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The Importance of Putting Your Customers Second

 You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. It seems to be the motto of all service industries: “The customer is always right.” What if I told you that this directive was given to his employees by Harry Gordon Selfridge. Of Selfridge Department Store. In London, England. In 1909. I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s time to reboot our approach. And I don’t mind stealing concepts from England again. In fact, IMHO, Sir Richard Branson has delivered the best motto for service industries for our time: “The way you treat your employees is the way they’ll treat your customers.” Consider this: resident turnover has consistently fluctuated between 51% and 59% for over a decade, according to NAA’s Annual Income and Expense Report. As a result, many property management companies have developed finely tuned resident retention programs that may include service guarantees, additional amenities, unique resident events, and more. Property management companies have been showing their residents the love! ... by expecting their employees to go above and beyond: Response times to calls and emails, service with a smile, online reputation management, mental gymnastics to reinvent the pool party, and on and on.  The result? Resident turnover remains between 51% and 59%. My friends, we are living the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Focus on resident retention has not moved the needle the way we expected it to. Yes, there are success stories out there, but not consistently and not in great volume. It’s time t......
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Ignoring These Signs of Illegal Activity Can Cost You

I’ll admit it. One of the most exciting parts of my life as a Property Manager on a Section 8 property was getting involved in the drug busts. It was an adrenaline rush like no other, no pun intended. Part of being a Manager on any property in any community is to provide decent, safe and sanitary apartment homes for our Residents. And, yes, I call the people who live in my communities “Residents” and not Tenants simply because everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. It is also a mindset. We must adopt the notion that people want to live long term, or at least as long as necessary, willingly in our apartment communities. This will reduce turnover costs and promote a more harmonious living environment for our Residents. We must believe that there is value in creating a warm, nurturing home atmosphere for our Residents. If we are successful, they will stay longer; they will take better care of their apartment homes, and thus the property.   You never want someone to feel bad about where they came from or what their current circumstances in life may be. You want to uplift your Residents’ spirits and promote a better lifestyle. If we can impart this mindset to our Residents, they in turn will believe in themselves more and become contributing members of our communities. At least this is my personal motto.   This is why I take illegal drug activity so personally and seriously. Many people assume it is normal......
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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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Shifting From a Sales-Oriented Model to an Experience-Oriented Model

Last week, I discussed what it would be like to be an exceptional apartment community, and how that would affect our view of our community, our confidence in our product, and our entire operational process.  I would like to expand upon one of the bigger elements: Creating a community that truly provides a memorable experience shiftswork from a sales-oriented model to an experience-oriented model. What does that truly mean, and why is it so difficult?  As I mentioned, if you have a scarce product, and you have high demand, sales happens easily on its own.  The problem is somewhat of a “chicken and the egg” scenario, however, because how do you allocate labor to creating an experience, when you need that labor to plug the holes from residents walking out the door?  This is where the “bravery” part comes in.  Too many owners like to run their communities short staffed, and while that may work for a short period, who really believes a run-down, over-worked, and generally exhausted employee is going to be able to help create an experience that is memorable for their residents?  Even staffed at normal levels doesn’t work because the duties require a temporary overlap.  Efforts into creating a unique community that result in lower turnover don’t manifest immediately, but rather build up over time, which means that the “back door” won’t be shut immediately.  So additional labor is needed in the short term to build up the “experience” while leasing continues to maintain occupancy.  Therefore, owners......
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Modeling Your Resident Retention Plan After a Cinnabon

Cinnabon[Note:  We have free Cinnabons to give away!  See the bottom of the post for details.] Sometimes, it's best to look at your company/community in the most simplistic terms, so here is something I think many people can relate with:  a warm, gooey, mouth-watering Cinnabon cinnamon roll.  Last weekend when my wife and I were enjoying our "day off" from our diet, we decided the best way to splurge was on a Cinnabon.  The first thought was that we could easily share one, but our stomachs got the best of ourselves and we each ordered our own, justifying it by saying we could always eat any leftovers later on.  There were no leftovers. But what does that have to do with resident retention?  Well, let me break down the Cinnabon experience and then equate it to living at an apartment.  First of all, we both had had a Cinnabon previously, each with a positive experience, so the purchase was a relatively easy one.  After we got them, we slowly opened up the box and the amazing cinnamon roll smell flooded our senses, begging us to devour the helpless pastry.  But here is a little something specific about a Cinnabon:  The outside always seems to have less icing and cinnamon than the middle, yet we never start in the middle.  So as we attack the Cinnabon, we appreciate that the bread is nice and soft, and there is some icing on the outside, so overall it's a good start.  But what we......
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