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Customer Service Isn’t Just Dead… It was MURDERED!

  I hate being reminded that general common courtesy (as well as common sense, a lot of the time) is just NOT common anymore. I’m left, after numerous interactions and transactions on a daily basis, scratching my head wondering where the service is. Is it just acceptable now to provide sub-par service? Is it OK to be rude to a customer? Is it just no longer a focus of companies to provide training for and more so, demand their employees provide good service? I’m truly beginning to wonder. Let me tell you about the kind of day I had… it started with Kohl’s department store. Many of you know that Paul and I are expecting our very first baby, Luke! We’ve had sort of a tumultuous pregnancy and after a scare we quickly realized we needed to start buying the essentials. On Sunday, I noticed that Kohl’s was having a sale… I also had a coupon for 20% off and free shipping (which ended that same day). While browsing their site I’d found several things we needed and promptly scooped them up (along with some savings). This morning, however, I’d received an email saying that they cancelled my order, with no further information. I was quickly frustrated. Not jumping to conclusions, I simply called the number on the email and discovered it was their fraud department. I was unsure why I was directed there, but none the less, I waited in the queue and finally spoke to a live person. I explained the......
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In order to sell your community, YOU must be sold!

Earlier this week a new employee, who we’ll call Jack, started in the office. I was under the assumption that Jack was familiar with the sales process as he started at a sister community several months ago so I asked him to follow up on a few guest cards.  The calls were more than horrific.  He began raising objections after I offered some advice on follow up techniques. His objections indicated to me that he definitely needed additional training. I began a conversation to essentially overcome his objections. He cut me off in mid sentence with “why are you trying to sell me?”. Through the shock and awe on my face, I managed to get out “In order to sell your community, YOU must be sold!” When I was first hired on, I was asked to create a feature benefit analysis. During this process, I sold MYSELF on our community. Kudos to my manager, she knows who she is :)  Do you have your employees do a feature benefit analysis on the first day? If not, I suggest you implement this before any of them are allowed back on the phone. Something so simple may be the difference between a dead guest card and a new lease. Now this particular situation was based on follow up, but any person involved in the initial prospect interaction MUST be sold on your community to effectively sell your community. Have you ever asked a simple question and been told “you will need to speak with so ......
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5 Steps To Handling An Angry Resident

1)      Listen!  There are several reasons why a resident might be angry, and the response you give will be highly dependent on what the issue is!  Here are a few examples: The resident has an issue with their apartment or other situation and has already notified management.  Either the problem was not fixed, or the resident wasn’t kept in the loop about the solution, so now they are upset that it has not been resolved.  (Maintenance problem, Noisy neighbor, somebody parking in reserved spot, etc) It is a new issue, but it is legitimately important and they attribute the problem to you.  (Maintenance tech ran over grandma with the golf cart, their apartment just got robbed, etc) The resident is a highly emotional person, meaning he/she is more likely to react quicker than waiting. Body Language:  The way you listen is just as important as listening itself.  With your body language, you are conveying how important you feel the issue is, how bored you are, how you don’t want to have to deal with this right now, and a host of other negative connotations.  So you must know what type of message you are sending.  Even the small verbal cues, such as “uh huh” can be said in a positive or negative way that indicates you want to hear more, or “please, just shut up!”  As you listen, see this moment as an opportunity!  An angry resident can turn into a loyal ambassador for your community, so see this as your......
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Not Everyone's a Property Manager!

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA I made a quick trade, put an offer in on a property in Arizona and then closed my laptop and headed with the kids for lunch in La Jolla. It was after lunch that I had an all too familiar experience. We were playing tourist for the day and on the walk back to our vehicle we stopped into a small boutique store near the cove to allow each kid to choose an item of there choice as a fun reward for good behavior throughout the day. I noticed the owner of the boutique slumping over his cash register near the back of the store and I greeted him and asked how his day was going. He responded quietly, “Better then yesterday” and we struck up a conversation. The conversation quickly went toward business and the owner proceeded to tell me that he just bought the store last year and sales were considerably down. To make matters worse the landlord was increasing his rent. I empathized with him and offered some of my ideas for a short term solution but it was obvious they were falling on deaf ears as the owner quickly interrupted me and said something that made me stop and think. He told me that he was not really worried about the slower sales at his store because he was going to start managing some real estate for a couple of friends that own rentals in ......
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Know The Bear!

