Reach Out and Get to Know Your Residents by National Speaker and Author Toni Blake
Ask any manager today, “Who is your favorite resident?” They will probably tell you the one who drops the rent in the night deposit, is never late, and never comes in the office to complain! These residents are GREAT- move them in and they leave you alone!
Some of us will agree that this sounds like an IDEAL resident, but is it really good to have residents we never see? What is the average amount of time you spend getting to know a resident during his/her first year lease?
We are in a Customer Service Revolution and my advice is to stay in touch with your customers, do not avoid them! Communication, or lack of it, is a major factor in many areas, including the high divorce rate. A lack of communication between parents and teens has been linked to the alarming increase of teenage suicides. To keep any relationship healthy, an open line of communication is not optional, it is a must! Top business consultants tell us in order to create a successful business we must establish a good relationship with our customers.
With this in mind, I have designed a 5-phase program to help keep you in touch with your residents. These phases can be implemented with a simple clipboard system. List all move-ins, and when each move-in is completed, remove the name and place it on the phase 1 clipboard. Upon completion of phase 1 (personal visit), put the residents on the phase 2 clipboard, etc., etc., etc. Each phase is designed to keep the lines of communication open and to take care of any problems before they become difficult. Involve the residents in the property and activities. Insure and make sure they are living at the level of satisfaction you guarantee.
Phase One: A Personal Visit (3-10 days after move-in)
This is the most important part of the new relationship between the resident and management. This visit will let the resident KNOW YOU MEAN SERVICE- how often people give lip service only! This is not a REAL surprise visit, call first and ask if a visit within the next hour would be convenient. Take an unexpected gift along. You will need service requests and maintenance “tips.” Make sure everything is okay in the apartment, walk through and check again personally. A gift of a fresh herb or mint plant (small) might be the final touch for your resident. It says “we care” and it shows!
Educate your residents — spend some time explaining maintenance “how-to’s” and give them a card with the phone number on it. Encourage your resident’s use of community services such as banking facilities, dry cleaning, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. Make notes on a calendar for your follow up visit. This visit will establish a trusting relationship and let your residents know you really mean what you say! Ask if everything is okay in the apartment. If not, fill out the necessary service request while the resident watches, then follow up!
Phase Two: Welcome Letter
Thirty days after your resident has settled in, send him a welcome letter saying, “We hope you are enjoying your new home.” Enclose a small gift. We recommend welcome labels. Welcome labels work to get your residents “stuck on you.” They are inexpensive, self-adhesive return address labels that are presented as your special “welcome gift” to each new resident, or “thank you” to each renewal. This thoughtful gesture creates instant goodwill and secures positive relations from the start.
Welcome labels are easy to order and surprisingly inexpensive. There is no contract or commitment. As the management company, you simply enroll your properties. Welcome Labels provides a manual instructing your property managers about proper ordering and distribution procedures. Custom printed labels are returned within ten days, nationwide! The program only costs $1.69 per set of labels. You may contact Welcome Labels at 800-852-3350.
When you send this follow-up letter to your new resident, include a “community calendar” and coupons from local merchants (cross marketing)! Also, extend a personal invitation to the next community activity or program and encourage the resident’s involvement. Ask for service requests and resident referrals.
Phase Three: Telephone
The purpose of this telephone call is to touch base before you contact a resident for a renewal. Phase 3 is a time to clean up any reasons why he/she might not be willing to renew. Check all completed work orders for any recurring problems and discuss the general satisfaction with the apartment. This personal touch of the phone call validates your seriousness about service.
Telephone Follow-up: Review residents’ files, know their names and any problems or complaints they have had. Familiarize yourself with pertinent information concerning your residents. Personal concern in communication is the key element to good resident relations!
Marketing Questions: Are you using our amenities? How do you like…? Discuss the manager’s surveys and ask residents to participate. Thank them in advance. Is everything okay in your apartment? Do you have any requests for service?
Resident Referral: By the way, we have a beautiful apartment just around the corner, do you know of someone who would enjoy living in our community?
Phase Four: Letter Contact (Renewal attack)
Ninety days before the resident’s renewal date, print a formal invitation and leave it on the door with a flower. This is the first reminder of his lease renewal, so be creative — use your marketing genius!
“We would like to extend an invitation for your to reserve another year in your apartment.”
Leave a gift in the apartment, such as a Teddy Bear, with a note that says. “We can’t bear to lose you,” or “You’re worth a mint to us” (with a mint candy attached.) Your goal with this contact is to make an appointment for the renewal.
Some managers take renewing residents out to lunch to sign a renewal. To replace a resident in today’s market can cost as much as $1597. Compare that figure to a $15 lunch. It is worth it! Be flexible with the time and place, be creative with your invitation, and be bold with your rent increase!
Phase Five: Personal Visit
Make an appointment and go for renewal and increased rent. Be creative. Check the resident’s file before the appointment, take a gift with you and send flowers after the appointment. This is the actual renewal, so be prepared and go on time. Have your paperwork neat and in order. If the resident is coming to your office, serve refreshments. If you are going to his/her apartment, take a gift. Some managers send flowers or plants to the resident’s work place after they sign a renewal lease. It’s impressive and a great way to get referrals.
This 5-phase program is designed to help you get to know new residents and stay in touch with long time residents. Practice this and renewal leases will be no problem.
Toni Blake is a nationally recognized expert in customer service, sales and marketing. She travels to over 60 cities annually speaking to thousands of management professionals each year. Toni is known for her innovative concepts and is an industry trendsetter. She has been involved with Multifamily Housing since 1979 and currently resides in Greeley, Colorado. For more information visit www.TotallyToni.com Email firstname.lastname@example.org