Rewarding Behavior: Carter-Haston Boosts Resident Satisfaction, Loyalty, Reviews by Incentivizing Community Engagement
Resident satisfaction is about more than beautiful interiors, incredible amenities and timely repairs. Often overlooked by multifamily property managers is the importance of actively fostering a sense of community that makes an apartment feel like a real home among friendly people.
Renters who feel they’re part of a community are far more likely to tell others about it, post reviews, renew their leases and even accept renewal increases.
Property managers do their best to make their properties pleasant places to live, with polite and helpful staff, trusting community spirit to grow organically. However, even at a well-run property, engagements between residents – and between residents and staff – rarely rise to a level that constitutes what most would call a real “community.”
Where it pays to engage with renters
Nashville-based Carter-Haston has taken an active role in fostering, and even rewarding, engagement among its residents. They’ve adopted RealPage’s Community Rewards platform, which rewards residents with redeemable points for doing things like participating in contests and events, answering polls and sharing photos and more with the community.
In engaging in these and other ways, residents create prime material for social media promotion highlighting the pleasures of life at the property. The activity also spurs a big increase in posting of online reviews, which have become a critical component of apartment marketing.
Ariel Garcia, who serves as VP of Marketing at Carter-Haston, says she’s been thrilled at how Community Rewards has motivated the sort of behaviors that promote community spirit.
“We’re using Community Rewards to get people to stay longer, stay active, stay happy,” she says. “It creates a social environment; it’s fun and it’s exciting.”
Garcia lists some of the many participatory activities that Carter-Haston properties have initiated using the Community Rewards platform. They include polls about favorite community amenities, and wish-lists for new ones; feedback on maintenance, staff and other property issues; coordination of events; quizzes and contests; Netflix watch parties; activities centered around pets; fitness programs; sharing of apartment interior design ideas . . . and the list goes on.
Sharing resident satisfaction at apartment communities
With the platform in place, residents now regularly share photos and information about their lives at the communities. “One of our properties has had over 2,000 votes in their community album, because people want to share them,” Garcia says. “This is of course great user-generated content for our website and social media – it’s fantastic to have your residents basically promoting your property for you, and their opinions carry more weight than what a property says about itself because it’s coming from people who actually live there rather than marketing people.”
The engagement isn’t just between multifamily residents. Onsite staff are involved as well, giving the property a human touch that often isn’t there, particularly in a time when fewer people are visiting the front office in person. “When residents rarely talk to staff, it can feel a bit cold and like you are not as cared for by actual people; it’s just a building,” explains Garcia. “So having this platform where the site staff is engaging with the residents is very valuable in building that personal rapport.”
Garcia says she has seen a noticeable lift in resident referrals since Community Rewards was implemented. “The great thing is that boosting referrals becomes a component of Community Rewards instead of a separate mission, with, say, a rent discount or cash bonus for referrals as a project done outside the platform,” she says.
The same goes for renewals. “We’ve seen that where we’ve added Community Rewards, there’s been a boost in renewal activity,” Garcia says. “Between April and September we experienced a 40% increase in renewals. You can push renewals through the platform and make it part of the whole incentive/reward environment. The reward system is already in place to incentivize all the various behaviors you want. Lots of things we were doing separately before are now collected in one platform.”
Making a point for engagement
“Gamification” isn’t new to the consumer experience. Accumulating “points” and other rewards – even those without intrinsic value such as badges or a place on a leaderboard – is so universally satisfying that gamification is being built into a myriad of corporate and retail loyalty programs.
Garcia reports that it’s working at Carter-Haston properties as well. “It’s a competitive set-up,” she says. “You go on social media, you do SnapChat Fridays, you put in a maintenance request online instead of calling it in, you fill out a survey, you win a contest, all these things give you points. Our residents not only enjoy redeeming their points for prizes but they really love to see those points accumulate and see themselves on the leaderboard. So there is this fun and competitive side to doing all these things that we as the property are incentivizing in order to increase engagement.”
Rave apartment reviews
Prodding renters to post positive reviews online, particularly if it includes filtering out the poor ones, is a bad policy. The beauty of Community Rewards is that it leads to more reviews being posted without the need to actively solicit them.
Residents who are encouraged to take photos, fill out surveys and share experiences through the platform have turned out to be much more likely to post their impressions on social media sites while they’re at it. And this is among the biggest payoffs of Community Rewards.
“A restaurant has thousands of patrons in the course of a year and they can get hundreds of reviews without even trying,” says (name), (title) at RealPage. “But let’s say an apartment community has, say, 200 units. That’s maybe only 200 to 300 different customers for the whole year, depending on lease lengths. On top of this, consumers are just not as motivated to go online and leave reviews about their apartments as they are about a restaurant meal. And it’s more likely that when they do, it’s to complain about something, rather than just randomly deciding that they like their apartment and going online to share about their experience. A meal is a distinct event in time; living in an apartment is ongoing thing you just don’t think to go online and post about.
“What Community Rewards does is get residents thinking and communicating about their living experience so that posting on social about them is a natural extension of what they’re doing anyway. And every good review is so valuable in multifamily; I mean, who isn’t going to Google and apartment complex before deciding to move in?”
Integration with ActiveBuilding
RealPage’s ActiveBuilding resident portal enables a broad array of transactions online: rent payment, maintenance requests, amenity reservations and more. Every time a resident uses the portal to take care of something, it’s one less thing site staff has to be involved in. So it’s in the community’s interest to reward them for it.
“We’re very excited about the integration of Community Rewards and ActiveBuilding,” says Garcia. “We are already incentivizing activities related to boosting engagement, and we’re going to increase our use of the same platform to reward residents for other types of behaviors we want to encourage, things that will save our staff time, reduce office visits, increase accuracy and efficiency, all kinds of benefits.”
Learn more about rewarding your residents for engaging in activities that result in higher resident satisfaction by implementing Community Rewards.