The Truth About Resident Retention

 
I attended a standing-room only Resident Retention Round Table recently, and was shocked to hear the panelists basically say that no matter what you do as a resident retention strategy, your turnover will remain about the same. (Which is exactly opposite of what our research has shown!) The retention strategies discussed seemed to revolve around pricing and creating a sense of community. Once or twice I heard a panelist refer vaguely to a focus on customer service, but there were no specific examples of what that might look like or how that focus was reinforced from an organizational perspective.
 
After surveying millions of apartment residents, the keys to reducing resident turnover are confirmed again and again. And the most incredible part is (and maybe this is why more of the industry doesn’t seem to buy into it) it doesn’t have to be a line item on your budget!
 
The satisfaction topic that has the greatest direct impact on a resident’s decision to renew is whether or not the office staff returns their calls or emails.  It may seem overly simplistic, but put yourself into a service situation. What is it that can annoy you most about your pediatrician, your mechanic, your caterer, your financial advisor, your babysitter? It takes them forever to call you back, and you need an answer RIGHT NOW!
 
A prompt response indicates to me that I am an important customer, that my service provider values my hard earned money. And if they don’t have the basic courtesy to call me back? Well, maybe I’ll just have to find another pediatrician, mechanic, caterer, etc.  It’s not that I jump up and down with delight when I receive that quick call back or email response.  My basic expectation is that they will respond quickly. It is when they do not respond as quickly as I expect that I begin to question their level of service delivery.
Here’s what you and your teams can do today to immediately impact your residents’ experience regarding your office staff’s responsiveness to calls and emails:

Implement a Response Standard. Define what “prompt response” means in your office. It could look something like, “All calls and emails received by 3 p.m. will get a same day response. Any call or email that comes in after 3 p.m. must get a response no later than 10 a.m. the following morning.”When a team is working from the same definitions, the ability to maintain consistency, and therefore great customer service, increases dramatically.
 
And I’ve seen the results first hand. Property management teams we have worked with who have focused on specific customer service actions, such as improving promptness of response, experience a resident turnover rate that is up to 10 points lower than the national average. 
 
The truth about resident retention is this: your teams absolutely can have a significant impact on how many residents choose to renew their leases each year.