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Touchscreens and Websites Are A Different Experience

Here Are A Few Reasons Why

By John Hall - March 21, 2019

People ask us all the time: How are touchscreen applications different from websites?

Here are some of the things that we have learned!

Website and touchscreen users are in a different place, literally and figuratively.
Website users are not at your community, and can be at any stage of an apartment search, although they are most likely to be in the early prospecting stage. They want information, and a lot of it! Your location, your community’s appearance, how your residents rate you, how they will interact with you...basically anything they can find. Websites are used to market your property

Touchscreens are used to market your units, and your prospective resident’s new home. Your touchscreen users are standing in your lobby! They don’t need directions to your community. They don’t need to know what the exterior looks like (although, some professional shots at different times of day never hurt!) And, they are interacting with you around their interaction with your touchscreen, so their reaction to your touchscreen becomes part of their experience with you! 

Websites are designed for general use. Touchscreens for specific use.
Your prospects will likely want to gather different information over a period of time as they make their decisions. As they gather information about other aspects of their move, they will refer back to your website for your corresponding information. Websites are perfect, and vital, for that function. 

Comparatively, the time a prospect spends with your touchscreen is likely to be short. But, it is also going to occur during one of the most crucial times in the entire leasing process. The moments that a prospect walks into your leasing center mark an important transition. They are going from having done all of their own work, to letting you sell your community to them. Your leasing touchscreen can make that transition seamless, and eliminate the need for you to play catch-up. Plus, providing access to cutting edge technology sends a powerful message that you aim high to meet the needs of your residents.

People expect different performance from websites and on-site technology.
Your prospects use the internet for everything, and they are used to whatever delays and interruptions that go along with inconsistent service options and wireless capabilities. 

However, when people use touch technology, they expect accuracy and responsiveness. Touchscreens are not the same as their wireless devices. They are a reflection of how tech-forward you are. (Think of the touchscreens that have become a part of your everyday routine. How often do you see a button on a supermarket self check-out freeze? And how angry do you get if it happens?!)

The internet is old hat. Touchscreens, not so much.
Everyone - especially your target market - knows how to get around the internet these days. When somebody ends up on your website, it is usually as the result of a targeted search. In other words, they are there because they want to be there, at least until they get what they need.

A large-format leasing application is a different animal. When a prospect walks into your office, they don’t expect to end up face to face with a huge screen that responds to their touch. They don’t necessarily know how they are going to interact with images and markers, and the experience is akin to exploring any new technology for the first time. 

Different inputs create different experiences.
One big difference they will find when they do interact with a touch screen has to do with something called multi-touch. Unlike the point-and-click nature of a mouse, touchscreens allow for users to manipulate what is on the screen in an entirely new way. (Provided that their application is programmed that way!)

So, how does all of this impact your actual touchscreen application. We will look at the application of these concepts in our next post!
 
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Pynwheel 101

Best Practices For Making Leasing Easier

By John Hall - February 13, 2019

Are you getting the most out of your Pynwheel touchscreen?
About to go live, and want to come out of the gate fast?
Or, do you just want a feel for how Pynwheel would look in your office?

Pynwheel touchscreens are powerful sales and leasing tools, and, as with any tools, it is smart to get some pointers on how best to use them.

Here are some of the best practices that we have seen.

1) Put Pynwheel to work
In other words, USE IT!
It’s really that simple. If you put your touchscreen where it won’t be seen, and you don’t make it a part of your routine, it won’t do a lot for you. But, if you make it a regular part of the sales process, you won’t want to live without it.

2) Eliminate the wait
Walk-in visitors matter, and, even though you can’t be expected to get to all of them every time, their time spent waiting can still set you back. Pynwheel applications are designed to be intuitive to first-time users. What was once lost time spent waiting now becomes time spent initiating the sales process for themselves.

3) Ditch that desk
Workspaces are changing with the times, and a lot of businesses are looking at alternatives to the old model of one-desk-per-person. In a sales environment, there is another advantage to getting out from behind that desk. Simply put, standing at a touchscreen with your prospects puts you on equal footing, and turns the process into a collaborative affair.

4) Let somebody else drive
You are no doubt used to having control of the community tour, but Pynwheel works best when you give prospects the opportunity to take the wheel. A smooth user experience makes it fun for them to navigate the benefits you offer, and you get to watch as they reveal what units and amenities appeal to them.

5) But, be ready to help navigate
Like we said, Pynwheel is simple enough for a first-timer to get around, but there are going to be prospects that aren’t as amenable to technology. If your prospects recoil when you invite them to engage with the touchscreen, go ahead and touch away for them. Just make sure to keep them involved. Ask what selections they would like, and stay alert for signs that they are ready to jump in.

