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Satisfied Residents Are Not Enough

Came across an interesting blog post today about customer satisfaction. The Consumer Electronics Association prepared a satisfaction survey earlier this year that discussed customer satisfaction and their decision to buy again from that provider*. Well, as you can see, having a satisfied customer doesn't really get them to the goal they anticipated. Instead, only the "Very Satisfied" customers seemed to really be impacted enough to be a repeat customer.

So why didn't "satisfied" produce greater results? Without more information, it's really hard to say, but I wonder if these results go back to Hygiene Theory I blogged about several months ago. What if being "satisfied" really just meant that the company had met their basic expectations, and nothing more? In other words, they provided what they were supposed to provide, but didn't "wow" them or go above and beyond. Those who were "Very Satisfied", however, may have felt that their basic expectations were met, but there were also additional perks that really provided the reason to continue to buy from that company.

Of course, this is all speculation, but it's worth thinking about. Regardless, it does show that providing adequate service or a product that just barely gets the job done won't cut it with your customers.
* Could not find source document

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Three Aspects to Great Maintenance

For a while we've heard that the key to resident satisfaction is providing excellent maintenance. Now although you know I think that is really only half of the equation, it is still vital to keeping your residents from running around with pitchforks trying to tar and feather your onsite team. But what exactly does providing great maintenance truly entail? Well, here are my three important aspects to providing great maintenance:1) Understand The Problem - As I'm sure you know, residents will sit on maintenance issues for a long time without informing the office. This can be due to not being able to come into the office during work hours, getting a voicemail on the phone, or sometimes just plain laziness on the part of the resident. However, even if you are not aware of the problem, you will be blamed for it in their eyes, no matter the cause. I know that sounds ludicrous - how are you supposed to help them if they don't tell you? Well, sometimes life isn't fair, so you have to be more proactive in making sure all their problems are taking care of.First, make sure they have plenty of avenues to contact you. Maybe you have one night a week where you keep the office open late, or maybe you have a resident portal they feel confident will get the message to you in a timely manner. Second, I recommend asking your resident if there is anything you can do for him or her every......
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Actually Going Green, and Not Just Saying You Are

The "green" movement has really hit its stride, which of course means that it is well on its way to being overdone in marketing (if it's not already there). So I'm wary of starting up a green-centered campaign because prospects might start seeing that as less than sincere as everybody jumps on the green bandwagon. That said, I'm still in favor of the actual plan of limiting waste, increasing recycling, etc, so it amazes me how few properties have paper recycling in the most obvious place - the mail room! Ninety percent of all that junk mail serves no purpose as it goes directly in the trash, so it makes sense to have a recycling box there. Just please don't try to sell yourself as a "green" community because you put one recycling box out!
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Brilliant Targeted Marketing

Today I received a comment on my MySpace from a friend with the attached picture.



Now many of you will probably not have a clue as to what this sign is talking about, and in a way, that's why it's brilliant! This is a very targeted ad to males (in general) ages 18 to 24. It's a funny little sign about an EXTREMELY popular video game, which you've probably heard of even if you haven't played yourself, Halo.

Instead of trying a one-size fits all approach to marketing, the bank assessed it's target market and made a GREAT sign to reach them. Now I'm not a Fair Housing expert, but logically speaking, this should not go against fair housing as it's not anti-women, anti-elderly, or really anti-anything, but it does target a specific type of customer. My point is that many communities are afraid of developing a target market because they are afraid of Fair Housing, but that shouldn't stop you from taking steps like this that pursue a given market more heavily.

(If you happen to be a Fair Housing expert, please let me know if I'm wrong!)

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Time to Renovate?

I'm not on the construction/building side of the multifamily industry, so I may be a little out of my area of expertise on this one, but I have one question to pose: Is now a great time to renovate? Assuming you can get financing, which right now is a pretty big "if", raw materials might be extremely inexpensive. I admit I don't know this firsthand, but it seems like a good bet that with the extreme slowdown on the housing market, excess inventory is probably readily available. A good buyer should be able to get strong discounts for all sorts of materials, from lumber to fixtures. Of course, this assumes that you aren't fighting for your life in the current economic condition, so everything is relative, I suppose.

Just something to think about...

