By John Hall - September 13, 2018
If you like interacting with people, the leasing profession is perfect for you! Tours for prospective residents, visits from vendors (and wanna-be vendors), and residents doing the day-to-day things that residents do. Every day is different, and you never know what is going to come through that door.
Likewise, if you are like most people, you would rather not have to deal with complaints. Who needs residents coming by and complaining about any and all manner of things?!
Well, you do. And your community’s bottom line does! If you are doing it right, complaints go from being an unavoidable hassle, to being an essential part of making your community great!
Now, after you have had sufficient time to roll your eyes, consider these facts about complaints, and why they are essential to community managers.
1) No Complaints ≠ Happy Residents
If problems at your community are not being shared with you, it does not mean they don’t exist. In point of fact, most people do not want to take the time, and deal with the unpleasantness, required to make a complaint. Many people avoid complaining, and choose instead to opt out of their situation as early as possible.
2) Asking For Honest Feedback ≠ Asking For More Complaints
Actively seeking feedback on how are doing from residents and prospects alike helps you in two ways. One, it often lets you know about issues that can be easily addressed, before they become a drain on leasing and retention. Two, it lets your residents and prospects know that are attentive to their needs, and makes them less likely to be angry because of what they perceive to be a lack of interest on your part.
3) Complaints = Opportunities (To Improve Your Community)
You should always be looking for ways to improve your community. Complaints provide you with terrific ideas to make life at your community better. Plus, when someone sacrifices their time and comfort to complain, you can be reasonably sure that they are sharing a problem that actually needs addressing.
4) No Complaints = Bad Word of Mouth
Your residents talk to their friends, co-workers, and families, and nothing makes for better conversation than a juicy story about some problem at home, and how poorly it has been addressed! Your residents are more likely to share their displeasure with their peers then they are to share it with you. If you are not aware of the issues that your residents are having, you have no way of mitigating the bad things that are being said about you.
5) Complaints = Opportunities (To Improve Resident Loyalty)
Conversely, dealing with complaints quickly and honestly is a sure-fire way to create new ambassadors for your community. The positive experience of being heard and having concerns addressed actually leads to greater loyalty, and stories about good customer service are even more likely to be shared than stories about unresolved problems. More often than not, your online reviews and star ratings - positive and negative - are the direct result of how complaints are handled.
6) Rewarding Complaints > Avoiding Complaints
One of the most important parts of dealing with complaints is the follow-up. People who complain are often emotional, and can feel vulnerable as a result. Not only should you be sure to properly thank everyone who takes the time to complain to you, you should treat them as if they have done you a favor. Because, in reality, they have! When your residents are made to feel as if they were wrong to complain, there is no resolution to their problem that will satisfy them.
You are undoubtedly aware that resident renewals, and word-of-mouth referrals, represent less stressful and more cost-effective ways to lease than continually harvesting new residents. To that end, creating loyal residents is really the most important job that you have.
Know this: A leasing office that properly deals with a reasonable volume of resident complaints is probably doing a better job than a leasing office that hears no complaints at all. Not only are they are collecting valuable feedback - They have created an environment where residents trust that their issues will be addressed.
So, the next time that you are faced with a resident complaint, resist the urge to flee or get defensive. Approach complaints with the same eagerness that you have for potential leases. Take a breath, smile, and be excited that you are being given the opportunity to truly excel in your role of leasing professional!
Next week, we will get more specific, with a look at the best practices for responding to complaints at your community.
By John Hall - September 6, 2018
Recently, we discussed community tours - how to maximize their effectiveness, and how to best use your Pynwheel touchscreen on them. There is nothing like personal contact to help you close leases, and you should always be sharpening the tools that you bring to your community tours.
However, there are going to be times where you are unable to meet a prospective resident. You wouldn’t want to miss out on opportunities such as those created by companies that are relocating quality applicants to your area. Likewise, prospective residents often want to have their new home secured, even if they don’t have the opportunity to visit in person. If these are realities in your marketplace, there are things that you can do that will put you in the best position to reach quality residents, and have a leg up on your competitors.
How do you take the best practices from your in-person tours and apply them to virtual leasing? Here are some of our favorite tips:
1) Make the first move
People who are relocating to your market are often attractive leasing candidates, as they are often following enhanced employment opportunities, and have the wherewithal to rent from you. Are there large employers near you that bring new people to your neighborhood? Why not create an incentive for their employees, and reach out to their human resources departments? Likewise, your general marketing efforts should focus on the places where those from out of town are likely to look - namely, on the internet.
2) Polish your image
It’s not enough to have a good website and advertising that you pay for. prospective residents are going to go to third-party sources to see what is being said about your community. Know your online ratings, and take steps to make sure they are not sinking your marketing efforts! Remember, people who are new to your area do not know about your neighborhood like locals do, and they will search for information in places that you can’t control.
3) Connect virtually
Even though you can’t get face-to-face, it is still to your benefit to have the next best thing. Video calls allow you to make a personal connection. Interactive web pages allow you to be viewing the same things as you talk, so your applicants can rely on photos and maps, instead of just your words. If possible, you should take advantage of your management company’s portfolio. If prospective residents can visit a sister property, you can leverage the other leasing professionals at your company to help you get leases signed.
