewarded for their efforts. Communicate smarter, not less. Communication always ranks high on resident satisfaction surveys. But today, newsletters and flyers are costly and ineffective. People rely on voice, email, text and social media to stay informed. Get in step with how your residents communicate. A good message notification service can greatly improve your resident communications and save money, too. Look for energy rebates. Are there energy rebates available in your area? Is it feasible to power your hot water heaters with solar panels? Or install energy-saving appliances, solar screens or insulation that will cut costs and generate rebate dollars? Take advantage of economies of scale. Can you partner with other properties—residential or commercial—on large-scale projects? Are there cost savings opportunities for you on landscaping, paving, appliances, carpeting or pool supplies? Tap your most valuable resource… your staff. Do you regularly ask your staff, “What can we be......
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One More Question In the Lease Paperwork Will Change The Way You Understand Your Community

A while back, I wrote a blog that analyzed a particular renter and her decision for moving where she did.  At the time, I was lucky in that she shared her entire story on her blog, so for a brief moment, we glimpsed the true inner decision making process for that renter!  Of course, it’s not always that easy, but wouldn't it be invaluable to have an inner glimpse of each resident to find out what made them lease, what made them stay, or what made them go? Let’s take one resident.  We’ll call her Regina.  Regina toured the property nine months ago, and Jennifer the leasing consultant helped her through the process.  At the time, Jennifer asked all the right questions and found out that Regina was looking for a safe community where she would feel comfortable, an apartment with a balcony, and a place that offered fitness facilities. Everything seemed to fall into place as Jennifer again did a great job asking for a deposit, and Regina moved in two weeks later.  At this point, at the very least, the notes about her wants and needs should hopefully be input into the property management software to be referenced down the road.  It stands to reason that if she cared about a fitness center before, she might still care about that when discussing the renewal. But is that information telling the whole story?  With only her initial wants and needs, we are missing key information:  Did she move in because of one......
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Is Your Community FLAWSOME?

No person or brand is perfect, and fortunately today’s consumers—or in our case, residents—understand that while we strive for perfection, it is sometimes hard to reach.  Now before any apprehension sets in, as we know you deal with resident complaints and work orders every day, let us explain. Although no community is perfect and incidents do happen, hiding or avoiding flaws can actually be detrimental to your relationships with residents.  According to TrendWatching.com, “Human nature dictates that people have a hard time genuinely connecting with, being close to or really trusting other humans who (pretend to) have no weaknesses, flaws or mistakes – don’t assume brands are any different.”  Basically, if something goes awry, address the issue, keep your residents in the loop, share your plans to fix it and, if possible, provide solutions to prevent it from happening again—all in your most human-like tone even if you are communicating it through a computer.  This is called being flawsome. Flaw∙some [flaw-suhm] adjective: Marketing trend and term coined by TrendWatching.com that describes a brand that is embraced and respected by consumers despite having flaws. Being more accepted as a brand by consumers for being “human” and transparent. Being a transparent brand that has flaws, knows it has these flaws and owns them! Now don’t misinterpret this resident sentiment.  Being flawsome does not mean getting away with more and doing less now—residents’ unwavering expectations and standards are still set very high.  Being flawsome comes with still trying to meet these expectations to the best of your ability, but when the......
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Purposely and strategically building communities within communities that last!

A new approach to Resident Retention   According to SatisFacts, when residents were asked what can be done to improve the community, Social Activities was ranked 29 out of 30. Some may take this info and think to themselves….OK, let’s do away with the activity budget but a forward thinker would ask why?   The truth of the matter is it doesn’t take a survey or any written research or documentation to admit that the majority of us in this human race love to be social. I’d also like to suggest that it doesn’t take stepping outside of yourself to know what draws you to certain social activities, gatherings, groups, etc. Well the same thing goes for your residents. They know what they like to do, why they like to do it and for the most part how to go about doing it. What they don’t know is that it’s OK for them to do these things amongst themselves within your apartment community and how to go about getting started. This is where you come in.   Have you considered rather than trying to be an expert on good events becoming an expert on finding out exactly what your residents want when it comes to being social and giving them an outlet to do so?   Think about it. What if you stopped planning events and started planning to truly get to know your residents? This totally takes the guess work out of trying to figure out how to entertain ......
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We're Moving? Tips on the Transition

Whew! We’re now coming through another heavy leasing season for those of us in the multifamily industry, anyway. We’ve grabbed and garnered leases left and right. We’ve been able to hold onto a lot of current residents. We’ve gotten leasing bonuses and everyone is finishing up vacation time, even though we are secretly trying to harbor a couple of days to use at Thanksgiving for Black Friday or the holidays.   For me, I have noticed that the hardest “sells” have been those families with school age children. Honestly, it brought me back to the time when my husband was rapidly moving up the corporate ladder, which necessitated many different moves all across the country. I remembered that apparently my husband’s preferred method of informing his family that we were moving was to take us to a restaurant and make the announcement. It seemed his favorite restaurant to do this in was Pizza Hut. Probably because the kids loved the pizza there (and he did, too.) However, after the fourth time it happened, it kind of ruined the idea of going to Pizza Hut for me and the kids.   It has occurred to me that the actual moving experience does not have to be horrendous. It’s the fact that, if you are not the decision-maker, it can be very stressful. After all, if you’re the child, you really get very little input in the decision. Most of the time, your parents make the announcement and start discussing all kinds of......
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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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Relationship Selling and Why YOU Should Master It!

Used Car SalesThe word sales person conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images...  Need I even say more? Oh you know me, I have plenty more to say!  As professionals in the multifamily industry; we are all sales people, but what sets us apart from other industries is we are selling a "product" that is a basic NEED of everyone... housing!  We aren't the "stereotypical" sales person (or at least we shouldn't be). No one likes to be sold to, yet everyone needs what we sell. So how do you not SELL when you need to get leases? Easy... have a conversation.  Yep, you read that right, talk to your prospective residents. Easy as that! Think you do? OK, let me ask you a few questions... Do you say and do the same thing on each tour like you're following a script? Do you tell each person the features and benefits of living at your community without hesitation? Do you wrap up by asking for them to lease? If so, that's certainly one way to do it, but a better way is to actually have a two way conversation. You know, find out about them... their wants, their needs, their deepest darkest secrets (HA! I kid).  The easiest way to build rapport with someone else is to get them talking about themselves, and the benefit to listening to a prospect tell you about their life, is the clues you can get just from that simple and friendly conversation. Without question it'll tell you more than......
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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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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: The Drill and Hole Philosophy

Have you ever wondered what your residents really need and want? Is it a well-designed apartment offered at a fair price? Yes, but this only begins to scratch the surface. Do you remember the day when you leased your first apartment? I do. I was living in Plantation, Florida, and decided it was time to spread my wings and move out of my parent’s house. I was too broke to afford an apartment on my own, so my best friend agreed to split the rent with me. While price, size, and location were important “want” factors, there was more to the story.     1.  We both needed to feel safe. Yes, I know that this is a bad word in our industry but that is exactly what we needed. The fact that this particular community was gated was a huge positive for us. 2.  We needed to be cared for. We were still young kids and we needed a management and maintenance team that we could count on. People that would be there when we needed them and hold us accountable to our actions if necessary. This is exactly what we got! 3.  We needed a good experience. At the time, my friend worked in the food service industry and I worked in retail. Great service was something that we provided our customers and we expected it from our landlord, too. Anything less would have been extremely disappointing. They did not disappoint us. 4.  We needed to feel like we we......
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