Enter your email address for weekly access to top multifamily blogs!

Multifamily Cares

The latest multifamily research and data regarding the impact of corporate social responsibility on employee retention, resident retention, online reputation, and the greater good.

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 to shift our focus as an industry and as a culture to those who can change the game - our employees. Culture and attitude flows from the top down.

  • How can we expect employees to return resident calls and emails same day, if they can’t get HR, Accounting or their Regional to call them back within the same week?
  • How can we expect employees to provide service with a smile if their weekly interaction with corporate is a weekly budget browbeating and reminders of reporting deadlines?
  • How can we expect employees to respond to online resident reviews with grace, tact, and a problem-solving approach when the property management company ignores the online employee-generated reviews that warn job-seekers away?
  • How can we expect employees to invent unique and creative resident events when new hire orientation and annual Fair Housing training are the same, tired, death-by-PowerPoints that have been in place for the last 15 years?

Results from the groundbreaking 2017 Multifamily CSR Benchmark Study, representing 70 property management companies and over 1.4 million units, showed for the first time on our industry, the unequivocal, direct relationship between employee turnover and resident turnover. The higher the employee turnover, the higher the resident turnover. How we support, educate, and serve our employees is how they will support, educate and serve their residents.

Our focus has been misplaced, and it’s time for course correction. As the market begins to take a slight downward turn, with vacancies increasing, concessions deepening and competition heating up, your revenue growth is at stake. The good news is that there are steps to take before the end of the year to elevate your company head and shoulders above the rest and to stop the insanity.  Here is your homework for the remainder of 2017:

1.       Look at your employee and resident turnover for the past 3 to 5 years. How do they compare to the relationship graph above?

2.       Find out what motivates and engages your employees. Currently only 49% of Property Management companies conduct annual Employee Satisfaction surveys, while 85% conduct annual Resident Satisfaction surveys (ManagInc, 2017). When is the last time you asked what matters to your team?

a.       [EXTRA CREDIT: Bring in a 3rd party provider to conduct an anonymous survey. Participation will be higher, and the information will be more candid.]

3.       Treat your employees the way you want them to treat your residents. Corporate office team – I’m talking to you. Even if the team member is not your direct report, if they call or email requesting information or assistance, respond by the close of business, same day. It’s what you expect them to do for your customers.


When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility and being a competitor in today’s marketplace, we have to start focusing on the individuals who make us successful. And that begins with your employees. Make sure that your employees come first, and they’ll pay it forward by treating your residents the same way.

Rate this blog entry:

Leave your comments

  STOP ask yourself do you do your follow up calls or thank you cards?!?!?!?  By Jolene Sopalski Leasing Specialist WRH Realty Services If you answered no to that question then I want you to hold up your right hand and pledge the following “ I will  start following up with my prospects no prospect will go un-followed up”. Good now if you are one of the ones that said yes I do my follow up calls and thank you cards I want to give you a big hug so just picture me giving&...
A few weeks ago, we talked about 10 Signs of Property Management Success. This week, we’re going to take a look at the flip side of that coin, reviewing some indicators that it may be time to make some changes (after all, the time for New Years’ resolutions is just around the corner!). Following are a few red flags to keep an eye out for in your property management business. 1. Lack of referrals – This applies to both tenants and property owners. In an ideal scenario, you shou...
While profitability is one great sign of success, there are also many other less tangible indicators that your property management business is doing well. Following is  a list of ten signs you’re running a good property management shop. How many items on this list apply to your business? 1. Your vacancy rates are low. Low vacancy rates can mean any one (and often a combination of) several good things: 1) that you’re doing a good job marketing your property to new tenants;...