Going the Extra Mile

Ten tips to earn your residents' goodwill.

By Priyanka Agarwal |

July 14, 2023 |

Updated July 14, 2023

8 minute read

Perhaps the most frequently discussed topic in rental housing is how to ace the resident experience to encourage renewals and referrals from residents. When a resident speaks positively about an apartment community within their circle, it can send the community potential leads.  

Achieving this goal is complex as each situation is unique, and there can be multiple factors beyond an onsite team’s control when resolving a resident’s needs. Yet, there is a common resident expectation: An attentive team who works to resolve the matter as soon as possible and communicates frequently with them throughout the process.  

When it comes to crisis situations, an ace up an onsite team’s sleeve is the goodwill they have earned by delighting their residents in small ways on a day-to-day basis. The key to delivering a personalized and exemplary living experience typically lies not in the grand act but in the unassuming actions performed repeatedly and daily during the life cycle of a resident.  

As the leader of a team who has responded to close to 800,000 multifamily reviews by residents, prospects, guests, employees and suppliers, I have gathered insight into what truly delights and disappoints them. There is no better source than hearing from residents themselves about how the community can leave a long-lasting favorable impression.  

When your reputation falls like dominoes

As analyzed by J Turner Research’s AI tool, the top complaints in over 300,000 multifamily reviews relate to customer service, communication, financial issues, maintenance service, condition of the apartment and security. Often, these complaints have a domino effect, where one unpleasant event or interaction with a team member, unresolved maintenance request or an unanswered inquiry acts as a trigger for an outpouring of issues a resident has with the property.  

“Do NOT live here. I had two car break-ins while living here, so I never felt safe. Once there was a homeless man walking my hall, knocking on doors, since the secure gates never work in the hallways and garage. (Company) towed my car from the resident garage once, and I had to FIGHT to get them to remove the fee. Nonexistent maintenance - routine requests are rarely addressed. Unit wasn't move-in ready - trash everywhere, dust, paint cans, etc…”

In this review, the break-in led to an outburst in which the resident documented several “problems” with the property.

“I have lived here for over a year and renewed for another year before the new management company came in. I am not a big fan of the changes the new management has added. We now have to pay monthly for a locker system that most deliverers don't even use. I have had numerous packages stolen or gone lost. Will not renew once my contract is over. Rent increases also go up a couple of hundred dollars as well.”

While the root cause is the monthly charge for the locker system, the reviewer has taken this opportunity to complain about management as well as the rent increase.

“The (company) has made it impossible to resolve issues with the office staff, due to reducing operating hours and an automated phone system to an off-site call center that is unable to offer any sort of ‘problem-solving.’”

With companies focusing heavily on automation and centralization, these types of reviews have become more common.

Small Steps, Big Impact  

Excellent customer service begins the moment a prospect calls the community or steps foot on the premises. A subtle tweak in daily interactions with residents can go a long way in fostering a strong sense of belonging and loyalty to the community.

“In our industry right now, it’s important that we hyper-focus on customer service and our residents’ needs, staying professional and continuing to remember that every resident is unique,” said Devin Lusk, Director of Marketing for American Landmark. “It’s so important to approach each interaction with empathy and an open mind. Building those strong relationships can lead to such a higher resident satisfaction.”

The following are tips mentioned by residents as compliments in four- and five-star reviews that can inspire you to take a fresh approach to seemingly mundane daily tasks.  

Tip 1: Be timely, knowledgeable and patient with every prospect.  

“I was particularly impressed with (name)’s prompt response time and her ability to answer all my questions thoroughly and patiently. Her knowledge of the leasing industry and her willingness to go above and beyond to ensure my satisfaction really made a difference.”

While an onsite team works frequently with prospects, the process isn’t routine for the potential resident. Many come armed with a list of questions and will assess not only what you say but how you say it. Be transparent, thorough and patient with all who cross your threshold.  

Tip 2: Offer solutions to ease the burden of move-in.

“Admin was super friendly and helpful, they supplied us with a dolly and elevator key to make this move easier for us. Our apartment was filled with cute swag as well!”