4) Keep your focus personal
Prospective residents who cannot visit you in person still respond to a leasing process that is focused on them. Overcoming the challenges of doing this from afar is a valuable skill. Try even harder to get to know your applicants, and make notes to remember what is important to them. (You will rely on these later!)
5) Pynwheel your virtual tours
Touchscreen interactions are a big part of what makes Pynwheel so powerful, but you still have access to some great leasing tools when your touchscreen is not available. Pynwheel community maps can be loaded onto your webpage, and are a perfect tool for walking an applicant through your available units and amenities. By making note of an applicant’s preferences, customizable e-brochures can be created and sent immediately directly from your touchscreen. Customization is always more effective than one-size-fits-all e-mail attachments or paper brochures.
6) Sweeten the deal
Timed offers allow prospective residents to end their housing hunt before they have a chance to scope out the competition, as well as allowing them to eliminate one of the largest stressors of relocation. Use caution though! You want to make sure that you are as transparent as possible about your community’s offerings. Residents who feel that they have been deceived will spread bad word of mouth, and will end up costing you in the long run, especially if they work for an employer that presents the potential for multiple future residents.
7) Nail your follow-up
You should always send customized brochures, but the virtual leasing process offers you other opportunities to stand out. Note your applicant’s interests, and send them some information on places in your neighborhood that will specifically appeal to them. Offer concessions that are specifically tailored to each resident, and let them know about the social events at your community that will help them assimilate to their new neighborhood. Often, the best follow-up of all is a simple inquiry about how their moving process is coming, along with an offer to help in any way you can. Remember, if prospective residents develop a personal connection with you, they are far more likely to want to sign your lease.
How often do you rent to applicants before you are able to meet them in person? What strategies do you employ to make long-distance leases work for you?
By John Hall - August 30, 2018
Recently, I weighed in on millennials - who they are, what they like, and why they are important to multifamily operators. In response to that article, I heard some of what the usual comments you hear from non-millennials. Millennials are entitled, self-absorbed slackers! Anti-capitalists who just want to buy more stuff! Social-justice warriors who refuse to move out of their parents’ houses!
I can’t help but notice that such complaints sound strikingly similar. In fact, they sound like the complaints that I heard about my generation (Gen X) when we were just coming of age!
As companies are hiring, working with, and marketing to the millennial generation, it’s important to separate stereotypes from statistics. To help with perspective, I thought it might be helpful to compare facts about millennials to facts about older generations.
3) Self-centered? Millennials happen to be pretty generous.
5) While “social justice warrior” is mostly used as a pejorative, Millennials are socially conscious, and they are willing to put their money where their mouths are.
6) Millennials have suffered more financially in their early lives, but still save their money and are hopeful for the future.
7) Of course they want to do well, but millennials are no more entitled than the generation before them. In fact, they are less so!
So be careful not to stereotype this generation, which is likely becoming more and more important to your business! You would be wise to focus on the choices that millennials make with regards to the things that you can actually impact. Offering the best of new technology, access to diverse transportation options, and environmentally friendly living is a smart way to reach out to most potential residents, and especially millennials!
If you focus on the stereotypes instead of the statistics, you risk limiting your marketing by trying to appeal to the things that don’t really matter.
By John Hall - August 23, 2018
Technology has transformed apartment marketing. Now, like never before, potential residents have access to more information about your community before they even set foot on it.
Despite this fact, there is one element of the leasing process that hasn’t really changed - the community tour. At Pynwheel, we have made it our business to determine how apartment operators can improve the community tour process with new best practices, technology, and time-saving techniques.
Here are some of our favorite community tour tips.
1- Don’t let them wait
It should go without saying, but we still hear stories all the time involving residents who give up waiting for a leasing agent to help them. Engaging walk-ins with your lobby technology is a good way to start the sales process, even if you are unable to be with them at the moment. If nothing else, every single walk-in needs to be greeted within seconds.
2- Use your touchscreen on every tour
While touchscreens are a great way to engage potential residents when you are unavailable, they are also most effective when used in conjunction with your community tour. Touchscreens are still a novelty to the average consumer, and their existence in your leasing center sends the message that your community is technology forward. More importantly, touchscreens let your prospects inform you of their interests, so that you can shape a tour to their needs.
3- Keep their options open
Consumers are more likely to seek other alternatives when they only have one option. Touchscreens allow you to present multiple options for apartment homes. Do not make the mistake of trying to get a prospect all in on one unit that you have pre-selected for them. Also, make sure that you know your value propositions. Make sure that you are talking more about the things that differentiate you from nearby competitors, and less about the things you all have.
4- Be a part of the neighborhood
Your prospects are interested in knowing what businesses and services there are around you. While it is not possible to take a field trip on they typical tour, you should make sure that you are communicating the benefits of your location. Pynwheel neighborhood maps are able to display a multitude of local offerings, and now offer images accentuate the appeal of those offerings.
