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The Top Secret Apartment Marketing Weapon: Your Maintenance Team

Hidden on each of your apartment properties is a secret marketing weapon that can help in your never ending battle to improve resident retention: your maintenance staff.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, duh Michael. Quality and timeliness of maintenance service is a key factor in resident renewals. Don’t you keep up with SatisFacts Research’s data?”

Well, Duh:

Based on a national study entitled, “Getting Inside the Head of the Online Resident,” conducted by SatisFacts Research in 2011, a “sense of community” and “resident events and activities” rated as having low importance when it came to their decision to renew their lease. Basic service expectations, such as quality of maintenance service and quality of customer service had the highest importance.

But I’m not talking about maintenance. I’m talking about marketing.

In addition to your leasing office staff, your maintenance team are also marketing your property.

Let me share with you a recent experience from a stay at Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Shady Grove  that illustrates my point.

On the morning of my checkout, I’m dragging my suitcase behind me down a hallway when a housekeeper came out of a room. She gave me a big smile.

Housekeeper: Good morning sir, how are you today.

Me: I’m well. How are you?

Housekeeper: I’m fine. Are you leaving us today, sir?

Me: I’m checking out today, yes.

Housekeeper: Oh, did you have a nice stay with us, sir?

Me: Yes I did, thank you.

Housekeeper: I’m so glad. Please come back and see us again.

I looked around expecting to see a manager near by, but we were alone. The employee seemed to genuinely care about my customer experience at the hotel.

Kudos to Hampton Inn management. This is clearly great training on their part, whether it was originated by the local general manager or at the national level. The best conversation with a housekeeper usually involves a robotic hello, how are you. This particular housekeeper’s genuine interest in my experience is an example of how your maintenance staff can market your apartment property.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your maintenance staff greet your residents? If so, is it in a warm and friendly manner?
  • Does the maintenance staff take the time to learn names of residents, family, and pets?
  • Does your maintenance staff ask residents if they are experiencing any problems?
  • Is your maintenance staff empowered to create a service request or, better yet, fix the problem on the spot if time allows?

For my money, I will return to that Hampton Inn if I happen to go back to Memphis. It won’t be because of the eggs served at breakfast (driest eggs outside of powdered) and the balky WiFi service. That two-minute conversation with the housekeeper made a greater and lasting impression on me.

Do you think maintenance staff can be an important part of marketing an apartment property? If so, how have you trained your staff to accomplish this? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments.

Also seen on Property Management Insider.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I couldn't agree more. My maintenance sup isn't always the fastest or to be honest the most thorough, but my residents LOVE him. He knows everyone by name, asks about their apartment, their pet, etc. I recently added a second tech to our team. When the residents found out I had a small uprising because they thought I was replacing the sup. We take it a step further; my maintenance staff is cross trained. While our company does not require (although it's encouraged) maintenance to be fair housing certified, I require it of my people. I only have an assistant in the office, and we have had occasions where we both needed to be out of the office at the same time. Rather than call in someone from another site who knows nothing about my community, either my maintenance sup or housekeeper cover the office. Same goes if we are out to lunch, or busy with residents/prospects. They answer the phones if we can't etc. I manage a seniors community and it's especially important that they see us as a family, not 2 separate departments. I do try to discourage residents from giving him work orders in passing. As I explain to them often times he's thinking about his next project and it's easy to forget that quick conversation in the hallways. I also mention that we want him to get credit for the work he does. However if he's in a residents home and they ask him to do something outside of the work order that is absolutely acceptable. As a matter of fact they are required to ask if there is anything else the resident needs before they leave. Many times it's not maintenance relates (fixing computers, setting clocks, moving a piece of furniture, the list is endless). They are in large part the reason that out of the 24 move-outs we had last year, only 3 were on notice, all others were death or illness.

  Stephani Fowler
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When you consider the math, this makes sense. A typical renter is engaged in the leasing process with a leasing professional at the very begining of the lease. 2 or 3 visits to the site, move in... On average, propoerties produce 6 service requests each year for each apartment. That means that your resident interacts with the maintenance team at least 100% more than the lesasing staff. Additionally, the maintenance tech is entering someone's home - not a light subject by any means. I don't allow just anyone in my house, so why should a renter.

With that said, the best tool is to manage that experience. There are incredible tools that allow for residents to order services, be updated during the service and can offer feedback in the form of a survey. The tools can also route the work directly to the service tech. Resident can also schedule the services or leave special instructions (watch out for fluffy). Another feature that is available with these tools is the ability to measure resident satisfaction for each maintenance tech, otherwise known as accountability. The same measure or survey can be used with contract services.

Most of the property management software packages have some sort of maintenance tool. But, the best that I have seen is Corrigo. My last comment, again math. The average property spends $1,200 per unit per year in payroll. Consider half of that is maintenance. Don't we owe it to ourselves to give the maintenance techs the right tools to succeed? I think we know what happens when we give the residents good service... They stay...

Last note, regarding not training your maintenance staff on fair housing. That is just bad business and dangerous. I really hope that you reconsider that thought. The opportunity for a claim is 100% greater since the maintenance staff is in proximity to your residents so often.

  Chris Finetto
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thank You Michael for reminding us how important each person is to a successful community. We sometimes forget what an impact our maintenance staff has on our residents. Sure, they are always courteous and take care of their maintenance issues in a timely manner but many go above and beyond that. Albeit my husband is my Maintenance Supervisor he makes a point to know all of our residents as I do. He knows their names, the kiddos and pets name as well as what apartment they live in and what they drive ! He sees them almost daily when out in the community working and always speaks and calls them by name. This makes people feel special and we ALL want to feel like we matter and are special to someone.

Small things like this make people want to renew over and over and it's also what makes the difference between a property and a community.

  Teresa Bruno
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great article and great comments! Thanks for sharing that great stat from our Online Resident Study, Michael, and thanks for highlighting the various hats that the maintenance team wears! The examples shared by Stephani, Chris and Teresa are so important because a great maintenance team does more than "fix stuff." They are most often the face of the community on a day to day basis. Many residents might not be able to tell you the property manager or leasing consultants' names, but they will be able to tell you the name of at least one member of the maintenance team! Those little details do matter, as everyone has pointed out so well. Those details - knowing the residents' names, their kids' names, their pets' names, etc - add greatly to the sense of community that so many people are desiring. It creates a sense of belonging and pride - something that all the marketing initiatives in the world can struggle to create.

  Jen Piccotti
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I'm always happy to point out SatisFacts Research findings. Good stuff.

  Michael Cunningham
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Thank you Michael such a great article.;D

  Billi Jo Suiter
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I agree with Billie, this is a great article! I have to say one of the greatest things about our company is that our focus is providing supreme customer service. Our customer service template is Dale Carnegie, more specifically his book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People". We are all encouraged to read it and given a copy of it, even the maintenance team. My team is very accomodating and the residents really love that about them. We do not have the "it's not my job" virus here. It really makes a difference when the kindness and respect goes beyond the sell of the property and the lease signing. Thank you Michael for the article, I love it!

  Carol H

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