This article was posted on Monday, Sep 01, 2014

The telephone is your single most important leasing tool and it’s probably the easiest “tool” to operate at your community, but is everyone answering it when it rings?

Many apartment communities are spending time and money on designing creative, effective ads and signage to make their phones ring.  Yet, believe it or not, many leasing people are still choosing not to answer their telephones.  Worse yet, those who are relying on voice mail to take messages are not always returning calls in a timely manner or even at all.  I cannot tell you how many shopping reports I received last months with remarks like this:

“If I had really been looking for a new home, I would have given up trying to reach someone here.  The phone went unanswered as I attempted to make contact numerous times, and no one returned my call when I left a message”.

For those property management companies who regularly evaluate their employees with a shopping program in order to “perfect their performance,” they are also testing to make sure someone is simply answering the phone and returning calls!  Of course having difficulty making contact with the leasing office is merely an inconvenience for the Secret Shopper, as I am only pretending to need an apartment.  What about real renters out there?  What do you suppose happens to them?  My guess is they are living in your neighborhood, perhaps in an apartment at the community next door because someone answered the phone on the day they were looking for a new home.

Management Question:  How can I get my leasing people to convert more of their telephone traffic into actual visits and then rentals?

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Then there’s the question from the leasing consultants and managers who primarily work alone due to budget constraints and the size of their communities.

Leasing Consultant Question:  I know my supervisor is concerned about the office coverage and my ability to always answer the phone, but since I work by myself, I have to take care of everything out on the property and also run the errands.  I just can’t be in the office all day, every day.  What can I do?

Answer:  It sounds like the people behind these questions/concerns all have the same goal in mind, but have yet to devise a plan in order to achieve their objective.

While the day to day operations of caring for each community and its residents must be carried out, there will be no new residents to take care of without active leasing.

The most obvious solution is as simple as forwarding your office calls to a cell phone.  By having calls forwarded and being prepared to quote information about your available apartments, you can easily set appointments while you out walking a vacant apartment or running a bank deposit.

Of course, you will always have to be prepared with something to write on and possibly take a message if a call comes through when you are unable to talk.  However, in receiving a “live voice” rather than a message, your callers are more likely to give you their name and number for a call back rather than leave you a voice mail.  If you aren’t in the position to answer your phone, how about regularly checking for messages AND returning calls?  While you’re at it, how about also checking for e-mails from prospective renters?  Most of you can do that with your phone too!

To those property managers and owners who already have their managers forwarding calls to a cell phone, but are not seeing a high percentage of callers being converted into visitors, maybe your employees need an “incentive” as extra motivation to work harder on setting appointments, rather than just answering questions and giving out information when the phone rings.  It could be something as simple as a Starbucks gift card in the dollar amount of the number of callers turned into visitors and something more for every visitor who becomes a resident.  (Of course a guest card system and/or telephone log would have to be in place for verification purposes.)

If the day-to-day responsibilities of managing your community make you repeatedly absent from your leasing office, consider forwarding your calls to a cell phone.   This will minimize the inconvenience to your prospective renters and anyone else that might be trying to get a hold of you, as well as make you readily available in the event of an emergency.

By the way, it’s just as important to answer the calls marked “private” as it is to pick up when the calls are routed through an ad source or you see your supervisor’s phone number come up on your caller ID.  It just may be the Secret Shopper calling….

Joyce Kirby is with Shoptalk Service Evaluations, “Ask the Secret Shopper” and may be reached at [email protected] or by visiting   Reprinted with permission.






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