Moving into a new apartment home can be daunting, and this onsite team made it pleasurable! The investment was minimal – they made the whole task of lugging household items easy by providing a dolly and elevator key, and it resulted in a favorable impression and rewarded the community with a positive online rating.

Tip 3: Don’t forget the small things that make life easier for a resident.

“Staff spent the week cleaning out the dryer vents in all the apartments! They truly care about taking care of the property and residents.”

Whether it’s cleaning the dryer vents, changing an AC filter or replacing a lightbulb, you can earn the goodwill of your residents when quickly resolving these items.

Tip 4: Follow up with your resident after their maintenance work order is resolved.  

“The manager (name) is awesome! When maintenance completes a work order, I get a follow-up text making sure it was completed to my liking.”

Apartment residents realize they are at the mercy of the onsite team when it comes to the condition of their homes. Yet they’re often paying thousands for this “privilege.” A follow-up text or email illustrates that you don’t take them for granted.  

Tip 5: Resolve conflicts with empathy and fairness.  

“(Name) is the best thing that has ever happened to our community. She is understanding and attentive to our needs. She's patient with her residents and very good about calming the situations down that come to her office. She seeks resolutions that are just and fair. She also has integrity.”

Residents want their concerns to be heard – especially in difficult situations. Be sure your team listens well and responds with constructive recommendations that illustrate you care.

“It is crucial to empathize with residents without reacting emotionally. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations in the heat of the moment that may be difficult to meet later on,” said Alex Rippy, National Director of Leasing for GMH Communities. “Strive to establish clear expectations and a well-thought-out path forward—even if it doesn’t please everyone but points in a positive direction, and don’t forget to follow up to ensure effectiveness.”

Tip 6: I’m watching you: Always be pleasant and courteous.

“It is rare to find a team so engaged in their jobs and attentive to the residents. All members of the office team are pleasant and courteous whenever I run across them in the community.”

Have your team regularly walk through the community and engage residents with a nod, wave or brief chat. When a resident comes by the office, stand and greet them, perhaps, offer a beverage. Don’t check your phone or watch—do your best to listen attentively.  

Tip 7: There is no such thing as too much communication.

“They notify you of everything going on around you with shut-off notices. They never leave you in the [dark] about anything.”  

Many complaints are borne from a lack of communication between the onsite team and residents. Don’t make them wonder if their service request will be resolved and/or why the water suddenly shut off. If you don’t communicate, they will fill the void with the idea that you don’t care.  

Lusk said an open line of communication is key. “Encourage your residents to reach out and respond to them promptly and professionally to build a positive and genuine relationship,” she said. “Practicing active listening and understanding your residents is so important. It’s made such a difference with our teams on site when it comes to difficult situations.”

Tip 8: Address those seasonal issues in your community.

“The maintenance team does a good job of keeping the sidewalks salted and shoveled during snowy winters.”

Every season comes with distinct challenges, and geography may compound them. In the South, summer often is brutal; for the Northeast, winter can be treacherous. By providing consistent service during extreme weather, you can win over your residents.

Tip 9: Provide a courtesy patrol to enhance the feeling of safety.

“I like how we do have security that comes by a few times daily to check the area and make sure everything is secured, safe and quiet!”

Unfortunately, crime has no single address. Bolster your residents’ sense of well-being by providing courtesy patrol services.

Tip 10: The little extras can reap big rewards from a former resident.  

“I love (name) that works at the reception desk! I recently moved out … she was very kind in offering her help to take care of my mailbox until the new resident comes into my former apartment. Thank you!”

A kind gesture, an understanding word and taking care of mundane tasks can make a huge difference to a resident. They will remember these actions during lease renewal, perhaps even overlooking other areas of dissatisfaction.  

There are no shortcuts to acing the resident experience: It requires the right attitude, persistence and corporate support. Rippy advises property managers to “step back, actively listen, ask questions, conduct research and return to the conversation armed with accurate information and a resolution that satisfies the problem’s origin.”  

Consistently performing the small things right for your residents will help earn their trust which will ultimately enhance renewals, increase referrals and foster a spotless reputation for the community.

Priyanka Agarwal is the Director of Public Relations and the Response Team at J Turner Research and the author of “The Extra Mile” column.