Residents, Prospects and Vendors Alike: Bring us Your Problems

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Seth Godin shares a gem of a piece on his blog today. It’s titled Bring Us Your Problems.

Anymore we all have multiple avenues for customers to bring us their problems. They can call, email, tweet, message, post, etc.

Different Approach

What if you stuck a huge call to action box on your landing page right above the search for an apartment box? Title the box: Bring Us Your Problems.

Open it up to anyone to send their problem. No matter the nature.

Noise or Opportunity?

I think it’s worth the time to try it.

Your driven to massive experiments in 2014 Multifamily Maniac,

M

My Apartment Leasing Experience

If this had been your experience, would you have rented?

My current lease ends at the end of September, so I spent the last month doing the usual research: searching Craigslist, calling apartment management companies to inquire about their current availability and driving through the area where I want to live looking for For Rent signs.

The main issue with my search is that my criteria were very narrow: I was looking for a 2nd floor in a specific area with a small price range to work with. Because of this, there weren’t too many options, ultimately leading me to Red Brick Management, the management company that owns/manages a large chunk of the real estate in my neighborhood.

Being that I work in the apartment management industry and have rented more than a few apartments in my day, I have certain expectations about how I think the leasing process should run.

1. Friendly and Welcoming:

It’s not that they weren’t, it’s just the first time I can remember not being walked through an apartment with a member from the office, which I find to be somewhat unfriendly and impersonal. Given the choice, I’d prefer to be given a tour, not just an address and a set of keys.

2. Professional and courteous:

Instead of a tour through their available apartments, I got a set of keys, signed a waiver stating I would not damage anything in the apartment, that I would be responsible for locking the door behind me and that I would be back before they close. Shouldn’t I be getting the paycheck…I mean didn’t I do all the work?

3. Timely

I will say they were timely with my application process. In fact, they were very timely, running my application and approving me before I ever even submitted my income verification. On the other hand, on my “tour”, there were 3 or 4 maintenance repairs not yet completed with little post-it notes next to them that read: “This will be completed.” Since I already paid all my move-in fees, all I can do is hope that the maintenance will be as timely as the application process.

4. Smooth and Easy

From the first phone call or e-mail to the lease signing, the process should be 100% easy for the prospect. I think it is easy to fall short on this, as there are many steps to the leasing process and prospects have lives outside of leasing and have to fit within “normal office hours” when getting things done (unless the whole process can be done online). Red Brick is open on Saturday, which is convenient. They also allow credit card payments for application fees and deposits and their application is very simple, only taking a couple minutes. Overall, the application process went pretty smoothly and was very easy for me.

Now I’m not through the whole leasing process yet, and they did mention to me that they only allow lease signings a couple days a week (neither of which is Saturday), and that is not convenient.

I think the takeaway here is ultimately quality customer service. In my case, there weren’t a lot of options, but we all know that’s not usually the case. How the prospects feel treated and how easy we make the process for them is usually what makes or breaks a lease.

If this had been your experience, would you have rented?

How’s My Service?

We’ve all seen one of one of those How’s My Driving stickers on the back of a truck.

They seem to care but do they really?

My boyfriend recently ordered my birthday present online from a popular home and garden store. I won’t disclose the name, but let’s just say it rhymes with Shmowe’s.  Anyway, he ordered it through their In-Store Pick-Up service so that he could pick it up from a store near me while he was visiting for my birthday, but when he went to pick it up, it wasn’t there. He was told that someone was supposed to be in charge of calling him to let him know it hadn’t arrived yet, but apparently they forgot, and they would have to call him back Monday. When they didn’t call, he called them, only to continue to get the run around. Almost a week later, the item showed up at his home (in a completely different state than where he had requested to pick it up). The only solution customer service would offer was for him to return it to the nearest store (40 minutes from his house) and have me re-buy it from the store where it was originally supposed to go. Only when he went to the store to return it, they couldn’t access his order in their system and refused to give him his money back. After spending almost an hour in the store dealing with several different store associates and managers, and becoming infuriated, he was given his money back.  Needless to say, after their complete lack of help and horrible customer service in dealing with his issue, he would not be re-buying anything from any other ‘Schmowes’ store.

No matter how bad his issue became, not one person was willing to become solely responsible to insure he received call backs and verify that the matter was corrected and the customer was satisfied. Instead, he was given different answers from several different people and given the run around to the point where it ended up losing them two customers (both him and myself), and potentially more because apparently he was not the only person in their customer service line who had issues with their online in-store pick-up program (and of course all of you reading this who don’t want to take the chance of this happening to you).