6) Get on script
Similarly, even though you want to give up control, there is no reason you can’t help give directions. Have enough familiarity with your application to point prospects toward your best photographs, amenities, and popular local businesses. (Here’s a good trick: When demonstrating how the touch functionality works, you could just “happen to open” a couple of your best photos, or the pop-up for that restaurant near you that everyone is going crazy for. Make sure you play it off like it was unintentional!)

7) Play the game
Touchscreens are fun. That is part of what makes them effective. To that end, encourage prospects to open multiple images, re-size, and just make a mess. Then, have them touch the REORGANIZE button and start all over again. Even if it seems like they might just be goofing around, they are staying engaged with the process, which is a good thing!

8) Play favorites
While a prospect is manipulating the various images and floor plans on the screen, they will no doubt comment on the ones that they like. Make sure you take the gamification process one step further, and tell them to click on the heart icon when that happens. After doing so, they will be able to see all of the items they liked on one page (and they can mess around with them there all over again!). Better yet, they will want to send themselves their favorites as an e-brochure, and you will have a customized map to closing the deal.

How do you Pynwheel? Do you have any best practices that you would like to share?

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Transportation And Your Community

Are You Up To Speed?

By John Hall - February 5, 2019

More and more, the changing world of transportation impacts the way that multifamily does business. Technology, and the "shared" economy, are driving resident choice in a profound way.

It is important to understand the current transportation landscape. Are you up to speed on all of the changes and choices out there? Here are some great articles we have read to get you caught up.

WHEELS

  • Apartment residents are increasingly moving away from car ownership, and they make community choices with that in mind. NAAHQ
  • Access to transportation options translates to premium home prices. Still, the demand is not being fully met. Curbed
  • The desire for alternatives to cars is not entirely altruistic. In many cases, it is a response to ever-worsening traffic. Many drivers would love not to have to drive, but they feel their options are still limited. Seattle Times
  • Uber and Lyft have had a massive effect on urban transportation, but they actually increase the amount of miles being driven. Curbed
SPOKES
  • So what will lead to a decrease in miles driven? Dock-less bike share appears poised to do so. Slate
  • However, bike share is not without its headaches, most notably with regards to how cities accommodate and regulate it. Curbed
  • Of course, a lot of people still own their own bicycles. Check out how one community in Sweden was specifically designed to meet their needs! Fast Company
SCOOTERS
  • How about scooter rentals? They have taken off, but many cities are struggling with how to manage them. South Florida Sun Sentinal
  • Also, scooters might be more of a nuisance, or a hazard, than they are worth. Forbes
  • Still, there are cities that are welcoming to them. Electric bikes too! azcentral
FEET
  • What about walking? Does anyone walk anymore? Well, yes. (At least outside of LA. ) In fact, "walkability" is still really important to your marketing efforts. MYMOVE
  • Mixed-use is growing in desirability. "New Urbanism first spreads slowly into a region. But once it is there, people quickly understand its benefits. Each code, development, or policy is easier than the last." Ped Shed
  • And don't assume that this trend is only for the young. Seniors want alternatives to driving, and also enjoy walking for its health benefits. Still, most senior development is being done in the suburbs, where cars are almost a necessity. Strongtowns
THE FUTURE
  • What will the future bring? For one thing, transportation efficiency will be vastly improved by technology. Forbes
  • Commutes might actually improve. Mashable
  • And, would you believe that the future of urban transportation might be...the bus?! Wall Street Journal

 




Photo by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash

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Beating Resident Churn

Get Ahead Of The Vicious Cycle

By John Hall - January 17, 2019

When writing about resident retention last week, I kept coming back to something that I have heard from apartment professionals for a long time. Almost everyone I have met in multifamily will tell you that renewals are preferable to new leases. They save you a lot of money, require less work, and create a stronger sense of continuity.

[Here is another study demonstrating the value of renewals.]

However, just as there is agreement on the importance of renewals, there is an almost universal frustration with the ability to dedicate the time and resources necessary to improve retention rates. Empty units generate no income, so leasing staffs are encouraged to focus the bulk of their time on filling them.

And this leads to a nasty cycle. While there are things that you could do to improve retention rates, you have to spend most of your time getting all of your units filled, which gives you less time to improve resident satisfaction, which leads to more available units, and on, and on. Arrgh!!!

Now, imagine a world where the cycle works the other way. With leasing being just one manageable portion of your overall workload, you are able to put more time and energy into improving resident satisfaction. Then, all sorts of cool things start to happen:

  • Resident renewals increase, decreasing the time you spend on new leases
  • Current residents refer their friends, increasing the pool for units that are open
  • Current residents spread the word, through internet reviews, and word of mouth, and the prospect pool gets larger
  • Improvements you make for current residents become benefits for prospects
  • In the long run, your community is nicer, complaints decrease, and prospects are lined up to fill openings. Everyone is happy forever! The End!


