Maintain communication and develop brand loyalty with your residents. They can yield a crop of active, on-going leads.
Service providers in any industry know the secret to repeat business is rooted in how they treat their customers. Regardless of the product or service, customers expect a top-tier experience throughout their entire purchasing cycle, from the initial search to post-purchase and all the interactions in between.
Many apartment operators are taking note and placing more emphasis on continuing to nurture their leads even beyond when a resident signs a lease and moves in. Converting a lead to a lease is a huge part of the equation, but without the proper constituents in place to foster an end-to-end resident lifecycle – especially as renewal time approaches – operators risk losing residents as quickly as they’ve secured them. Renewals extend beyond individual communities, as operators want to keep that resident within their organization’s overall ecosystem.
“The communication between residents and onsite teams continues to make the biggest impact on renewals post-pandemic, and great communication is now an expectation of residents,” said Tony Sousa, Vice President of Operations at RPM Living. “We're trying to engage residents at every turn – not just 90 days out from their renewal – and we're using different technologies to connect more consistently with residents. Our communities that are utilizing technology to communicate in an ongoing fashion typically see a higher retention rate. While there are some variables, like submarket, we’ve noticed that our communication strategies create a greater brand loyalty with our residents.”
Automation Continues to Evolve
Automation is typically leveraged in the leasing process, but an increasing number of operators have discovered the benefits of extending that automation throughout the entire resident lifecycle. The integration of automation with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems has been a catalyst for higher conversion rates across the board. But operators who treat every lead as a renewal opportunity are maximizing their revenue and net operating income (NOI) while keeping long-term residents at individual communities and within their portfolios.
Prior to introducing automation onsite, operators relied on manual communication tactics, customer service and the hope that a resident is satisfied enough to want to renew their lease. It has become increasingly evident that an attempted phone call or email and hope simply aren't sufficient guarantees of maintaining optimal occupancy rates. Modern renters are very different and have new needs – they want hyper-personalized experiences and instant communication if they have a question. Operators are leveraging automation to meet those needs.
"We begin communicating with prospects early in the shopping journey with the objective to nurture them throughout the buying decision process,” said Claudia Giannetta, National Marketing Director for New Developments at Fore Property. “The ultimate goal is to convert quickly and enhance the entire resident lifecycle. We start with a VIP interest list and customize a purposeful follow-up cadence to keep the interest list informed and engaged at the start of their buying journey. Leveraging automation during this process ensures every lead is touched and followed up with in a timely and effective manner.”
Personalization and Customization
Modern residents respond best to communication that caters to their personal wants and needs in ways that fit their lifestyle. Most of them expect fast, consistent messaging that comes at the appropriate times via their preferred mode of communication, which is primarily text messaging. Many renters prefer to do their own research, so supplementing their efforts with hyper-personalized and quick information is essential to creating a much better and more enjoyable experience for them.
“We often look at the data behind conversions and in order to maximize every opportunity to gain and retain quality residents, we need to communicate with every lead in the manner they prefer and continue that experience after they move in,” Sousa said. “If you keep those really personalized and meaningful interactions going throughout their entire lease, we found it provides a better chance at a renewal.”
Keeping customers engaged throughout the process by way of constant communication at various touchpoints allows operators to aggregate the hyper-personalized information residents desire and makes it more likely they will continue their residency at a community for multiple years. Having a robust renewal strategy that is automated also allows leasing teams to provide a resident with all their options.
According to internal data from Nurture Boss, a lease and conversion automation provider, communities that incorporate renewal automation see a 6% increase in renewal rates. Nurture Boss also found that offering a resident who put in a notice the option to transfer to a new home within the same community retains residents that otherwise would have moved out.
An Unparalleled Experience
Automated technology has helped operators across the nation uncover extraordinary renewal success by developing new communication and marketing processes that greatly increase the likelihood of a renewal, even with unprecedented rent increases taking hold. It comes down to the experiences that operators can offer residents. If residents feel they have an unparalleled living experience at a community, they’ll consider staying; should they choose to leave, they might want to stay with the company they know will give them an exceptional experience that they may not find elsewhere.
The product that operators deliver is really an ongoing transaction. Leads don’t stop once a resident moves in. They don’t discontinue even when a resident moves out. Continuous customer service is necessary to provide a unique, high-level experience to residents. It’s about giving them something they can’t live without. Understanding that residents are always leads and treating them as such for the entire lifecycle increases repeat purchases (leases signed) and satisfaction, which translate to revenue, a positive reputation and boosted asset value for the operator.
“We’ve found communication to be key in resident retention, and we’ve also seen a trend of residents strongly considering other RPM properties” Sousa said. “Even if the renewal rate isn't exactly what they want at a select property, they're still willing to consider another RPM property with the expectation that the communication style is the same. And that’s ultimately our goal.”
Andrew Ruhland is with LinnellTaylor Marketing.