Using Live Web Chat to Engage Multifamily Prospects
Quality websites that provide multi-channel communication options have proven integral to multifamily marketing in this day and age. The goal is to at least entice apartment shoppers into an extended look that leads to an inquiry, usually a phone call, email or text.
Live chat technology is adding another option for multifamily prospects and apartment marketers to connect. Shoppers can opt in to a digital conversation with a representative who’s usually standing by to address the questions, provide relevant personalized responses and offers to schedule a visit.
The conversation may be quick or last several minutes. Either way, marketers say that the growing communication option is proving to be a viable way to increase sales or leases. E-retailers, citing at least a 20 percent conversion of a lead to a sale, say one of the biggest benefits is boosting revenue.
Chat is gaining ground over other web-based communication
JoAnna Lloyd, Senior Director Product Advocacy for RealPage Contact Center has seen significant growth in web chat adoption among multifamily property management companies seeking to strengthen their websites by enabling prospects to communicate on channel of their choice. She will speak more on this topic in her session “Contact Center and the Omnichannel Experience” at the RealWorld conference this July.
Web chat has proven to be one of the highest converting self-help solutions, she says.
“We find that web chat converts into a visit more than five times higher than the typical email web forms and into leases higher than both traditional voice and email web forms making it a valuable way to enrich your websites,” Lloyd said.
While perusing a website, potential renters can opt in for a brief chat with a representative who interacts regarding a community. Prospects can “opt in” either by activating a static button that can be selected at any time or through a chat pop-up window that appears after the first 30 seconds of the website visit.
Lloyd says implementation is easy. Working through the property and/or its website provider, a chat tag is installed so the community can begin live web chats.
Younger, older prospects alike are using chat
Live chat on websites has been on the rise in recent years. More than 65 percent of American online shoppers engaged in live chat in 2012, up about 15 percent from 2009. Also, research shows that contact centers have increased live chat use significantly to resolve customer issues more quickly and improve loyalty.
The communication mode is a favorite among younger adults and it’s playing right into the hands of older Americans who are adopting technology at a rapid pace. A report by the Pew Center for Research shows that 67 percent of seniors use the internet – up 55 percent in the last 20 years – and half now have broadband at home. The opportunity is now greater for striking up a web conversation with just about every age group.
In multifamily, chats aren’t just initiated only by younger folks looking for an apartment. Lloyd said multifamily prospects of all ages are getting in on the conversation.
Prospects typically chat at lunch or later in the day as well as during the evening. Usually, the inquiries are directed toward specifics like pet policies, unit availability, pricing, amenities and availability to visit. As websites have become more robust, prospects who chat are typically more prepared with the basic information about the property, usually have a unique question, and are very interested in the real-time communication.
Lloyd says the conversations are opportunities to strike interest and trust based on the chatter’s unique home finding needs.
“You have a captive audience and they are interested in your community, and you want to be able to communicate with them on the channel of their choice,” she said. “We’ve had tremendous success with conversions, and it’s pretty exciting to see that chat is one of the highest converting into a lease.”
Increase the effectiveness of traditional web forms or emails
Contact centers are also seizing the opportunity to quickly reach out to prospects who use a traditional web form or email to inquire about a community.
If the email has a valid phone number and is within legal calling hours a representative will reach out to a prospect within 10 to 15 minutes of a request for information to answer any questions. The key, Lloyd said, is finding the right balance of time between the email inquiry and the follow up call.
The strategy – known as instant call reply – is creating a 15-18 percent conversion rates compared to 5 percent using traditional email response methods.
“You don’t want to call too quickly after they send in their form because it can come across too automated and not as personal,” Lloyd said. “But you want to do so while they’re still interested and still searching for other properties. When you get their attention, it’s a very positive interaction. We typically book two out of three prospects we contact.”
Instant access to a company representative is inviting
As other digital communications become more prevalent like web chat and instant call reply, Lloyd envisions email web form usage will decrease. The instant access to the needed information will enable properties capture multifamily prospects who may have otherwise skipped on to the next website.