OK, Shanrgi-La might not be in the cards, but it is possible to turn the cycle around. Happier residents, an unfrazzled leasing staff, and an improved bottom line are well within your reach.

How?

Simple. Make resident satisfaction your priority.

Don’t just talk about it. Do it!

Operational changes need to occur that guarantee a heightened focus on resident satisfaction. Incentives for resident satisfaction should be in line with those for new leases. Leasing practices can be streamlined and modernized to free up time. Schedules can be created that dedicate time to current residents. Duties can be changed so that leasing and resident satisfaction become seperate jobs. Turnaround for resident requests can be actively reduced, through service guarantees.

However you decide to go about it, a change in priorities will be accompanied by some other changes:

1) Your focus shifts to the future
When a resident moves in, they immediately become a prospect again, potentially filling a unit that is due to be open a year away. Your already know your future prospects!

2) Your residents become your best lead generators
Happy residents refer friends, and residents who live with friends are happier residents. There is some good synergy that occurs when most of your residents are also friends.

3) You begin to create a true community
When your time and energy is focused on creating great living conditions for current residents, a truer sense of community is a result.

There is no better incentive to renew than that!

 


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Resident Retention Matters

The New Year Is A TIme For Renewal(s)!

By John Hall - January 11, 2019

How is your resident renewal rate? It is easy to lose sight of resident retention as you work to fill open units, but improving your renewal stats is a great way to improve your bottom line.

Here are some of the best ideas we have heard for improving your resident renewal rates, for every step of the lease cycle.

1- Create realistic expectations
A common mistake in the leasing process is to try and tell residents everything you think they want to hear. It is much smarter to take an honest look at your community, and to target prospects that are the best fit. There is no surer way to create dissatisfied residents than to seem dishonest about what you offer, and you can be sure that you will be looking for their replacements sooner than later.

2- Move them in
Roll up those sleeves and grab the other end of that couch!

OK, don’t do that, but it is a great idea to make their move as painless as possible. Find out when they are coming, and show up to greet them! Let them know where switches, storage, and other important things can be found. Show them the best large item access to their unit, and, if you have enough, reserve an elevator for them with a sign for an hour or two. Place a mat in their doorway, and a few blankets to protect any delicate surfaces, and then come pick those items up later. Then, use that as an opportunity to ask how everything went.

Moving is no fun, but a personal touch to make it easier will go a long way toward making residents love their choice of apartment communities.

3- Market your amenities
You need great amenities to compete for new residents, but don’t forget to let your current residents know about new offerings or improvements. If you offer new services, consider giving your residents a free or discounted first use. If you make improvements to existing amenities, make sure your residents know that you do it all for them!

Also, find amenities that your residents won’t want to lose. Need some ideas? Try here.

4- Keep in touch
Many residents can’t help but notice that you seemed more interested in them before they signed on the dotted line. That is easy to change. A phone call to ask how things are going will do wonders for making residents feel valued. If you commit to making a few calls every day, you will get through all of your residents in no time. Then, start over!

[Some people avoid calls like these, because they don’t want to hear from dissatisfied residents. Don’t be some people - Be a Complaint Ninja!]

5- Throw a party
When done right, social events are a great way to build allegiance to your community. Make sure you think of something that people will actually be interested in, and then make sure that you extend invitations and multiple reminders. This is also a great opportunity to reach out to businesses in your area, allowing them to promote their businesses by providing food, drinks, or services that will make your function great.

6- Give a gift
It doesn’t have to be much, but an unexpected small gift will make anyone feel like a valued part of your community. Schedule something for six months after the lease is signed, and you will give your resident a great feeling at the time that they are starting to consider their next move. Individualize your gifts, so that recipients know there was some thought put into it. This is easy to do, if you make it a habit to log a note about your residents’ interests and save them in their files.

7- Notice your notices
Too many communities send out a generic notice reminding residents when their lease ends, and when they have to decide whether or not they are renewing. Want a better way? Why not personally deliver these notices, and include language about how much you value them as residents? For someone who is on the fence, how you perform this step is very likely to be the tie-breaker.

Also, this is a great time to...

8- Incent the renewal
Renewals are money in the bank, so why not spend some to make some? There are many ways to do this. Here’s just a few:
  • Preferred rental rates based on time of residency
  • VIP type benefits (like a reserved parking space)
  • An apartment “refresh”, with cleaning services offered to make the unit look like new
  • Upgraded appliances, technology, or surfaces

Do you have a resident retention strategy that has served you well? I would love to hear from you!


[Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash]



 

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