Check out a recent article published in the Spring 2021 Edition of Texas Association Magazine.
“I am going to let you in on a little secret… what you do in property management has a greater impact on people than you can even imagine. Your interaction with others day in and day out matters.
Through your role as a property manager, you service housing, a primary need of a family or individual. Inside those four walls, people’s lives happen. They experience joy and sorrow, elation and disappointment. They nurture their families, retreat from the world at large, and dream about the future they are creating. In 2020, our concept of home expanded, and it became a place where people tackled their life’s work, instructed their children, and worshipped God. You, their property manager, facilitated their ability to do all these things.
How we as professionals communicate and present ourselves is extremely important. Let’s examine some of our communication touch points to see if we can create a more joy-filled experience. For the sake of this article, we will assume that written communication to prospects and residents in both digital and printed versions is “content.” During the resident journey people will encounter dozens, if not hundreds of content items from the property management office.
Some of these pieces of content are purely transactional documents. For example, the lease and legal documents might not be editable for the sake of protecting the business interest. Most however, are simply communication from the property management team to the prospect or resident. It is in these items of copy that you have the opportunity to convey care, deepen trust, and encourage loyalty among your community.
To demonstrate, let’s look at a few of those opportunities. A typical property might lease 10-20 homes per month. If a leasing agent is reviewing the 10th rental of the month and sends an email to the future resident requesting documentation, it is easy for the agent to forget that the future resident has not moved in 6 years. To the customer, the process is new and uncomfortable. For the leasing agent it is an everyday task. What if instead, they sent an email with a fun graphic that looked like a progress chart and showed the future resident that 60% of tasks to complete before move in had been accomplished? It could show what they have already completed, and the upcoming tasks they need to prepare for. This email can be templated, but leave room for a personalized message, where agents are encouraged to continue to create excitement for the new resident to join their community so it confirms to the resident that it was the right choice. By paying attention to this one touchpoint of content the ripple effects create a positive impact on the assets retention rates, online reviews, and resident satisfaction.
Everyone loves joyful communication. I once visited a community and as I pulled up, I noticed the flower beds were empty. I walked up from my car to the leasing office and I saw a little sign posted in the empty beds that said, “ZZZ This bed is resting while it awaits a delivery of seasonal flowers.” The signage was playful and I couldn’t help but smile. This team had taken a negative element of their curb appeal that they couldn’t change and created positive communication that surprised and delighted guests.
Another example would be the use of a generic template to notify the entire batch of upcoming renewals it is time to negotiate a new contract. Business needs and efficiencies are accomplished but what happens to the relationship… the warm fuzzy? It fades. To demonstrate, let me tell you a story about Jim. He was the quintessential friendly resident who visited the office a few times a week. When Jim’s lease was up, the team was surprised when he came in one day very upset after getting his renewal letter. Leslie, the assistant manager, took him into her office, and after a brief conversation realized that he was not upset at the increase in rent. He felt hurt that people with whom he had such a great relationship could send such a cold message and referred to the letter as robotic. She had to explain that this was a standard email printed from their system, and every resident got the same letter. Ultimately Jim understood and renewed, but it left the team wondering how many other residents felt this way when receiving their renewal letter? Instead of telling the team, did they just move out? How we communicate to our residents matters.
We must slow down enough in business to treat our residents well for the sake of the business. Said another way, putting our resident’s perception and needs first is good for business. In a post Covid-19 world, we must scrutinize our resident facing content, and determine how to convey care through more thoughtful messaging.
What about sales content such as social media marketing? Traditionally, property managers post pictures of their community with leasing specials. They may post about a resident event, local attraction, or even a seasonal recipe. In theory these are not “bad” posts, but I struggle to understand how these types of generic content engage, excite, and convey care for the prospects and residents who live in our communities. Instead, I challenge you to ask a few simple questions before posting…
Does this content convey:
A people centric theme?
A topic that speaks to the viewers heart instead of just their heads?
A positive message that showcases the type of lifestyle the community represents?
With this is mind, which makes a more compelling post: a picture of the community’s exterior OR a picture welcoming the Smith’s new puppy from apartment home #4? No brainer! Welcome the new pup and congratulate the owners! This showcases the people at your community that opened their hearts to a new animal, all while conveniently promoting that you are pet friendly. Check, check, check!
I want to encourage you and your team to think of as many touchpoints in your customer journey as you can and make a list. Then choose one or two pieces of communication and move forward incrementally with evaluation and edits. This process will create new habits and heighten levels of intentionality. It may feel uncomfortable, but eventually creating “Content that Cares” will become part of your teams’ culture. The ripple effect will not only benefit your asset’s bottom line but, more importantly, help to convey the genuine care the teams feel every day for the residents they serve.”