Multifamily Insiders held another of its popular Webinar Wednesday series of virtual conferences on Feb. 9. Lisa Trosien, president of ApartmentExpert.com, led the “Transitioning from Prospect to Resident” webinar.
Trosien noted that rental listing site Zumper.com’s recent report on the State of the American Renter included a detail that demonstrated many in the industry are not focusing enough on effective customer service. The report indicated that 82 percent of renters are planning on moving in the next 12 months.
“What that says is that we are doing a really terrible job on resident retention. We have to work harder,” Trosien said.
She pointed out a disconnect in how companies believe they are doing with their customer service and how consumers perceive their efforts. According to Forbes, while 89 percent of companies compete primarily on customer service and around 80 percent of them think they are delivering “super experiences,” only 8 percent of customers agree.
Multifamily companies must take care of existing renters to increase the chance they will renew their lease. She urged the industry to begin communicating with current residents at least 60 to 90 days prior to their lease expiration. Every apartment property has residents that the building staff never sees or hears from the entire time they live there.
“A lot of us say we love those invisible residents. They don’t have any problems and they don’t have any hassles. No, they don’t, because they are already planning to move,” she said.
Resident retention is a major focus for multifamily companies since resident turnover costs can range anywhere from $3,000 to $3500 or more when including marketing expenses and leasing commissions, Trosien noted.
Multifamily companies can significantly increase resident retention by taking care of their new customers from the time they make the decision to rent to when they move in. Trosien said that the average renter decides whether to renew within 48 hours of moving into their new apartment.
She compared renting an apartment to dating. The renter has “swiped right on Tinder” and decided they have found the place they wanted, and they came out, wrote a check and signed a lease.
“And then we go radio silent. This is the time to build that relationship. With 82 percent of renters saying they are probably going to move, it’s because we have dropped the ball on customer service,” Trosien said.
Eyes of the Customer
Multifamily companies need to look at the move-in through the eyes of the customer. They must consider what people need to do to prepare for a move and do their best to make it easier for them.
Companies can invite new residents to come in and measure the apartment or offer to measure for them. Trosien suggested communicating with them frequently to give them updates on the status of their apartment and to reconfirm their move-in date.
Multifamily companies should also answer as many questions as possible about the move in for the customer before they even think to ask. Let them know where they can park, where the loading dock is, how and when to use the freight elevator, how they get their keys, how to use their keys and the best times to move into the building.
Another method of ensuring new and existing residents is fully informed is for building staff to create videos that demonstrate how to use and care for appliances, how to set the heat, how to use a key fob or other electronic lock, and more. Companies can even place a QR code next to the appliances, the thermostat and other apartment features that will take residents to an explanatory video.
Trosien said apartments should be checked for cleanliness by at least two staff members prior to a resident moving in and to make sure everything is in working order. Other helpful touches can include setting the thermostat ahead of time to a comfortable temperature, providing bottled water and snacks, and giving them move-in supplies such as toilet paper, tissues, soap, paper towels and garbage bags.
She also suggested that staff members walk the move-in path that a resident will use to make sure it makes a good impression. “Every touch point has to be impeccable. Every touch point has to be immaculate,” Trosien said.
It is truly important to stay in touch with new and existing residents, but companies should reach out using the customer’s preferred of communication.
“Ask them if they want a call, a text or an email. That’s a big part of customer service. How would you like to stay in touch?,” she noted.
What’s Happening in the Community
Around 80 percent of residents think that socializing is an important aspect of apartment living. Trosien said that about 50 percent of customers are renting what they see on social media. Building staff can provide information to new residents on places to eat or shop in the surrounding area.
“Where are the places to eat, where are the places to shop? Give them a list of great coffee shops. Give them insight into what might be the best things to get in their neighborhood,” Trosien said.
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