Customer service and customer experience is a topic of much discussion in today’s marketplace. As our marketplaces become more competitive and our rents continue to increase, the expectations from our residents – both current and future – continue to go up. Residents want their interactions with property management to be simple and easy. No one wants to do business with a “hassle brand”. From your website, to communication from and to the office, and even encounters on the community grounds, your residents want less
“friction” in their encounters with you.
One of the great examples of the simplification of customer experiences is Uber. The car sharing brand continues to achieve unprecedented growth due to the simple, easy to use process that is provided to customers. Three clicks of an app is all it takes. Reviews of both Uber drivers – as well as Uber customers are easy to access. Prices are clear, communication is clear, and both the customer and the business are left with a satisfying experience that benefits both parties. Uber drivers are among the most satisfied “employees” I know. Many wil rave about the company to you.
You too can create an “Uber Effect” for your customers. Each avenue of connection to your residents is an opportunity for you to lessen the “friction” they encounter in order to leave them happier – and you just might find a little joy along the way as well.
Here are 5 easy ways to reduce friction:
No customer wants to fall victim to the phone queue of death. Hours upon hours of “press 1 for this” and “press 2 for that” are enough to drive anyone crazy. Some apartment management companies have outsourced a call center in ensure that calls are answered by a friendly voice. But, when dealing with the call center associate on the other side of the phone, customers may be on the receiving end of an ear who only knows the script that is in front of them.
True success comes from the person who promptly picks up the phone and has an honest conversation with their customer. Residents want to be able to call on their schedule, and want to feel like the person on the other side of the phone is listening and really, truly cares. Try answering the phone “My name is Pete-I can help you!” Easier to remember if you use your own name but you get my point.
The same philosophy is true when it comes to email. Customers are tired of getting the same generic email template that just has a couple of fill in the blanks created to give the sense of customization. Today’s renter is smarter than that. They want near-instant replies to their correspondence to you and they want the reply to be simple, clear and engaging. Remember, most of your customers are busy and communication from you should never be seen as a challenge in their otherwise complicated lives.
Over half of the residents who tour an apartment will not receive a follow-up message. Another 25% will receive one over 24 hours later. In an age of instant gratification and digital engagement, the people who will stand out the most are the ones who follow-up the fastest.”
Distractions are the enemy of the in-person connections you have with residents. The person in front of you (yes, even “that one resident”) needs to feel that they have your complete attention. Allowing them to see you taking notes about your conversation - even if you have a great memory - sends a sign that you are engaged and focused on their needs. Don’t be generic and homogenized in the service that you provide to them. Prospective residents will often visit five to seven apartment communities before making a final decision. Make sure that the service you provide is both unique and memorable, so that you are not remembered as just another apartment community.
4. Retaining Residents
So often residents feel that, once they have moved in, you have forgotten all about them. The attention they received during the initial leasing process is replaced by an absence of interaction. They may never even hear your voice unless they call the office with a maintenance request. People would almost always rather live in a place they feel connected to. Make sure to remember the occasions that they celebrate and celebrate with them. A 99-cent card signed by the office team delivered to them on a birthday, anniversary or other special day is a simple way to let them know they are remembered and valued.
5. Follow Up
Over half of the residents who tour an apartment will not receive a follow up message. Another 25% will receive one over 24 hours later. In an age of instant gratification and digital engagement, the people who will stand out the most are the ones who follow up the fastest and using the methods that a customer prefers. Text rules the day, with social media sites coming in a close second. Photos and videos are available via smart phone during the tour – and as a vessel for you to make a memorable follow-up statement. In every circumstance, make sure to do what you said you would do and be timely doing it. Just this basic level of customer service is often forgotten and it is a great way to make sure your customers have less friction in their encounters.