In my first blog, I detailed my experience with a Leasing Associate who shocked me in a good way with a simple act of extraordinary service.  In fact, my interraction with her shed a new light on what we could do to service residents better at our own communities."Customer Astonishment" by Darby Checketts has been one of my go-to books for all things customer oriented.  In the book, Checketts details 10 secrets to world-class customer care which can be applied to any industry.  My personal favorite is #5...Know the Bear.  We all have a bear chasing us, nipping at our heels, ready to pounce any second and take a lease from us or even a long-term resident.Here are the 10 secrets as outlined in Customer Astonishment:#1: Be Customer Champions! Know what your team stands for and communicate it through words and actions. Champion your core purpose in direct response to what your customers want and need the most.#2: Get Connected. Know the interdependencies represented by your own Chain of Customers. Make communication linkage a top priority that demonstrates the importance of all of your customers, internal and external.#3: Get It Together. Quickly resolve internal conflicts so they do not become apparent and weaken the customer's confidence in your team. Achieve crystal clear agreement on team priorities and individual responsibilities.#4: Know Your Customers. Listen to them. Observe them. Make a commitment to NO SURPRISES, except on their birthdays. What you promise is what they get and more.#5: Know the Bear. There is a bear out there, behind you. Faster is......
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Angry Residents Evolve Into Passionate Ambassadors?

On a previous blog about how to deal with an angry resident, I got some great comments from those that had dealt with severely angry residents, and how they chose to handle the situation.  One thing I found interesting, and something that I’ve found to be true in my own experiences, is that successfully identifying and handling an issue from an angry resident not only solves the problem, but turns that resident into a loyal fan of the community!  As Mindy Sharp mentioned, “Almost 100% of the time, these Residents choose to renew and they do become wonderful ambassadors for the community.” I’m a very laid back person, so I can’t imagine going into a store or other situation and start yelling at someone.  I wouldn’t say that I’m not passionate about things, but that is a whole other level of passion!  Quick to anger, quick to love, people with this personality type can be quite a challenge!  Although we should never allow our residents to be verbally abusive, I want to point out the potential benefits of being patient and truly working through their problem. (Note:  There are different types of personalities that will yell in that type of situation.  I am detailing just one personality type, so different results and strategies need to be used with different types of people.) One personality type that has a tendency to react in a super-sized way is the “Big Heart” personality.  This person is often emotionally charged and quick to react to......
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The Apartment Agent Leasing Kit - Be Prepared (Part 1)

The Apartment Leasing Kit - Be Prepared!

Throughout the years, I have created a Leasing Kit for each Property I have managed.  I have found this Kit to be extremely helpful and the most vital tool for the Leasing Team.  I hope this helps your Team as much as it has mine!

The leasing kit is your map to a successful and thorough presentation.  Although the leasing kit is designed as a sales tool, it must also be attractive.  Use a high quality binder and keep it organized at all times.  Papers should not be sticking out of the edges, and you should always be prepared with enough documents for your clients.  Do not run out!

The contents of the leasing kit may vary depending on the needs of each Property, but make sure to include the following:

  • Floor Plans – Include room dimensions such as wall lengths, window sizes, linear feet of closets, storage capacity, etc.  Include the special and unique features found in each floor plan and location throughout the Community.  You can never have too much detail for your prospective residents!   Example:  All A2’s on the 2nd floor have vaulted ceilings.
  • Site/Property Map – Indicate the exact location(s) of where you have available apartments. 
  • City and Neighborhood Maps – Include public transportation locations and routes, shopping and business districts, schools, grocery stores, etc. 
  • Reference Page – Names and addresses of schools, medical facilities, areas of special interests, etc. 
  • Leasing Collateral – Brochures and business cards are vital.
  • Tape Measure – Assist your prospective resident with furniture placement and other special needs.
  • Calculator – You never know when your prospective resident will inquire about a "pro-rated rent" or what the average utilities and rent add up to monthly.  Be prepared!
  • Community Newsletter – Share while on your tour and discuss upcoming Community Events.
  • Rental Applications/Rental Criteria – While on the tour, offer a rental application once you you’re your prospective resident is ready to lease.  This is a great closing technique.
  • Apartment Availability Report – Never leave the Office without your Availability.  You never know if your prospective resident will inquire about other apartments and their availability. 
  • Notepad/Guest Card – Document any questions that require follow up by the Property Manager or Maintenance Manager.
  • Important Information Sheet - A list of all the important, daily contacts (vendors, repair technicians, etc.) the Property utilizes. 

