In my experience of responding to close to one million multifamily reviews, the winning formula to delivering an exceptional living experience lies not in the grand act but in the ongoing, repetitive acts of attentive care throughout the lifecycle of a resident. In the overwhelming age of technology, residents still crave the basics of human interaction: Answer the phone, respond to emails and be available to take their emergency call at 2 a.m. when the air conditioning stops working and it’s 100 degrees outside.
Below are some pet peeves of residents and outstanding examples of customer service that can help you calm an upset resident and build long-lasting and profitable relationships.
Tip 1: Be knowledgeable, patient and open in your communication.
Prospective residents often complain about a tour being canceled or delayed without notice. They also gripe about “impolite and discriminatory” behavior, their application being rejected and phone calls not being answered.
Excellent customer service begins when a prospect calls or steps foot in your community. Remember, they are making a significant financial commitment, so handle everyone with a sense of urgency, patience and in-depth knowledge about your property.
Tip 2: Be Pawsome in every way.
With more than 70% of apartment residents being pet parents, if you advertise yourself as a pet-friendly community, ensure that you provide adequate facilities and clear pet policies and guidelines. I often see anguish about dog parks not being well maintained, confusion about breeds allowed or pet waste not being picked up by pet parents.
Tip 3: Show TLC to your outdoor spaces/amenities.
Residents notice everything. The dirt in the hallways, the absence of
sanitizing wipes in the gym, the unkept landscape in front of the office, the dirty pool.
Whether it’s the cleanliness of the elevator or refilling the gym’s antiseptic wipes or timely pruning of the bushes, build goodwill by taking care of these issues consistently.
Tip 4: Take a moment to learn about your residents’ cultures.
Racial discrimination is a common complaint in reviews. Residents often voice being singled out because they acted a certain way.
A powerful way to show genuine interest in your residents is by learning about their culture, festivals and origins. This information will go a long way in clearing misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict between residents and staff and among residents themselves.
Tip 5: Follow up on service requests.
Remember, your leasing team has worked hard to convert a prospect into a resident; now it’s your turn to earn their loyalty by following up with a text or email after a service request is completed. The maintenance team may think the microwave is fixed, but the resident may not.
Tip 6: Practice active and empathetic listening.
A resident’s opinion can sway if staff acts as if they don’t care or believe you. It is positive when a resident voices any concerns or when they come to you angry and hassled. Don’t react emotionally: Actively listen and respond with constructive recommendations that illustrate you care. And if you don’t have an immediate resolution, tell them you will get back and
do get back.
Tip 7: Mind your body language.
A prevalent complaint regarding service cites rude, dismissive or condescending staff.
The demeanor of an onsite team often affects a resident’s opinion about their entire living experience. When a resident comes by the office, stand, greet them and offer them a beverage. Smile, be kind and patiently listen to all feedback and complaints.
Tip 8: Communicate, communicate and over-communicate.
Residents express frustration when the onsite team doesn’t respond to calls or emails, has restrictive office hours and doesn’t provide a timeline for resolving maintenance inquiries. You may not always have an immediate fix to a service request, but if you communicate and let the resident know when it is expected to be fixed or what’s the hold up, it will nip any resentment in the bud.
Be accessible during office hours, pick up the phone, and return resident emails. Provide notice about water shutoffs or other community-wide inconveniences. If you don’t communicate, residents will fill the void with the idea that you don’t care.
Tip 9: Be prepared to address seasonal issues in your community.
Residents often cite lack of preparation by the onsite team for problems that occur in the community annually.
Every season comes with challenges, and geography compounds them. In the South, summer often is brutal; for the Northeast, winter is treacherous. Anticipate the needs so you can provide consistent service during extreme weather.
Tip 10: Show you care in the littlest of ways.
Apartment residents often say they’re a number associated with a unit with contact only when something is awry with a lease payment or fee.
A seemingly small gesture of keeping a young child busy when a mom has come to collect her mail tells her you care. Showing up in the middle of the night to help a resident who has locked himself out reflects that your team is reliable and kind. Residents will remember these actions during lease renewal, perhaps even overlooking other areas of dissatisfaction.
There are no shortcuts to acing the resident experience: it requires the right attitude, daily persistence, and corporate support.
Priyanka Agarwal is Director of Public Relations at J Turner Research. For more tips, follow her column The Extra Mile.