Engage Me or Lose Me
The 2011 NAA Education Conference & Exposition begins in earnest today as thousands of people descend on Las Vegas to network and learn. Beyond that, well, what happens in Vegas ….
My jealousy over missing the conference got me thinking about engagement and its power over the sales, marketing, and customer service relationship…and ultimately how this can influence leasing apartments.
Below are two examples from a recent weekend when I flew to West Virginia for a family wedding.
The Power of Engagement
I got a call as I was just about to leave for the airport and a pleasant automated voice informed me that my American Airlines flight to Chicago was canceled. I’d been rebooked on flights from Dallas to Denver, then Denver to Chicago, then Chicago to West Virginia.
The voice asked me to accept or reject the new flight plan.
Uh … reject.
I was connected to a customer service agent named Lorna. In a bit of a panic, I vented. She was courteous and patient, but I could tell that I was another in a long line of upset customers.
As she worked to find me new flights, I thought about how Lorna wasn’t responsible for my situation, but was responsible for finding a solution.
I decided to engage her.
We chatted about why my flight was canceled (storms in Chicago) and how many other frustrated customers she was dealing with that morning. I apologized for being upset and told her several times that I appreciated her help.
And boy did she help me. She got me into West Virginia about 20 minutes later than my original schedule and used another airline to do that.
Because I chose to engage her on a human level and not on a service level, we both had a better experience.
The Power of Disengagement
My second example is from the return trip. When dropping my Hertz rental car at Yeager Airport, I had to go inside to the counter to return my keys. I was running a little late due to missing my exit, but it wasn’t really anything to worry about. The lone agent was standing back from the counter, phone to her ear, staring straight ahead.
She didn’t even acknowledge me. After what seemed like forever, she finally spoke to the person on the phone: THIS WAS A PERSONAL CALL.
After getting off the phone, she smiled, apologized for the delay and proceeded to help me, friendly and courteous. She even attempted to engage me by asking questions about my trip. But I was so put off by her initial rebuff than I simply couldn’t engage her back. I just wanted to get to my gate.
A Tale of Two Connections
You can probably guess which brand left me with a better impression.
When leasing apartments, properties can differentiate themselves all they want with amenities, move-in specials, concessions (which aren’t necessary with revenue management, by the way), sparkling pools, or free Internet. And prospects don’t even need to visit the property anymore to lease an apartment (see our series on online leasing).
But ultimately, your leasing agent IS the face of your property. If your agents don’t engage your prospects or residents immediately, you’re looking at a bad first impression. And you might never get to make a second impression.
How do you train your leasing agents in the art of engagement? Do you have any good examples of engagement or disengagement? I’d love to hear what you think.