The point of all this is that I work for Mills, a fairly large company that relies mostly on our site teams to handle property specific customer service issues. However, we recently added a resident relations position to our portfolio for those times when an issue reaches the level that the above mentioned story reached. This person is specifically responsible for getting to the bottom of such issues and working directly with the resident until the issue is resolved. This has become a great asset to our company and I believe that no matter how big or small the company, there should be some type of position similar to this available for customers.

Do you have a program in place to insure that customer issues never get out of control? Any tips on what has been most effective?

Obvious Belief in your Apartment Community

Apartment Obvious BeliefThis is a shout out to all of you hard-working, trust gathering, relationship building conversationalist apartment leasing people. It seems obvious that you are the people who put the heads on beds in apartments all over the country every single day of the week. You come in early, stay late and do whatever it takes to get the job done. You are the difference that makes a difference when it comes to leasing and selling an apartment. And, what is that thing? What is ‘that thing’ that makes the difference? It’s an obvious belief in three things.

Obvious Belief in your Apartment Community

Nothing novel here. You have to believe in the apartment you are selling. Now you might ask, what if I am selling a C class apartment in a C location; that is different, right? No. It’s no different and my suggestion is that if you can’t believe in it – move on. As I see it, you are cheating three people out what they deserve if you stick around. You are cheating yourself as you will never be happy. You are cheating the company as you will never give them 100% of what you are capable of. And, worst of all, you are cheating the people who are really interested in leasing an apartment from you. Key: Get an Obvious belief in your apartment community.

 Obvious Belief in your Neighborhood

Tell them how much you are moved by the neighborhood. People want to know what there is to do around where they live. They not only want to know which pub serves the coldest cold one; they also want to know the name of best bar tender. They not only want to know the best restaurant; they want to know the name of the best server and the chef. They want to know the name of the cleaner that gives top-notch service. They want to know the name of the intake specialist at the local elementary school. Do you want to differentiate yourself? Key: Get out and learn anything and everything you can about the people who give personality to your neighborhood. 

Obvious Belief in Yourself

It’s people who make all the difference in this world. It’s YOU. It’s ME. It’s our friends, family, neighbors and those we would do business with. Key: You have to be comfortable in your own skin. Confident in your convictions. Convinced by your actions. And, Courageous in your opportunities. It is possible to fake it over a near term but over time even the best placed guards crumble. Be real and be real good. It is then that selling your apartment community, the neighborhood that surrounds it and you come across as an authentic need to serve the needs of others. And, that my friends sells all day long…

Your – believing in you – multifamily manic,

M

 

The Customer is the Hero

Make the Apartment Customer the heroMake the Customer the Hero” – Ann Handley

Finding ways to make the Customer the Hero never was and still is not difficult. It is not some over the top mysterious ‘wish we could figure that out’ chaos math problem. No – it is much easier.

It is the please, the thank you and the “I don’t know but I will get back to you” follow through. It is the pausing long enough to assist with heavy bags, taking time to clean cigarette butts off of their sidewalk and taking time to make sure the bathrooms in your clubhouse are clean throughout the day and not just at the beginning. It is keeping your word when you tell someone you will do something. It is remembering to say a kind word or send a nice gift on a birthday, anniversary or holiday. It is remember to ask about their children’s activities, struggles and successes. It is majoring in the minors for people without losing site of the bigger picture. It is taking – Time.

The trouble most of the time is understanding origin. That is, where does that ‘making the customer the hero’ mentality come from?

The Hero Lies in You

I think the late great Whitney Houston said it best in the song There’s a Hero – in the song there is a lyric that sings like this  …and, the Hero Lies in You. There is a hero that lives in all of us and he/she is right at home helping everyone around them feel like a Hero too… And, guess what – 100 times out of 100 times when you make someone feel like a hero – you feel like one yourself….

Your, remembering the hero inside becomes the hero outside – multifamily maniac,

M

5 ways to improve customer engagement in the apartment business

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1. Smile at your prospects, current residents and vendors
2. Make Eye Contact with them
3. Share Your Name First and then ask for theirs.
4. Explain What you are Doing and Why
5. At the end of every interaction ask, "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

Want to rent more apartments, secure more renewals and or maintain the best relations with your vendors? Modify your behavior and the behavior of your team and WATCH out!!! The world will come alive for you and yours.