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7 CampusConnex Takeaways

CampusConnex Takeaways

Reputation management, data and operations all played major roles at the NAA event.

NAA’s held its CampusConnex conference in Orlando in February. Here are some key takeaways from the event:

Scott Casey, CTO & SVP of Strategic Business Development for EDR Trust, says there is one critical thing to remember—don’t sell the consumer behavior-based data—because it can create a revenue opportunity down the road.

“Make sure you own the data that potentially comes from smart devices,” Casey says. “It is critical. Vendors will want to know about those trends [in the data].”

At the same time, one supplier partner warned that owners and managers need to be aware of users’ privacy concerns.

When it comes to owners’ handling of resident reviews, there are different routes to success. EDR takes a team approach to responding to reviews. “We have a digital support team at the corporate headquarters [to start the review process] and the onsite team reviews each response,” says Jennifer Worsham, Vice President of Operations, EdR Management.

CA Student Living assigns one person at each community – the leasing manager -- to handle review responses “right away,” Scott Manning, Regional Manager, says.

Research shows that 68 percent of residents have never been asked to provide a review, according to Joseph Batdorf, President of J Turner Research.

Not only is it okay to ask for reviews, Manning says, he adds that it is good to entice reviews up front.

“[And make sure you] thank them when they post a good review,” he says.

EdR stimulates reviews with a Community Rewards program that has generated 6,000 to 8,000 reviews. CA Student Living will try certain tactics to incentivize reviews. For instance, the onsite teams may take all of the packages received out of the supply closet and deliver them to the student’s door. “By creating resident interaction, we are able to ask them how we are doing,” Manning says.

“On the income side, can you earn higher rent with smart apartments?” asked Alex Eyssen, Vice President of Student Housing at The Bainbridge Companies. “You probably can’t.”

Bainbridge did see significant cost savings because it invested in smart-home functions such as lighting, Eyssen says.

For EDR, which paid $33 million in utility costs last year, that savings is real. Casey has seen payback for his company’s smart-home technologies in less than three years—usually within 25 to 30 months. He says thermostats and occupancy sensors offer the best returns.

Social media continues to make its mark in student housing. Worsham says Instagram drove 70 percent of the online traffic to one community in Tempe, Ariz. “Through images, we portrayed the rental lifestyle at our communities in an attractive way,” she says.
Manning, who has seen an uptick in Snapchat’s popularity, says that no matter the channel, authenticity is critical. He encourages posts of “real-life” situations at the community.

Business intelligence software is not for everyone yet. Andrew Belter, Operations Specialist, The Preiss Company, does not cureently use business intelligence software, but has found other approaches to making use of their data. One reason, Belter says, is that he can still get by with Excel because he knows his investor’s goals and he can set his KPIs that align with them.

Distilling all data into a few key KPIs, Belter says, helps his onsite teams.

“We have a lot of data, but we avoid a lot of data paralysis because we know what we’re looking for,” he says.

Whether it is not having their computers set up, finding their desk lacking basic office supplies or not getting a chance to meet their coworkers, 54 percent of all new hires reported a “mishap” on their first day, according to Jared Miller, Principal & Managing Director, Asset Management & Operations at Homestead Development Partners.

“The first day sets the tone for everything moving forward,” Miller says.

Even more startling, 4 percent of new hires leave the job after an awful experience on their first day.

A big part of success is introducing new employees to people throughout the organization early on. Let them meet other people, make connections and develop friendships. That increases their chances of staying, according to Kara Rice, Owner of Experiment Learning & Talent Development.