Simple, strategic shifts that help shine a positive light on your communities
Customer service. It’s the secret sauce that can turn a prospect from potential to SOLD! And while there are many factors to consider in the rental sales process, if you allow subpar customer service to persist at your properties, you’ll soon find yourself on the slippery slope of declining sales, lost revenue, and a beleaguered reputation. In fact, the only one winning when you fail to create a memorable customer experience is your competition.
With an increasing supply of rental options entering the market and more non-traditional housing also becoming available, competition is at an all-time high. On top of that, the industry has seen huge swings in renter preferences, including changes in:
- Buying behaviors
- Service expectations
- Apartment amenity desires
- And more.
There’s often a reluctance to change. However, it’s not always difficult, and with these simple shifts to your customer service strategy, your leasing teams will be well-positioned to close the sales loop. So with the backdrop set for 2023, it’s time to evaluate (and improve) your customer service strategies.
From Meh to Memorable: 3 Customer Service Strategies Proven To Make a Difference
The role of customer service is changing. So much so that many organizations (across industries) now consider it a strategic function.
In the words of Roger Staubach, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” Fortunately, it takes little effort and minimal expense to create a customer service experience that puts your property in the best light, which means that “extra mile” effort is easily attained.
Because here’s the question you need to ask: If someone is touring three communities in one day, how will they remember yours?
- Make it personal.
- Provide tour options.
- Follow up.
Customer Service Strategy #1: Make it personal
Those first impressions can make or break you. And when prospective tenants walk through the office door or call the leasing office, the reception they get needs to be positive.
The 2022 NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Report shows that customer service/staff interaction is a top-ranking factor in future lease decisions. Of 66,615 survey responses, 47% of respondents consider it “very important.”
Other important lease factor decisions include rental rates, property appearance, floor plans, and amenities. But these are things over which your onsite teams often have little control. What they can control: their behavior.
Do you have customer service policies, procedures, and training that ensure your front-line team members understand what “making a positive first impression” looks like?
As a leader, you need to set expectations and be specific. You can’t leave it to chance or assume everyone shares the same ideas.
Overall, this is an easy strategy to implement because it’s mostly about general kindness.
- Be welcoming.
- Make eye contact.
- Introduce yourself.
- Use the prospect’s first name once it’s shared.
- Introduce others (staff and residents alike) if the opportunity arises.
Those are just a few examples. But in this post-pandemic landscape, people are craving connection (even if they do prefer working from home). So making those initial interactions personal goes a long way toward creating memorable experiences that help prospects immediately feel at home in your community.
Customer Service Strategy #2: Provide tour options
There is no denying it; renters have altered their search behavior when looking for a new place to live. 2020 turned the status quo upside down, and as a result, people increasingly “expect” convenience and choice.
Virtual tours became prominent (even if out of necessity) during the pandemic, and they are here to stay. Again, survey results from the 2022 NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Report show that interactive virtual/3D tours are highly valued in the rental home search and ranked in the top three forms of digital services desired.
It’s important to note, though, that renters aren’t self-limiting. While 60% of prospects still prefer an in-person property tour, they typically use a combination of touring options in their search, starting with virtual tours to narrow their choices.
Modern renters are using various sources to vet communities before they ever step foot in a leasing office, so the more resources you can provide, the better. According to Multi-Housing News, renters “want to see the community layout, exact apartment they’d live in, precise location within the community, views, interior features, proximity to amenities, real-time pricing and availability and more on the website.”
So your touring options are critical in giving potential customers what they want, need, and desire. This shift in behavior not only heightens the need for making virtual options available but also highlights the importance of making those in-person opportunities memorable.
People want options — self-guided, guided, and virtual — when it comes to touring your properties, so give it to them. Because there’s no doubt about it, you need all three to position your properties for a competitive advantage.
Customer Service Strategy #3: Follow up
It’s a common scenario: A prospective resident has gathered information and toured your property but hasn’t yet signed a lease. So now what? There’s definitely a fine line between giving someone space to make a decision and making them feel forgotten (or, on the other side of that – pestering them to the point you turn them away).
Whether the renter is conducting initial inquiries or seems just one step away from signing on the dotted line, an effective follow-up strategy is critical in providing exceptional customer service.
To ensure success, you must institute clear policies and procedures for what effective follow-up looks like. An effective customer service follow-up strategy includes:
- Methods for effectiveness (i.e., email sequence, phone calls, text messaging, etc.).
- Message personalization.
- Timing/frequency of your follow-up messaging.
Automation techniques can significantly enhance your follow-up routines but don’t overlook the value of an old-fashioned, hand-written note. In today’s digital age, a simple handwritten “Thank you!” complements your automated solutions, personalizes the experience for potential renters, and gives you a leg up against the competition with that “extra mile” touch.
In an article on RentalHousingJournal.com, Jennifer Staciokas, executive managing director of property management at Western Wealth, comments on the significance of having a solid follow-up process:
“Customers often send information requests to five or seven different communities and hear back from only one or two. When a customer doesn’t get a call or an email back, the lead dies, and that’s not good for either party. When they get a quick response with continued communication, it shows them we care for them as a resident and makes their decision to lease there much easier.”
Will Your Customer Service Strategies Move the Needle in 2023?
By consistently applying these three simple customer service strategies – make it personal, provide tour options, and follow up – you can increase your team’s ability to move prospects from “Let me think about it” to “SOLD!”
As customer experience expert Shep Hyken says, “Make every interaction count. Even the small ones. They are all relevant.”
To ensure your properties are received in the best light, provide your team with clear standards, comprehensive policies, and customized operating procedures for implementing these proven customer service strategies.
Talk to a Grace Hill expert today to learn how our industry-specific solutions for policy management, training, mystery shopping, and more can help ensure your properties stand out among the competition.