It’s kind of a given in the multifamily industry: to win and retain residents, you have to be the best. But as new builds come online, and the competitive slope grows all the steeper, providing great customer service doesn’t quite cut it. It’s not enough to meet expectations – you have to exceed them. And when exceeding expectations becomes the norm, we’re all left wondering: What more can I do to serve the customers of my community/company?
When I first stepped into the role of property manager, I pondered this very question while sitting with a friend at the laundromat. Above us, a small TV played a Progressive Insurance ad featuring the promise “Helping you save, even if it’s not with us. Now that’s Progressive.” My friend and I laughed along with a few other people in the laundromat. And what stuck with me was what one gentleman said before we all went back to our respective Saturday laundry routines: “Can you imagine if all service was Progressive service?”
Progressive Service: The SPOT Treatment
The real question is: why can’t all service be “Progressive service?” One of the biggest fears among multifamily professionals is getting outsold by something newer, bigger, brighter or better than what we have to offer. This fear blinds us to one of the greatest opportunities in providing exceptional customer service: selling beyond ourselves.
I call this a SPOT treatment take on customer service. Rather than focusing on providing the standard service plus one customer experience, start shifting the focus a little more outward. When we focus on Service Plus One Teamwork—a collaborative view of customer service that seeks to guarantee our customers, “If I can’t help you, I’ll find you someone who can”—we start to provide a truly exceptional customer experience.
We all already engage in Service Plus One Teamwork to a certain extent. When a resident shares a maintenance concern with the office, a maintenance technician fixes the problem and leaves a friendly note for the resident. A leasing consultant also follows up with a call to check on the resident’s satisfaction.
Maybe the manager gives the resident a thank you card for pointing out an issue. The resident is delighted, not only because the problem was solved, but because the whole team was involved in solving the problem. The SPOT treatment simply extends the network of resources we make available to our residents. It’s all about boldly pursuing your customers’ needs, and not being afraid to share all the resources you can, even when they seem to guide your customer away from your own services.
With a little bit of research and preparation, you can start SPOT treating your residents today!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Rethink Marketing Books/Leasing Kits: Many apartment communities require leasing kits and marketing books that help teams their competition in order to sell their community’s benefits. But what if these resources were focused a little bit more on servicing our customers than our own communities? Consider researching local vendors for move-in and move-out days, current specials for highly desired services, etc. Build your marketing book and leasing kits around the resources your residents need and be the ultimate resource to enhance the ease of their lifestyles for as long as they need you! In shifting the focus to servicing the customer, you’ll simultaneously enhance the quality and value of your community.
One of my favorite referral and marketing campaigns involved partnering with a sister community to fill both our vacancies in particular floor plans. When either property had a prospect who needed what the sister property offered, we gave the prospect a special postcard that would get them a free meal in exchange for their tour at the sister community.
Through this simple program, we gave away maybe a $100 in free food and secured several thousand dollars in new leases! Find ways to engage the other communities in your company’s portfolio as extensions of your own service. Combine resources for movie nights and block parties. Exchange the use of one community’s pool for the use of another community’s fitness center (with your company’s approval, of course). Sister communities sharing resources builds a sense of family for residents, and once again shows how far you’ll go to get them what they need even when you’re not the one who has it.
Of course, the goal is never to willingly or intentionally push a prospective resident toward the competition and away from your own community. But when you really take the time to get to know what your customer needs, and what the competition has to offer, you just may find that you’re doing a disservice if you don’t share what else is out there.
We once had a prospect who we watched walk out the door when we shared another community with her that happened to have everything she’d longed for in her dream apartment. We lost her lease, but within a day she thanked us by sending us three referrals who rented with us because we genuinely cared about making her happy! Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a competitor to help you service a customer. They’re usually more than happy to return the favor when you’re willing to maintain both friendy competition and a meaningful business relationship with them.
Rethink Local Resources:
It’s hard to compete with all the bright and sparkling new amenities your competition may offer, especially if you’re an older community in a sea of new builds. Rather than trying to add it all, find unique ways to bring resources into your community by partnering with local businesses. You might not have an on-site convenience store, but you can strike up a partnership with the local grocery store to offer delivery services. Skip the on-site masseuse and dog groomer by securing special pricing for your residents to a local spa and at the local pet shop. Remember, you can’t do it all, but you can find fun and unique ways to bring it all to your residents’ doorsteps!
None of us can do it all. But we can go above and beyond by being the best resource available to our customers—even when being the best means sending them beyond our own offices. Give your residents the SPOT treatment, and watch your community shine!