Social Distancing: 5 Ways to Create a Memorable Resident Experience
By Stephanie Anderson
With all the considerations related to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rental housing industry, it may be difficult to focus on just one particular area. In fact, that fire alarm feeling of trying to address all the daily adjustments and challenges likely lingers.
It is a constant struggle to keep up with growing resident expectations, especially as they are amplified by our present circumstances. Residents will remember their experience at your apartment community during this time. Will that memory will be positive, negative or indifferent?
There are many opportunities for apartment operators to enhance their resident experiences during this trying time. In fact, many of these opportunities are focused less on costs and more on attention to detail. The time taken to plan experiences for residents will equate to positive resident reviews, increased renewals and the opportunity for higher rental rates.
1. Personalize experiences
Residents are yearning for communication and an easy way to make an impact is by merely personalizing communications where possible. Avoid assuming that all residents are keeping up with the news or that they are fully engaged with events happening in the community. Take time to connect to ask how they are doing and then update them on recent changes by setting expectations. This can be about amenity hours, occupancy guidelines, lease renewals and everything in between. Make the connection as interactive as possible.
2. It is all about the details
As office and amenity spaces re-open, find ways to bring a smile to your residents' faces. Branded masks that feature your community name or funny expressions are a start. Incorporate fun into necessary signage to include bright colors and quirky sayings. Think about what people are missing most and try to find ways to deliver it. Small examples include drive-by birthday celebrations, graduation acknowledgments, inspiration-chalked sidewalks and teddy bear hunts. No idea is to small to create a large impact on the lives of residents. Continue to find ways to engage others.
3. Offer digital experiences
Make it easy for residents to digitally reach you. Develop a presence for online community events, virtual leasing, online payments, submitting service requests and communication platforms for neighbors to connect. Timely customer responses are also critical. When developing or reshaping the digital customer journey, making the experience as low-touch and seamless as possible is crucial. One highly effective strategy for meeting customer demands and creating a sense of loyalty is to meet customers where they are.
4. Go the extra mile
This is more important than ever. How you choose to respond to resident concerns and provide acceptable solutions will separate you from your competitors. Overcome challenges such as package delivery; deliver packages to residents’ doors so they do not have to leave their home. Offer multiple ways to contact onsite team members and then quickly respond. Your physical office may not be open, but your virtual office should be and your ability to quickly respond will make a significant difference in staying connected with your residents.
If unable to complete service requests, provide instructional videos to assist residents with minor fixes. Set up a request line for residents that need assistance during this time. If your office is unable to help, you can provide resources such as grocery delivery, food bank, local financial assistance, dog-walkers and other services that may be needed like creating a pantry with canned goods on-hand for those who may need it.
5. Leverage technology
Embrace new forms of technology that will assist in reallocating employee time, allowing for greater focus on priorities such as resident retention. Utilize automation and self-service channels for lower priority items. Program fobs or create platforms to reserve amenity spaces and assist with enforcing occupancy guidelines. Self-guided tours and on-demand virtual tours to include online mechanisms for prospects to reserve an apartment, submit an application and easily pay fees.
How you choose to respond and the time you allocate toward enhancing the resident experience during social distancing will significantly influence your residents’ attitudes and the community as a whole.