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Putting the Prospect First

prospective residents
December 2019

Using the right technologies that shift the focus to the prospective resident can elevate teams and empower them to improve the leasing experience.

“It’s all about the prospect.”

That’s the phrase that should come to mind when apartment operators are considering solutions to maximize the performance of their leasing teams.

Look at it this way: seek out technologies and tools that make it easier for leasing associates to perform their tasks. And certainly, there are solutions—such as strong customer relationship management (CRM) systems—that keep leasing teams well organized. But, this also creates an optimized experience for prospective residents.

In the end, by shifting the focus to the prospective resident's experience, the right technologies that simultaneously elevate teams and empower them to create an impactful leasing experience are found.

Today’s prospective apartment residents understandably have high expectations. They want lightning-fast responses to their outreach, but they also have their own preferences about how they want to be communicated with. An Anyone Home study found that, during a 12-month time frame, 52 percent of prospective residents who set a community tour did so through a phone call, while 31.5 percent of prospective residents used email, 13.5 percent used an online scheduling tool and 2.5 percent used chat.

Apartment communities must have technology and solutions in place that empower every prospective resident to have exactly the kind of leasing experience they’re seeking.

Following are suggestions on how operators and their communities can do that.

Offer All Communication Channels

Prospective residents should be able to contact the apartment community however they want, whether that’s via phone, chat, text, email or social media outlets. They should also be able to receive quick responses, regardless of the channel.

Obviously, it can be nearly impossible for onsite teams to respond to each prospective resident as quickly as they prefer, especially if the communication comes in after hours. So, apartment managers should consider supplementing their leasing associates with contact centers, chat bots and other automated technologies to make sure all incoming calls are answered and all other messages are responded to promptly, regardless of the time of day. This allows onsite teams to spend their time building relationships with high-value prospective residents and residents, rather than on tedious communications that can easily be answered with automated technology.

Give Prospective Residents the Ability to Self-Schedule Tours

A sizeable portion of today’s prospective residents only want human interaction at specific phases of the buying process. Allowing leads to book associate-led tours online without having to speak with an onsite team member can go a long way toward providing a good experience for these prospective residents.

An Anyone Home study shows that prospective residents who book a tour through a self-scheduling solution convert to leases at twice the rate of those who book their visits through phone calls or emails with leasing associates. Further, offering a self-scheduling tool can give your leasing associates some much-needed relief and free them up to handle other responsibilities.

In fact, according to the same study, 42 percent of the communications between associates and prospective residents are about scheduling tours or rescheduling tours. This means team members are spending entirely too much time on a task that many prospective residents would prefer to handle themselves.

Invest in a Robust CRM Solution

The right CRM system can make a world of difference for both leasing team members and prospective residents.

A quality CRM serves as a powerful organizing tool for lead follow-up and ongoing lead-management efforts. It can trace all actions and communications with each prospective resident in a simple-to-read timeline. It can also outline the exact next steps associates need to take with prospective residents. By keeping associates on track, a CRM obviously can provide prospective residents with a seamless experience.

It is especially important that communities reach out to leads at the right time. If a prospective resident has indicated they aren’t going to make a leasing decision for another eight weeks, they obviously don’t want to be bombarded with follow-up calls and messages during the next 10 days. A CRM can make sure this doesn’t happen and that more intensive follow-up from associates begins at the right time.

The CRM program utilized automatically matches a prospective resident to specific available apartment homes based on the prospective resident's desired move-in date, preferred price range and other factors. This means associates don’t spend time digging through notes to match prospective residents with apartment homes, and prospective residents are matched with suitable apartment homes more quickly.

This also means that associates don’t spend time chasing leads that might rank high in traditional lead-scoring models but that still don’t have a strong likelihood of converting. Traditional lead-scoring models rank leads based on original ad source, the number of communications they have with a community and move-in date. However, a prospective resident can be highly engaged with a community and come from a high-converting advertising source, but if a community doesn’t have an apartment home available that fits the prospective resident's needs, they aren't a fit.

Converting a lead into a lease can be a challenge in today’s apartment market, with the intense competition among communities and the varied preferences of prospective residents. Given this reality, any and all leasing-related technologies that operators implement must, above all, create a better experience and make it all about the prospective resident.