Resident Retention: When a $10 Rent Increase Can Feel Like $100

When a $10 Rent Increase Feels Like $100In my past life as an assistant manager, I remember having a long conversation with a resident about her renewal notice. The notice offered her another 12-month agreement with a relatively small increase of $10 per month. Now, while I was accustomed to the traditional debate regarding rent increases for amounts such as $50 and more, this was my first time negotiating over a $10 increase.

I went through all of the customary measures—explaining cost of moving, reviewing the options available for different lease lengths, and comparing the resident’s $10 increase to what we would offer a new move-in for her apartment. After laying out what I thought was a good case for renewing, the resident simply responded, “but my stove is still broken.” Caught completely off-guard, I asked her how long had her stove been out of service, to which she replied “longer than it took you guys to type this letter and stuff it in my door.”

Needless to say, that conversation didn’t go as smoothly as planned. When I pulled up her service request history, I noticed that she had in fact reported multiple problems with her stove. I also noticed that each request had been closed out with notes such as “work completed” and “done.” Not a whole lot of information to go on, right?

I asked the resident if she would be willing to give me 24 hours to research this problem and get back to her. She scoffed a little and unenthusiastically agreed. I knew her response meant that she had no confidence that her issue would be resolved or that I would even call her back. It was my job to restore her confidence and trust in the apartment property and keep her as a resident rather than losing her over a $10 rent increase and a broken stove.

Our research at SatisFacts shows us there are two key factors that matter most to residents:

  1. The office team’s ability to communicate and create a culture of responsiveness with the residents and,
  2. How seamless the service request process is handled from start to finish.

We found that these key factors have the greatest impact on a resident’s likelihood to renew. If you ever find yourself in an extended conversation over something as nominal as a $10 rent increase, it’s probably because one of these systems has broken down.

Our research also shows that residents will gladly accept a rental increase when everything else about their living experience is going well. When an apartment property makes it easy to be a resident, push back about a $10 increase happens less frequently.

Here’s what I found after investigating the broken stove issue for my resident:

  • All of the service requests entered never fully nor accurately described the problem at hand, leading the maintenance technician to guess at a solution to the problem.
  • The average time spent on each ticket was seven minutes, which was simply not sufficient to troubleshoot and then fix the problem.
  • The resident never received a follow-up call from the office after each service request to ensure the problem had been resolved to the resident’s satisfaction.

I was able to contact the resident within the time frame promised, and her issue was resolved fully to her satisfaction within two business days after that. And while our team was working on her stove, I made sure to either call or email her at the end of every day to keep her updated as to the progress of the work. We managed to save a valuable resident and resolve an ongoing issue at the same time.

Service requests are a total team process with everyone playing an important role in the way a request is initiated, carried out, resolved, and then followed up. Over a 12-month period, an average resident can place up to 10 requests for service, giving you 10 opportunities to enhance that resident’s overall living experience. Every interaction with a resident will factor in to their renewal decision – it goes far beyond the dollar amount shown on their renewal notice.

So the next time things don’t go as planned at your community for a resident, ask yourself this question: “How can I resolve the problem while keeping the resident in the loop at the same time?”

When you do that, you can make sure that $10 doesn’t feel like $100.

What about you? Are your maintenance and communication practices making it uncomfortable to be a resident at our communities? What are you doing to deliver superior resident experiences?


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.

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