Check Mate: Win the Chess Match of Resident Retention in 2 Moves

Win the Chess Match of Resident Retention in 2 Moves


I recently presented a session at an education conference in Toronto. Upon returning home, I found a renewal notice on my front door. Now, I have been in this industry for more than 12 years and I know the renewal drill:

Ninety days prior to my lease expiring, the management team sends notification of its offer. Check.

I, as a resident, then have about a month or so to determine what I would like to do. Check.

I’ve often said that what we do as property managers is business, but to never forget that for residents, it’s personal. Many of us have the unique perspective of walking in both worlds. So here I am, with renewal notice in hand…decisions, decisions.

The Resident Renewal Process is a Strategic Chess Match

The renewal process is much like a chess match. Management makes the first move (renewal notice) and residents respond accordingly. As strategic as chess matches go, it’s important to think three or four moves ahead of your opponent. Anticipating the “what ifs” is paramount to winning the match. Management may be thinking, “What if the increase is too aggressive?” The better question should be “What if this resident is still upset about us dropping the ball on that service request?”

Here are two easy moves management teams can execute to ensure the resident retention chess match ends in their favor:

Move 1: Affirm Your Greatness with a Job Well Done

Ever wonder why customer service representatives close their calls by asking “Have I taken care of all your concerns today?” They do this because it breeds loyalty. Most customers will respond affirmatively, and in doing so, subliminal signals are “planted” in the hopes of “blooming” whenever the customer thinks about that particular company. Take a cue from this practice the next time service request callbacks are being conducted. Asking residents, “Did the service team take care of all your service needs?” is more effective in breeding loyalty than, “I’m just checking in about your dishwasher service request. Please let us know if you need anything else.”

The more times you can get residents to confirm a job well done, the better off you will be at renewal time.

Move 2: Claim the Win

To be a champion, you have to believe—in complete confidence—that you are going to win. Many times, management teams forfeit the win because they think a resident is not going to renew because of the increase. According to the 2014 SatisFacts Index for Annual Surveys, when asked, “What can be done to improve the community?” zero percent of respondents selected “lower rent.”

I once read, “Price is only an issue in the absence of value.” Let those words sink in for a minute and then drive your focus on service levels and make renewing an easy decision for your residents.

Making the Next Move

As a resident, I know without a doubt that my rent is going to increase each year. It is what it is. The increase does not deter me from committing to another 12 months. But as with all residents, that renewal notice sends me on a trip down memory lane, assessing the past year and my overall level of satisfaction.

First move…management. Next move…resident. Are you doing enough at your community to ensure the win?


Vice President of Education and Consulting, SatisFacts Research

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Lia Smith career in training, property management and marketing began in the mid 1990′s. Lia began her training career at Nextel Communications, where she was responsible for training over 1,000 Customer Care Representatives. She then embarked on a new career in property management as a Leasing Associate with Lincoln Property Company, and steadily moved up the ranks. Lia was able to merge the worlds of training and property management when in 2006 she became Director of Training and Marketing at SPM Property Management, a 14,000+ unit portfolio; this included creating SPM Academy and a Learning Management System. She also developed and managed SPM’s resident feedback program, and was responsible for providing post-survey action planning support for property teams and management. Lia has proven experience in solving training and resident retention challenges for market, affordable, senior, tax credit and student communities. These experiences have helped Lia relate to both onsite and corporate associates. Lastly, Lia has presented at key industry events such as MultifamilyPro Brainstorming on topics related to developing the operational and service skills of onsite and executive level teams. Lia Joined the SatisFacts team in 2011 as VP of Education and Consulting.

4 responses to “Check Mate: Win the Chess Match of Resident Retention in 2 Moves”

  1. Lydia Robertson says:

    It could even be a great idea to include the feedback received over the lease term in the actual letter to the resident! Solidify your renewal. 😉

    • Lia Nichole Smith says:

      Love this idea Lydia! We conduct resident satisfaction surveys 120-days prior to lease expiration. It helps to create a 30-day cushion before the renewal letter to give communities an opportunity to resolve issues and concerns for their residents. The survey also helps to better prepare for the renewal discussions to come.

  2. Becky Currie says:

    Great article! I will be sharing it because it’s so important this time of year with the number of lease expirations so heavily weighted. It’s never to late to show you care and provide great service!

    • Lia Nichole Smith says:

      Thanks Becky! I agree with you about this being a heavy lease expiration season. Traditionally, we have been conditioned to consider the summer months to be all about leasing. Keeping that back door closed makes leasing less stressful, in my opinion. Thanks for the comment!

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