Getting ‘Back to Basics’: An Onsite Stress Reliever
keyboard with spacebar saying "back to basics" in red letters

By Paul Bergeron |

December 27, 2022 |

Updated February 13, 2023

5 minute read

“It doesn’t have to seem scary just because there’s something new every day.”

New and better technology is being regularly introduced to apartment operators and their onsite teams.

Marketers see plenty of it—and the push to automation for many functions is legitimate and can improve efficiency. However, for some companies, it can lead to higher anxiety levels for their employees. 

Throw in the steady discovery of the latest social media applications, and these oftentimes understaffed departments can nearly reach a breaking point.

A panel of apartment marketing leaders discussed this and other key/pressing topics—particularly the importance of getting back to basics—during a webinar panel presentation hosted by Zego in October.

Angi Lombardi, Vice President of Marketing, The Franklin Johnston Group, said that onsite and marketing teams “don’t have to be freaking out” about everything.

“Go back to basics,” she said. “Fundamentally, we’re not doing business today any differently than we did before. Focus on the resident experience and the prospective resident experience. 

“Do all of the little things every day and keep putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t have to seem scary just because there’s something new every day.”

She said that this way, “you cannot get too overwhelmed about having to be everywhere and deal with everything—addressing, for example, 
what every online review has to say.”

The panel said that today’s management trends are not truly new but are rather new ways to execute on “old” techniques. They said that when onsite staff approaches this with a “You’ve got this” mentality, it will help to take the pressure off and not make you get wrapped up in every “new” thing.

Effective Resident Communication: A Foundation for Success

Nichole Oswald, Regional Manager, RPM Living, Chicago, said that apartment onsite teams are still responsible for the majority of the marketing efforts for their specific community.

“Onsite teams are inundated with multiple priorities every day from resident concerns, reporting to ownership, daily duties and general property management functions. Marketing teams are constantly looking to evolve and stay current with ever-changing trends in addition to looking at ways to streamline marketing efforts for the onsite teams.”

Oswald said that instead of focusing on the latest and greatest trends in the industry (and outside the apartment industry), onsite teams and marketing teams need to remember to bring it back to the basics. 

“We need to remember that prospects want good communication, they want to be able to answer their questions—or the majority of them—with simple searches on [the community] website, and they want to see what it is actually like living in your communities.

“Gone are the days where the beautifully photoshopped photos will convert leases—they want to see what your current residents enjoy about living in your communities.”

Oswald finds that good communication and follow-up will set a community apart from its competition—remembering their residents’ dogs’ names, their children’s names or a fun fact about them will show them that you care. “Remember, caring is the same as connecting and people are looking for connection right now.”

Creating Comfort for Resident Reviews

When it comes to optimally addressing resident reviews, onsite leaders need to look for those opportunities that are right in front of them to ask their residents for a review. Even responding to a bad experience—the right way—can turn into a positive one and be more powerful, they said. 

Developing strong resident relationships can help these customers feel more comfortable about talking to the onsite team, and therefore, more willing to post positive reviews about positive touchpoints.

Lombardi said that when the onsite team solves a problem for a resident, “that resident will have your back forever.”

The panel suggested potential touchpoints where residents feel the community went an extra step for them.

Lombardi said that when residents receive packages, this generally is going to put them in a happy mood. “So, by handling that well, that becomes a time to get a positive review,” she said.

Franklin Johnston Group, when it hosts pizza parties—giving a free pizza to each resident home—puts QR code stickers on the box.

“There’s not much better than getting a free pizza,” she said, “and by doing it this way, it takes the friction about having to ask off the staff members.”

Oswald said her company includes QR codes (with directions on how to post a review) on its maintenance door tags. “Don’t be shy about asking,” she said.

Website Must Easily Answer Common Questions

Oswald said by having a community website that makes finding answers to common questions, it makes it easier on the onsite staff.

“Your website visitors should be able to answer most of their own questions,” Oswald said. “By thinking like your customers do, you’ll have those answers for them in ways that they are easy to find.”

Lombardi said that today’s prospective residents are expecting any purchasing situation to be frictionless, “just like what they get when shopping on Amazon. That includes when they are leasing an apartment, so creating that kind of shopping experience is critical.”

One way to improve, the panel said, is for onsite teams to role-play as prospective residents, that way, they go through the process that their prospective residents go through and can learn how to create a smoother experience.

Social Media: Show the ‘Real Deal’

Lombardi said prospective residents want to “see the real deal” before leasing with a community “so, authenticity is key.”

She suggests identifying the one or two residents that truly love the community and who are comfortable on camera and who can speak to why it’s great living at the community.

Developing a pool of positive content about the community so that it’s available when it’s needed can help to alleviate burdens, especially for those who might not be comfortable doing social media posts.

Resident Retention Begins with Service

Oswald said that steady, effective, consistent communication is key—and so easy—and so appreciated by residents. 

“Let them know that they’ve been heard, tell them what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it,” she said. “And then, do it.”

Lombardi said that although both are important, service will trump resident activities.

“Resident events are great, but not all residents attend. For some, they will see that they’ve been invited, but reply, ‘Great. But can you fix my sink?’”

By focusing on these basics in maintenance, resident communications and marketing, onsite staff will gain more confidence in getting through their sometimes-hectic days during the busiest leasing seasons.


Paul Bergeron is a freelance writer for units Magazine.