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Starbucks Guide to Resident Feedback

I know there are plenty of Starbucks haters out there, but one of the main reasons they are so plentiful is that they actually get it right most of the time. In another example of understanding their customer, they have started up MyStarbucksIdea.Com, a website designed to hear directly about what their customers want in their Starbucks experience. Anybody can put up their own idea, which gets votes by other Starubucks patrons. Right now, the top ideas revolve around punch card systems with free drinks for frequent customers, free wi-fi, and a green initiative regarding gift card redemption. There is also an incredibly inventive idea that allows the customer to put their normal drink order on their card, swipe the card at the register, and effectively reduce the order-taking process to one simple step.What's even better about this program is that Starbucks puts notes on the ideas saying which ones are being implemented or considered. It gets the customers feeling as though their thoughts and opinions really count, and the voting system means that it's incredibly easy to take part in shaping their favorite coffee shop.Now let's compare that with most apartment communities. Does the average community take any steps to truly find out what their residents want most in their home? Or do they effectively bury their head in the sand and just deliver what they think residents might possibly want? Here are the positives to having this type of feedback:1) Your residents will feel more in control. The more......
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Student Housing and Resident Retention

Earlier today I took part in the monthly Grace Hill chat, this one focusing on student housing. Unfortunately, I was busy with other projects so I wasn't able to devote a lot of attention to it, but I did notice something odd about the chat. Normally, the Grace Hill chats, although very informative, usually end up focusing 90% on apartment marketing and only 10% on resident retention topics. I understand that the questions are user driven, but it always bugs me that we spend so much time on the less profitable of the two. But today, from what I saw, it was quite different. In fact, it seemed that it was highly focused on resident retention items such as parties, group games, such as the Wii or Guitar Hero, and surprisingly, service! Now I'm all for positive resident retention ideas, but it was just odd to see that much discussion on the topic when before it played such a second-place role. Spending so much time on student housing retention is even more interesting considering the large obstacles it faces. The lifecycle of any student resident is almost required to be short as they will graduate (hopefully) or move home for the summer. Also, students often initially stay at the dorms, which means a lot of renters are already upper classman, meaning closer to graduation. In addition, college renters often have roommates - if that roommate happens to be a year ahead, then he/she will graduate before the younger resident, forcing that resident......
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Now this is a great community MySpace bulletin!!

A little while ago, I had one of the communities on my friends list put out a bulletin that I absolutely love. It reminds the residents what a great community they are at, it continues to perpetuate the relationship with specific staff members, it shows that the staff actually care about what the residents say, and it asks them to get "active" and post comments on their page. Even more, it is the first bulletin that I have seen that actually focuses on the residents rather than the prospects. Here it is:

Hi All!

We have wonderful news: in addition to the fact that Josh (Leasing) and Anna (Asst Manager) have both been nominated for awards by the Triad Apartment Association (Hooray!!), we've also been nominated for the Apartment Community of the YEAR!!!

Please post comments or send us emails (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) about why you agree that:
1. Lincoln Green is the best community EVER;
2. Josh is the BEST Leasing Associate EVER;
3. Anna is the BEST Assistant Manager EVER.
We'll forward your responses to the TAA!! Let everyone know how your apartment community is the best community around! We'll submit your answers Thursday morning, so post early and often!

With so many thanks, to you!

Your Team at Lincoln Green


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New website tracks specific instances of crime – will that help or hurt your property?

I always remembered the "crime" question by prospects as being especially tricky to handle. Living in a big city like Houston, you can't just tell them that crime is a fact of life - they don't want to hear that. This new tool could be a way out. CrimeReports.com pulls in crime data from cities throughout the country, allowing you to see not only that a crime has been committed, but what type of crime specifically. The crimes are shown as icons on a map; however, if multiple crimes exist at one location, it still only shows ONE icon. This can be very important because visually speaking, it minimizes the impact of multiple crimes on a single location. This is especially important for multifamily housing since our housing is so dense, which usually means that on a map, multiple crimes do not show up on a map as spread out, but rather consolidated in a very tight area. The CrimeReports map, however, puts a much more positive light on a community if only seen with a quick glance. So when you get that crime question, it might be a good idea to bring up the map of your area and show it to your prospects directly!(Quick aside) Historically, there has been a myth that apartment communities have more crime than single-family developments. Why is that? Well, officers responding to a call often just list the address and treat all the apartments in a community as a single unit. Therefore, instead of......
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Matching Resident Life Transitions

Is your company providing a retention plan that incorporates your residents' life transitions? It occurred to me tonight that we are trying to retain residents into apartments that don't "fit" them anymore. On a very basic level, consider that most people have incomes that trend up over their lifetime. If we try to retain them in the same apartment, their experience is not trending with them. Although their income goes up, the relative value of their apartment (older carpet, longer period since last painting, etc) goes down. Therefore, we are not providing solutions that evolve as their life does.Let's flip through an "average" life cycle for a person: - Leave the parent's house and either go to school or get job, likely with a roommate. - Get first "real" job that allows them to live alone - A few raises without dependants results in acquisition of new furniture, requiring bigger, and nicer, one-bedroom apartment - Gets a significant other and they move in together. They get a two bedroom so they can spread out, although tight funds may require a lower class of property. - Starts a family and needs a nursery, which sometimes requires a 3rd room - 2nd child definitely requires another bedroom, and often a move into a house with a yard for the children. - 50% get a divorce at some point, with one or both parties likely moving back into apartments. - Retirement brings a desire for "simpler" living without home repairs, which brings an older......
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