Resident Retention: Great Leadership Increases Loyalty and Revenue


Do you employ Apartment Manager Customer Experience Leaders at your apartment communities?

“Do we employ a what-now?”

Let me put it another way.

When it comes to the customer experience are you ready to put your money where your mouth is or will you simply pay lip service to the idea? Do you really understand the value of a better customer experience for your employees and residents?

Apartment Residents and the Experience Economy

In December, 2012, Oracle published a research report, “Why Customer Satisfaction is No Longer Good Enough.” Here are three important points the survey revealed:

  • 81% of consumers surveyed said they are willing to pay more for a superior customer experience
  • 44% are willing to pay a premium of more than 5%
  • Customer experience is now a key driver for revenue growth and an effective channel for brand differentiation

Welcome to the Experience Economy; where customers—your residents—expect more, will tell you more, and are willing to pay more for your apartments and services if you get it right! If you don’t get it right, they are also more than willing to switch to your competitor.

Now does my original question make sense?

Do you employ Apartment Manager Customer Experience Leaders?

If you don’t have the right kind of people running your multi-million dollar apartment communities, it will be difficult to deliver a great customer experience.

Transform the Customer Experience with Great Leadership

While many property management companies are chasing their tails trying to overcome negative customer experiences and customer reviews, some are also proactively focusing on what just might be at the root of the problem—“The Boss.” Yes, the title of Property Manager sometimes causes people to lose sight of their most important job—leading and inspiring people.

Research shows that a well-designed and led customer experience can trigger emotions that have a positive effect on resident retention and loyalty—inside and out.

A great customer experience begins with great leadership.

In his book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis writes about the differences between a leader and a manager. Here are three key differentiators from the book,

  1. The leader innovates; the manager administers
  2. The leader inspires trust; the manager relies on control
  3. The leader asks “what” and “why”; the manager asks “how” and “when”

The best Property Managers are also Customer Experience leaders. They leverage their experience, credibility, and relationships to influence positive change. These are the people who can drive the kind of cultural change that will radically affect the competitive position and performance of the community they run.

When it comes to negative customer feedback, don’t settle for simply improving a few customer-facing business processes or merely eliminating a few common causes of resident complaints. Be proactive and get to the root of the problem. Using tools such as 360-degree employee surveys, apartment reviews, apartment mystery shops, and resident surveys can be very revealing.

Can you really afford not to?

The Property Employee Experience Impacts Resident Experience

It’s silly to think that the on-site employee experience wouldn’t have an impact on resident experience. The best customer experiences are often based on mutual self-interest between on-site employees and residents. Similarly, the best employee experiences are often based on mutual self- interest between the needs of a manager/leader and on-site employees.

Which category of employee do you think will provide the best and most consistent customer experience?

  1. They love their job and hate their manager
  2. They hate their job and love their manager
  3. They love their job and love their manager
  4. They hate their job and hate their manager

I choose door number 3!

Nordstrom is a great example of how creating the right experience for employees can have a positive impact on customer experience, which in turn impacts company performance. For many years, new employees were given a copy of the Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook – a 5X8 card containing 75 words:

Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

“Using one’s best judgment” remains Nordstrom employees’ number one policy in all aspects of the job. Has the Nordstrom employee experience impacted performance? You bet! The company was named yet again in 2012 to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Three Ways to Become a Great Leader and Transform the Resident Experience

LISTEN to what their internal and external customers are saying and then they act on the information. They don’t expect to always receive positive feedback.

KNOW WHEN TO GET INVOLVED. They understand that their involvement might not always make them popular, but they are always focused on what is best for the team and the company.

KNOW THE TYPE OF FEEDBACK THAT RESONATES WITH EACH EMPLOYEE. They are also open to their own constructive feedback (surveys) from their supervisor, peers, subordinates and external customers.

Great leaders aim to build teams that believe and perform during prosperous and difficult times. They understand that if they can inspire their employees, then their employees will inspire their customers. The result can be one great customer experience after another!

Do you employ an Apartment Manager Customer Experience Leader? I would love to hear about them!



President and Owner, Ellis Partners in Mystery Shopping

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Joanna Ellis is CEO and Owner of Ellis Partners in Management Solutions (EPMS) and Co-owner of Renter’s Voice. Under her direction, Ellis has established itself as the premier apartment mystery shopping company in the nation, as well as a respected provider of multi-touch point resident surveys, as part of their retention-focused customer experience program. Current clients include most major apartment developers, management companies, and REITs. Through Renter’s Voice, Ellis helps clients promote and respond to authentic and objective apartment reviews. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Texas A&M, Ms. Ellis has spent more than 25 years in the multifamily industry, and she now holds both the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) and Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS). She is also a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent. In honor of EPMS’ reputation for integrity, the Dallas Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals awarded Joanna, on behalf of the company, the 2008 Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award for mid-size companies.

2 responses to “Resident Retention: Great Leadership Increases Loyalty and Revenue”

  1. Mike Brewer says:

    Joanna – love the practical application in your post. I read somewhere that organizations are put in place to serve the people that serve it. And if that is done well then the default is that everyone in your organization will serve well the people you do business with.

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post – well done.


    • Joanna Ellis says:

      Mike – Thank you for your comments! Great companies hire great people, treat them right and these great people, in turn, take great care of the customer. The internal customer is equally as important as the external customer. If we are not hiring people that are passionate about both customers, then the customer experience can be inconsistent and unpredictable – causing turnover all the way around!

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