May 19, 2022 |
Updated June 1, 2022
The little things make all the difference when looking to make a big impact with residents.
Residents and friends of Arlo Luxury Apartment Homes in Little Rock, Ark., checking the Beztak property’s social media posts this year, saw a photo of George grinning broadly and holding a key nearly as large as himself. On the key was inscribed, “I said yes to the address.”
The brief ceremony is a “key” part of Beztak’s welcome program, in which staff—with residents’ permission—snap a photo and post it to social media, then encourage newcomers to do the same and tag the company.
“A strong welcome absolutely helps retain new residents,” says Senior Vice President of Marketing Danette Stenta. “It makes them feel important and valued from the get-go. Also, should something go wrong in the apartment, instead of becoming defensive or upset, they approach the team in a more friendly manner.
“They know they truly matter to us and can come talk to us about a situation.”
According to an oft-cited Kingsley Associates report, the renewal rate for renters satisfied at move-in is nearly 60% higher than for those dissatisfied at move-in. Less often mentioned is that only 19% of residents unhappy at move-in become satisfied by renewal time.
This means “the memory of a great move-in experience—or not—will stay in mind and influence that decision,” says Jenna Miller, Senior Director of Marketing at Bozzuto Management Co.
“Move-in is a pivotal, decisive moment that sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. And if they move in and the lightbulbs are out or the apartment is dirty, it’s hard for us to climb out of that hole.”
To boost satisfaction both now and later, management companies have created and beefed-up welcome programs in three major categories.
1. Initial welcomes. These are the little things—greetings, notes, videos, information.
Like the welcome card from Bozzuto, the Beztak “Say Yes to the Address” ceremony salutes a happy event. Beztak residents who post the photo to their own social media earn points toward gift cards and promo items. The key idea came from a Regional Manager with experience in the single-family market, where props are often used in house closings.
With a highly mobile population, Hunt Military Communities has implemented a Welcome Home orientation campaign. This takes several forms: Videos show how to operate appliances, and a brief video from the CEO is coming soon. There’s an online guide to everything from locations and hours of nearby groceries and theaters to Tricare (health) and chaplain contacts to schools information. Staff make warm calls after five days to check in and answer questions.
Hunt staff also make introductions to school personnel on base to streamline the enrollment process and get checklists of what’s needed for classes.
A bimonthly or quarterly event connects newbies with residents, on-base command and the military housing officer, refreshments and a table of local resources. Pet photos go up on social media with a note: “FYI, here’s a new Lab you might see at the pet park. Say, ‘Hi!’” A pets-and-people social hour was also recently tested.
“Surprisingly, the military doesn’t provide these things in one place,” says Lynette Hegeman, Vice President for Marketing and Communications, of the resources Hunt provides. Her residents often have a spouse deployed and move-in is complicated by the delayed arrival of furniture and clothing, so residents are particularly grateful for such connections.
2. Gifts. A welcome present thanks new residents for their patronage and, ideally, smooths their transition on a stressful day.
Various Beztak properties have a budget to be creative. Examples:
- Gift certificate for the pizza place across the street.
- Colander filled with pasta, sauce, parmesan cheese and kitchen utensils.
- Cookie sheets, spatula and oven mitts (perhaps with premade cookie dough in the fridge).
- Paper plates/towels, trash bags, toilet paper, hammer, screwdriver and dish soap.
- Logo bag with water bottle and a beach towel.
- Flowerpot, dirt, gardening gloves, seeds and a note: “Thank you for planting your roots here.”
As part of its Move-In Essentials program, a concentrated effort to make move-in as seamless as possible, Bozzuto stocks apartments with sample goodies from detergent to snacks to dish soap. It also encourages properties with the means to offer a local gift. For instance, The Sudbury partners with nearby Boston Public Market (farmers/fishers/artisans) for seasonal gifts; Right Proper Brewery in Washington, D.C., creates a six-pack just for residents of The Chase at Bryant Street.
Bozzuto residents have called their welcome gifts “perfection,” “a special touch” and “so very thoughtful.”
3. Demonstrations. Making promises or guarantees to newcomers is another way to win them over, assuring them they’ve made the right choice.
In 2020, Bozzuto launched a Welcome Home Commitment with three parts:
- Staff run through a 70-point checklist before move-in, “like detailing your car,” says Miller, so each apartment is in pristine shape.
- An inspector leaves a note—“Welcome home; your apartment has been inspected by ____”—after the place is thoroughly cleaned. This “Sanctuary Seal” is “assurance that they’re the first person in after the unit has been sanitized for them specifically.”
- 90% of buildings have a guarantee that if all is not what residents expected, they can get out of their lease within 30 days.
Similarly, Hunt helps ensure loyalty with its 24/7 Hunt Promise Helpline, which directs compliments or complaints straight to executives. This catches escalated problems, such as unresponsive maintenance. This continuing program has become part of the Welcome Home campaign.
“I want residents to say, ‘The team was great, they made us feel welcome, and our problem was fixed right away,’” says Hegeman. “A happy resident, even if they move, is going to tell someone else, ‘You want to choose this place.’”
That’s something a strong, comprehensive welcome helps ensure.
Wrote one new resident at Bozzuto’s Gio Midtown in Miami: “It made a great moment for us as we entered for the first time and ‘broke the seal’ for our new home. After this, we were greeted with all kinds of Gio gifts and a handwritten note welcoming us to the building. All of these small things really added up for a great moving-in experience!”
Ellen Ryan is a freelance contributor to units Magazine.