Operators embrace CRM metrics to navigate the pandemic turbulence.
During the past few months, you’ve probably heard a lot about how quickly apartment communities reacted to the onset of the pandemic.
Operators recall sprinting to implement self-guided and video tours and remote leasing systems in a matter of days. They’ve talked about doing anything and everything to accommodate prospective residents and serve current residents.
Looking back, it’s tempting to believe that property managers were simply making it up as they went along, reacting instead of planning. But for those with sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) systems and a penchant for exploring data, that has not been the case.
The most successful operators paid close attention to their CRM metrics to ensure their communities were best positioned to survive the pandemic turbulence. Depending on what they discovered in the data, they accordingly adjusted their operations.
“My team hears me say it all the time: Our CRM is our playbook,” says Robyn Cue, Director of Training at MAXX Properties. “It’s how you operate your day. It’s how we operate our business.”
By the Numbers
When the coronavirus lockdowns began, executives at MAXX knew data had to be their guide through the chaos. One CRM metric they started paying especially close attention to was leasing agents’ completed tasks.
“It helps us to monitor the communication that is occurring between prospects and the leasing team as well as with residents,” Cue says. “Communication was key last year. You couldn’t over-communicate with prospects or residents in 2020. The need for social distancing and quarantine made communication that much more important. They’re craving a human connection.”
Similarly, MAXX also has been highly focused on the “managed leads” metric, which indicates the percentage of prospects that leasing associates have personally reached out to. That’s because “if you’re looking for an apartment during the pandemic, odds are you’re going to be moving,” Cue says. “You’re not just out kicking tires. You’re actually going to need to move.”
According to data from Anyone Home, some operators have increased their managed leads by as much as 30% during the past year, while also increasing their completed tasks as tracked by their CRM by as much as 16%.
Critically, MAXX’s CRM is also able to match prospects to available units based on the leads’ desired monthly rent, floor plan preferences and targeted move-in dates, which can significantly streamline the apartment shopping process for all.
But with new leases slowing down in the early part of the pandemic for the obvious reasons, the MAXX team knew resident retention would be more critical than ever. And again, the company turned to its CRM to optimize its efforts in this area.
“Retention has always been a core focus, but even more so in the pandemic,” Cue says. “So, we expanded the triggers in our CRM to help make sure our teams are reaching out to residents more frequently prior to their lease expiration date. For example, we have a check-in at 120 and 90 days out and not just when we are asking for their renewal signature.”
Kairoi Residential is another operator that embraced CRM data to help chart its course over the past year.
“When the pandemic started, we immediately began to evaluate call volume and call handling,” says Michelle Alicea, Senior Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Kairoi. “With more residents being at home, our call volume increased, and we needed visibility into the demands on our teams so we could best support them. As an organization, it was important that we were able to maintain our remarkable customer service for current and prospective residents, regardless of all the uncertainty and unforeseen circumstances.”
Some operators are experiencing increases in leads year over year up to 51.5% and increases in showings up to 34.4%, according to Anyone Home.
Like many property managers, Kairoi implemented an array of touring options after the pandemic began, and its CRM is providing valuable information about how prospects are engaging with the solutions.
“We are monitoring the number of return visits in each tour type to see if there is any trend in one converting faster than another,” Alicea says. “We are also monitoring the number of communities a prospect may choose to visit now that virtual touring options are more prevalent – and paying attention to whether we are a community they visit first or last in their search and how that may influence our follow-up strategy.”
Moving forward, both Cue and Alicea say their CRMs will be critical to their companies’ success in both strong and sluggish apartment markets.
“We’ve always believed in the value of a CRM, especially one that integrates seamlessly with our [property management software] as well as our call center,” Alicea says. “Every prospect has their own personal preference of how and when they want to communicate. Our approach is, ‘We want you to feel at home finding your home,’ so we like to cater to all preferences, and our CRM enables us to do that. Our goal is to provide remarkable service through all forms of communication at all times by leveraging technology while still making the experience authentic.”
Cue echoes Alicea’s sentiments. “Ultimately, our CRM helps us create a frictionless experience for both our customers and our associates alike,” she says. “At the end of the day, that’s what you’re looking for.”
Stephen Ursery is an Account Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.