Multifamily housing is filled with competition on every street corner. To stand out, operators obviously need to show some love to prospects and residents but the courtship goes beyond dropping off a gift basket. Engaging renters and providing that amazing living experience requires some romancing.
The way to their hearts – and their rent – is to offer technologies and services that make their lives simpler while providing ancillary revenue to the property. It’s that certain je ne sais quoi that appeals to the senses of consumers when they’re searching for an apartment or just want a reason to stick around. And delivering what they want, and how they want it.
In a recent webcast, RealPage experts discussed emerging trends and resident retention ideas, from empowering resident communication with your staff (and each other) to demonstrating a commitment to 24/7 support to fostering more trust enabling resident feedback.
Gaining trust and building a stronger online reputation
In a world driven by technology, the tone of the webcast, “Romancing the Renter: Proven Strategies for Higher Retention” naturally drifted to how multifamily operators can increase visibility on the internet. Creating positive online reputation and generating high Google rankings are key to capturing the attention of searchers.
Reviews continue to be a focal point of search and Google is weighting them more, according to RealPage data. From 2017-18, reviews grew by 20 percent, adding to their importance when Google determines rankings.
Also, comments and reviews on social media are bearing more weight, says RealPage Senior Product Manager Randy Hurn, and property management operators should take them seriously.
“Eighty percent of folks who are engaging in social media, those reviews or comments are being viewed almost equivocally as a word-of-mouth statement,” he said. “If we don’t get ahead of that, it can be a negative experience and affect rankings, and (reviews) go to a forum that we can’t control.”
He encourages operators to respond to reviews – whether negative or positive – and to encourage residents to share their comments. By doing so, the resident and operator strengthen trust and the property becomes more reputable in the eyes of searchers.
Providing a technology platform that makes positive impressions
Companies that are successfully deploying technology are emerging as crowd favorites. The worst thing any company or organization can do is offer a piece of technology that doesn’t work, especially when consumers are looking for a product.
Kathleen McNair, RealPage Vice President Contact Centers, says romancing customers into preferred communication channels is more effective than making them connect only on your terms. Providing multiple methods – email, live chat, phone, contact center – and even information to help consumers make a choice of channel warms the heart.
“A recent study found that 30 percent of consumers indicated that in their last interaction with a brand, they were forced into a specific channel,” McNair said. “They weren’t able to make the choice themselves. Not only did that affect their experience with that particular brand, but they told us about that because their satisfaction was 35 percentage points lower than those customers who were able to choose.”
McNair said good websites have an escape hatch that allows consumers to opt out of an unassisted channel if they are not getting response or simply want to talk to someone. If they are unable to do so, their trust in the company erodes.
McNair said RealPage’s contact center and resident portal, ActiveBuilding, provides multiple channels for residents to communicate with the leasing office or maintenance staff. In the works is a device that enables residents to use artificial intelligence to place maintenance requests so that properties can reduce response time and improve resident satisfaction.
“It’s all about positive impressions every time you touch them,” she said.
Driving engagement through resident portals
Providing hotel-like hospitality and amenities, co-working spaces and offering short-term leases are other ways an apartment community can drive resident engagement and generate new revenue streams.
RealPage Vice President Consumer Solutions Jennifer Piccinini said properties can increase revenue through ancillary sales by as much a $100 per unit by offering rentable items through a mobile eCommerce platform. It’s part of a larger trend that suggests that renters are okay paying more per month than just for walls and a roof.
A recent National Multifamily Housing Council survey notes that residents are willing to pay an additional $31 more per month for parking. Properties are offering services such as pet care, dry cleaning and home cleaning to attract new residents and increase resident retention.
“As communities evolve and resident expectations shift, many property owners and managers are seeking new ideas from various sectors including hospitality by offering hotel-like amenities and concierge services,” Piccinini said.
A platform that allows residents to purchase services and make arrangements further engages residents and gives them a reason to renew, she said.
For more on how to drive resident engagement, view the webcast.