5- Don’t give the same old tour
Take the information you have been provided, and tell each prospect what are going to show them. By avoiding a “canned” presentation, and making it clear that you are choosing specific points of interest from a larger menu, you will send a message that your interaction is unique, and that your offerings are vast. Your touchscreen gives you a great starting point to creating each tour’s custom script.
6- Talk less. Show more.
It is no secret that visuals are more important than words. So, let your prospects see your best visual features for themselves. Also, by letting your touchscreen communicate the more data-driven elements of your sales presentation (ie, which units are available when), you have time for information gathering and relationship building. Which brings us to…
7- Build a relationship
Leasing is sales, and you need to always remind yourself of what is important in selling. Do you remember to ask questions? Do you think of yourself as a consultant, with a priority on truly helping your prospects? Do you take the time to talk to prospects about themselves? (Don’t ever forget: people love talking about themselves!) As much as they are choosing a new home, potential residents are still greatly influenced by the personal connection they feel during the leasing process.
8- Give them a brochure that works
E-brochures trump paper brochures by letting prospects curate them to include the things that they find most appealing. Also, they don’t end up in a stack of other brochures, or on the back seat of a car. E-brochures end up in on smartphones and in e-mail accounts, where they are certain to be seen again. They are more easily shared, whether with spouses, roommates-to-be, parents, or co-signers. Imagine your prospect’s spouse making a choice based on an e-brochure with relevant images and floor plans, instead of a verbal description of those features.
9- Ramp up your follow-up
With every prospect, you should be taking note of two things: 1) What community amenities or units were appealing to them, and 2) what things about themselves did they like to talk about? Then, both of those things should go into your e-mail or phone follow-up. Send images and information about their preferences that enhance what they have in their e-brochures. If they mention an interest, mention something that you didn’t already discuss that pertains to that. Offer concessions that are specific to them!
Community tours are all about time-management. You have the a limited time to gather information, establish a personal connection, and display all of your community features that might be important to each potential resident. Technology that is most helpful to the success of that process will help you manage the time spent on each of those priorities. When potential residents pre-screen your community offerings, and curate their own e-brochures, you have more time to do the things that can’t be done over the phone or the internet.
How do you get the most out of your community tours?
By John Hall - August 16, 2018
This is a great time to be in multifamily housing. Not only is the market strong, but there are many new products and services out there that are moving the industry forward. The crew at Pynwheel is always excited to find out about other companies with really great ideas, and we have met a bunch in the last few years. Today, we would like to tell you about one of these companies - Amenify.
So why do we think Amenify is so cool? Here are some of the things we like the most:
1) It gives communities with limited opportunities for capital improvements a competitive edge.
If your community is short on amenities and trying to compete in a strong market, it’s a great way to enhance your appeal. Amenify provides dog walkers, fitness instructors, cleaning teams, massage therapists - even ridesharing. While you may not have the space to add a game room or a pool, you can add concierge-type service amenities that appeal even more strongly to your residents.
2) It’s a simple way for apartment operators to greatly expand their amenity offerings.
While a community could go out and create their own relationships to offer various resident services, the process of doing so represents a significant drain on resources. Amenify is able to jump through multiple hoops on an apartment operator's behalf, from identifying providers, to pre-screening and insuring them, to achieving the best incentives by leveraging multiple relationships. Onsite managers are too busy for this - thankfully, Amenify does the work.
3) It allows communities to build their brand through the Amenify platform.
Communities brand their Amenify offerings as their own, avoiding the pitfalls of a direct-to-consumer model. Residents access services through a mobile application, and have access to price incentives and conveniences that are a unique offering of their community. For example - want to make an impact on dog owners? Maybe pay for some of their dog walks!
4) It is attractive to service providers.
Most service providers are motivated by the desire to focus on their actual services, while focusing as little time and energy as possible on cultivating new customers. Amenify offers service providers a large pool of potential customers, as well as the convenience of having a pool of customers in close proximity to each other. As a result, providers pass on significant savings, without negatively impacting their own bottom line.
5) Market research is built in.
Consumer trends are ever-changing. Because Amenify is constantly acquiring feedback from consumers through their usage patterns, they are able to identify amenities and services that are in demand, and allow communities to rapidly add those services to their offerings. For example, on-site activities - such as cooking classes or wine-and-painting sessions - are offerings that have been identified and added due to their current popularity.
6) It offers a great alternative to old-school concessions.
Gift cards and cash concessions have become an ineffective way to attract new residents. Imagine being able to offer services - like monthly apartment cleaning, or personal training sessions, or six months of dog-walking - to potential residents, based on preferences expressed in the leasing process. Amenify makes it easy to offer these gifts, and to track their redemption.
7) It solves a pain point.
Ultimately, the best ideas come from reimagining and improving upon current practices, and applying technology to transform business. We love companies - like Amenify - that bring this kind of thinking to the multifamily industry, and we like to share their stories with you!
Note: Pynwheel’s Multifamily Blog strives to provide industry intelligence that is useful and interesting to apartment industry professionals. We did not receive any consideration - monetary or otherwise - from Amenify in exchange for this profile. If you know of a multifamily provider that you would like to see profiled, let us know!