This article was posted on Tuesday, Sep 01, 2015

Do you have a way to measure your residents’ use of your property and your amenities?  Francis Chow, of Ellis Partners, who spoke at a recent Education Conference and Exposition, showed the audience why understanding touch points with your residents can be so critical to understanding your resident’s needs and how to impact their decision to renew. 

His panel was speaking on the topic of using “Big Data”, and he shared some great information:

  • Three months after move-in, engagement and loyalty drops
  • Loyalty decreases when rents increase or even when residents

    anticipate a rent increase

It is pretty common for residents to get “lost” during that period between three months, where they are active with the move-in process and move-in related maintenance requests, and the later renewal period.  Francis noted that the primary reasons for this lull are “staff engagement, resolving of issues and the ongoing ‘connection with the resident’ “.  So while we may be blissfully ignorant of their state of mind, thinking they are completely happy with their experience, they are actually trending downward in their connection with their community. 

What I love about going to [landlord] conferences is that not only do I get great factual data, but it also spurs me on to analyze different elements of multifamily operations to see if there are improvements possible.  For example, if we are discussing the idea of using resident touch point data to adjust our operations to impact their experience, then there are two challenges I see: 

  1. Although many companies may log maintenance requests, many customer relationship interactions are not logged, and sentiment is not evaluated for many companies.  So for example, the community doesn’t know it has been six months since there has been an interaction with the resident.  This could mean that everything is ok, or it could mean the resident hasn’t bothered to submit the maintenance issues they have.  The office may also not know that although the resident’s last maintenance request was eventually completed, it took a week and the resident’s impression of his or community dramatically reduced.  Ideally, a community should be able to see a trend line of these resident interactions and sentiment, fairly accurately estimating how happy they are with the community over the term of their stay, including the key renewal period.  (Note:  More services are coming out that handle these elements, so this isn’t to say they don’t exist, but rather they still gaining traction.)
  2. When we discuss touch points, the industry often focuses on touch points specifically with the on-site staff, either through customer service in the office, or maintenance requests.  But residents interact with the community every day, from driving into the parking lot, checking their mail, interacting with different elements of their apartment, and using the community’s amenities.  But do we know how they are using these elements of our community?  Do we know that they have never actually swam in the pool, even though that was one of the deciding factors to live there?  As of now, we have extremely limited data on these usage elements, and how they are impact our resident’s happiness or dissatisfaction with their community. 

Currently, many communities are playing a big guessing game on whether a resident will renew.  We don’t know how satisfied they are with the service, or if they have ever used the incredible fitness center they so loved during the initial tour.  It is a giant question mark that only gets answered when they submit their notice to vacate. 

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With big data relating to the resident experience, however, we will be able to track resident touch points with both the staff and the community features.  We will even be able to track the lack of touch points, indicating opportunities to re-engage with the resident.  All in all, we will get a much clearer understanding as to what drives our residents’ decisions, hopefully improving the chances they will renew. 

Brent Williams is Chief Insider of Multifamily Insiders, the largest social network in the world for multifamily professionals. His background includes both property management and supplier, and he writes on all facets of the multifamily industry, although his focus lies in resident retention.