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The Cookie Conundrum: When Resident Retention is More than Hot Cookies

The Cookie Conundrum: When Resident Retention is More than Hot Cookies

There’s no question that exceptional customer service leads to increased resident retention. However, according to the NAA Survey of Operating Income and Expenses1, the resident satisfaction rate over the last three years has remained fairly constant at about 76 percent, but residents’ intent to renew declined from 58 percent to 53 percent over the same period. If a large majority of residents are satisfied, why are they still undecided when it’s time to renew?

This puzzler may be best explained as the Cookie Conundrum. Imagine that Property X puts a tray of hot cookies in the leasing office. Throughout the day, delicious cookies are eaten by delivery guys, property staff, neighborhood children, and the occasional resident or prospect. After eating a cookie, the resident is asked to fill out a satisfaction survey. With the delectable memory fresh in their mind, they rate the property positively. Unfortunately, a few months down the road when it’s time to renew, the tasty cookie is completely forgotten and the resident’s decision to leave the property is based on factors that cannot be masked by the temporary satisfaction of cookie - no matter how sweet. In short, sometimes resident retention efforts provide temporary happiness but fall short of creating long-term resident satisfaction.

Renewal decision factors gathered by the 2015 SatisFacts Online Renters2 survey suggest renters are increasingly focused on the value of customer service they receive at the property, which is largely determined by interactions with the office staff and by the quality of maintenance services provided. The key to overcoming the cookie conundrum lies in your ability to understand resident expectations and identify potential disconnects. Here are four ways to start doing just that:

Focus everyone on customer service. Everyone in your organization, from executives to maintenance workers to office staff, must make customer service a priority. All stakeholders should possess a basic understanding of  what’s happening at the property level and know the policies and procedures that are in place to service residents. Regular meetings between site staff and executives to communicate important information and keep everyone on the same page can help make that happen. 

Empower staff to support residents. Do you have the right staff in place to support your community’s culture and demographic? Your staff should be able to understand and anticipate the needs of your residents. This includes being able to provide multilingual support in areas in which there are high concentrations of residents who don’t speak English.

Address resident concerns immediately. In the age of text messaging, Twitter, and email, Americans have come to expect instant gratification from their customer support. Residents no longer have the patience for a ringing phone or even voicemail. At a minimum, systems should be in place to ensure that every maintenance issues and each resident inquiry is addressed in the first 24 hours.

Employ an adequate ratio of staff to residents. In order to address resident concerns with immediacy, you need the right ratio of staff to residents in placeIf you have fewer than one on-site staff member and one maintenance worker for every 100 units, you’re likely to be understaffed.

All residents really want is someone who is accessible, friendly, and able to solve their problems! We know - every leasing office has its madhouse moments and even basic best practices are sometimes easier said than done, but when push comes to shove, getting it right is better than a hot cookie. Look for tools to facilitate customer satisfaction.

Call centers can help you create meaningful touch points and pick up the slack when your on-site team isn’t available. What more than hot cookies is your team doing?

 

By: Michelle Perroni

1http://www.naahq.org/learn/income-and-expenses-survey/2014-survey

2http://www.satisfacts.com/BlogsEZineandMore/2015TodaysOnlineRenterStudy/tabid/81/Default.aspx

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