Three Ways to Bolster Resident Renewals
By Lecia Anderson, Vice President of Operations
Apartment operators spend a considerable amount of time and resources in their efforts to attract and sign new residents. And rightfully so: a steady stream of qualified prospects is essential to filling a community’s inevitable vacancies and creating the revenue streams that deliver strong returns to investors.
But operators must emphasize renewals as well. Keeping current residents in the fold can drive revenue while minimizing turn and marketing costs.
So how does an apartment company lay the groundwork for renewals? Below are some recommendations. Before we dive in, you’ll notice these recommendations all share a common word: “consistently.”
In the big picture, operators must commit themselves to consistently creating great resident experiences. Any company can periodically provide a renter with a top-notch experience; it’s those that do it day in and day out that pave the way for soaring retention rates. Now, here are my three recommendations:
- A consistently great customer’s journey. When leasing associates are interacting with prospects, they understandably treat them like gold. Unfortunately, after residents move in, some operators have the new arrivals asking, “Where’s the love?”
Give your residents a strong customer’s journey by conducting 30-, 60- and 90-day check-ins after move-in to see how they’re doing and if there are any concerns they have that you may need to address. I also recommend doing these check-ins 90 to 120 days prior to a resident’s lease expiring.
Furthermore, hold regular resident events. At JVM, our communities are required to hold at least one such event per month. These could be anything from a pig roast to a “paint and sip” evening. The specifics aren’t as important as the fact that you’re going that extra mile to show your residents how much you appreciate them. It also provides your residents an opportunity to meet their neighbors, make new friends and create an environment of belonging to a community, which increases the likelihood of renewal.
Also, consider your amenities part of the customer’s journey and be sure your community is equipped with the features your renters want. With the explosion of online shopping, package locker systems that give residents 24/7 access to their packages are especially popular these days.
- Consistently strong communication. It’s essential to keep your residents thoroughly in the loop about what’s happening in your community. Informed residents develop a real sense of trust with their community that bodes well for renewals. Even if one of the elevators in one of your buildings is going to be down for 10 minutes for service, your residents should be informed.
At JVM, we use a resident portal called Active Building to tell our residents all they need to know about what’s going on. The system, which residents can access via an online portal or a smartphone app, allows us to effectively communicate necessary info and permits residents to pay their rent, make a service request, reserve a conference room, etc.
The technology also features a social platform that allows our residents to interact with each other. Providing ways for your residents to efficiently communicate – to do things like asking who may have left their sunglasses at the swimming pool or to pass the word along that rush-hour traffic on a certain street is unusually slow – strengthens the bond that residents feel with each other. They begin to really look out for each other and that sense of community compels residents to stay for a long time.
Another important component of communication is a follow-up. Always follow up with a resident after any type of service has been performed in their apartment home to make sure the job was done to their satisfaction.
- Consistently warm interactions. This may sound so simple but it’s something that can easily fall through the cracks. I call it “emotional consistency”: make sure your onsite associates are always interacting with residents in a warm, pleasant way. It’s the golden rule: make sure your leasing staffs are treating residents the way they themselves would want to be treated.
You may be surprised at the overwhelmingly positive impact associates can have on residents when they do little things like ask about a resident’s child, leave a treat for the dog when performing a service request or offer to help a resident carry their groceries up the stairs. Again, these types of gestures can make residents feel a real bond with their apartment community.
In the end, setting the stage for high renewal rates means consistently creating great resident experiences. By finding their own specific ways to implement the general recommendations outlined above, apartment communities can create those great experiences.