Your leasing kit should contain a clip to hold the guest card.  This will help insure that you do not forget your client’s name!  Use the Guest Card to write comments and to continue gathering qualifying information.  This is a great place to write down pet’s names, amenity preferences, etc.  The more information you write down, the more your client will feel secure and comfortable knowing they have someone working with them that cares about their interests and not just a commission.  Remember to HUMANIZE yourself!  No Used Car Salepersons!

Having the client’s guest card with you will eliminate the need to “interrogate” them again for their information as well as showing that you are organized and very thorough with your tours.

Thank you!

Chris Hyzy

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Resident Retention: Have We Met? You Look Awfully Familar...

The leasing agent smiles warmly at the nice-looking woman dressed in jeans, a tee shirt with her hair pulled back in a pony tail. She could swear she's seen this person before."Yes! Yes!" The woman wants to scream. "I was the one you called every other day for the past 2 weeks so I would sign a lease. I finally said yes! So here I am. Moving van outside. Am I in the twilight zone?"According to the current SatisFacts Move-In Index, 5% of all new move-ins say their keys or lease agreement is not ready when they arrive on Move-In Day. What a missed opportunity! Our leasing and sales teams spend a lot of time and energy getting prospects excited about the idea of moving in to this community. Once that prospect agrees to move-in, the excitement needs to continue. There is nothing worse than showing up to your new home, expecting the welcoming committee to be waiting for you, only to discover that not only were they not prepared for your arrival, they don't seem to even recognize you. How disappointing! The lease renewal decision begins in the first weeks, days, even hours of moving in. If the stage is not fully set for a new resident's arrival, there is a significant chance that new resident may begin regretting their rental choice almost immediately. You don't want their first thoughts at move-in to be those of moving out!Before close of business each day, ensure everything is prepared for any move-ins expected the......
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Tenants Have Legal Responsibilities Too

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA Recent posts have suggested onerous burdens and detailed obligations owed by landlords.  “What about the tenants?” you ask.  They have some responsibilities, too.  If a tenant in California does not adhere to these minimum requirements, a landlord may not be held responsible for failure to provide a tenant with a habitable residence – i.e. the bare necessities.  Let’s outline them here, ok? To successfully prosecute a claim against you for not providing those bare necessities, a tenant probably should be able to show that: He kept the unit clean and not unsanitary.  He cannot let it get dirtier than it was when he first started renting. He cannot abuse or misuse the plumbing, gas, or electric fixtures in the unit. He should prevent his guests from damaging the premises. He should make written requests of his landlord when he wants something in the unit fixed. When you come to fix it, he should not prevent you from doing so.  He should not put the chain lock on.  He should not refuse to let you come to fix it on reasonable notice. He should throw out his trash and garbage. If your standard lease agreement does not spell out some of these responsibilities, you might consult with your transactional attorney to see if such terms can or should be incorporated. Basic equity (and some statutes) provide that a tenant should inform you if he believes the premises are or have become uninhabitable.  Any ......
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Your Residents Don’t Deserve Customer Service

Early in my Property Management career, I attended a class to learn how to achieve a perfect score on a mystery shop. The concept was easy enough, do all of the things listed on the form correctly and get a perfect score. It sounded great in theory but putting it into practice in the real world was another story. Not long after the class a mystery shopper called my community and I was the lucky duck who answered the phone. The call was straightforward; a 2-bedroom needed within 30 days and the caller’s price range was right in line with our rents. During the call, it occurred to me that this could be the mystery shop I was told would take place shortly after the training. It was then that I sat up a little straighter in my seat, put an even bigger smile on my face and proceeded to rack up every point possible. The subsequent tour was even better and although I rocked the presentation and wowed the “prospect” with my vast knowledge of the community, I wasn’t the least bit deterred when she refused to lease. Her reason at the time was “wanting to look at a few other places”; textbook excuse for a mystery shop, right? I attempted to close on her once more, feigned disappointment and promised to follow up. I made sure to send her a nicely written thank you card and called her twice to ensure I didn’t miss any points for follow-up. A......
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