Three Property Management Tips for Creating a Culture of Responsiveness
In the continuing uncertain economy, retaining residents has become “Mission Critical” in order to increase or, at least, maintain net operating income (NOI) and asset value. However, it isn’t the resident functions or monthly drawings that will reduce turnover. In surveys conducted by SatisFacts Research, “office staff responsiveness to calls and emails” has the greatest impact on the decision to renew. By creating a culture of responsiveness, a property management team can not only increase resident satisfaction but can even increase retention and add to the bottom line.
Here are some examples of resident quotes taken from completed resident satisfaction surveys:
“The biggest problem to me is to get a response from the person who was my leasing agent. I have tried to set up a meeting with the manager about my concerns but have had no luck.”
“The expectation is for me to be a model resident, respect the property, pay rent on time, etc. That’s fine. In turn, my expectation is to have my concerns addressed in a timely manner. Not being informed of the status of things disturbs me and conveys a lack of respect.”
“The attention and service from the leasing and office staff is great before you move in; and after you move in, it all stops.”
So what can the average multifamily property management company (with limited time, resources, and staff) do to nurture a culture of responsiveness, and turn the above quoted frowns upside-down?
Collect current contact information (phone and email) for every resident at every interaction.
It’s impossible to be responsive if you don’t have the ability to contact your resident. When’s the last time you audited your property management system to see how many phone numbers and email addresses you have on file? Every phone call, email, and in-person interaction with a resident is an opportunity to request or confirm contact information. “Well hello , Mrs. Jones. Yes, I can help you with that. While you’re here, is this still the best number to reach you? What’s your email address?” My doctor’s office does this; my hair salon does this; even the retail store where I buy my favorite soap does this. It is just a matter of asking for, or confirming, the information. SatisFacts Research has found when conducting surveys for clients, 85% of survey respondents provide their contact information when asked. If they will tell us, they will certainly tell you.
Implement a standard of responding to phone calls and emails same day.
Property managers and office team members may think it is a given that calls and emails should be returned quickly, however, the reality is that often existing residents are pushed a little further down the priority list in favor of prospects walking in the door or any number of situations that arise throughout the day. A standard to consider implementing: All calls and emails received by 3:00 P.M. will receive a same day response. Anything received after 3:00 P.M. will receive a response no later than 10:00 A.M. the following morning. This puts the entire team on the same page and underscores the priority of this action. This standard shouldn’t just apply to on-site team members, however. This standard needs to be implemented by the entire organization, whether you’re the CEO, the marketing manager, or the assistant property manager. All customer requests, whether an internal or external customer, should be handled as a top company priority.
Promote online property management systems – all of them, all the time.
Technology enables organizations to provide even more avenues of communication and interaction, which means residents can conduct business with you 24/7 rather than just the typical 9-5 office hours. In this day and age, nearly every apartment community has an office email address available. Many communities also have a resident portal that offers online service requests, online rent payments, email the manager, community news, and more. And as community Facebook pages and other social media outlets become more common, this provides one more avenue to provide consistent, useful information to your residents. Unless your residents know about these options, however, these services are worthless. By constantly promoting these online property management systems, residents find it easier to communicate with you when and how they want, without the constraints of office hours. Post these services on a billboard in the office, hand out refrigerator magnets with the information, run reminders on your Facebook page, or include a “tour” of your online services as a part of the prospect tour route and the move-in process.
Resident retention begins with a solid foundation of communication, and thrives within a culture of responsiveness. By having good contact information, and making quick, thoughtful responses a priority, along with embracing technology as a communication partner, your residents will continue to experience the value of staying in the home they have created in your community.
How do your property management teams create a culture of responsiveness? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below.