As we wrapped up our final session of the 4-part webinar series, Multifamily Amenities in a Post COVID-19 World, there was an organic theme that arose throughout the conversation: Positivity.
The multifamily industry is truly a unique one. They say, once you’re in, you’re normally in for life and it feels like many of our panelists would agree with this sentiment. As Larry Bellack, President of Mobile Doorman, said, “We truly are a family.” With so much dedication and commitment to this industry, we are determined to navigate through this crisis, together. But as industry leaders, how can we pave the way for a better future? Here are the top 5 takeaways from today’s discussion that spoke to that exact question:
#1 – Out with the old. In with the new.
With a “much needed and unbelievable focus on resident retention,” as Syd McDonald, SVP of Sales for Valet Living stated, the importance of providing residents with the experience THEY want has drastically increased. It is necessary that we start adopting new platforms to amplify the resident experience, which will ultimately result in pushing what many would consider, “old fashioned” ways, to the side. “We were very one-dimensional in many ways,” says Cindy Clare, Chief Operating Officer for Bell Partners. “And those ways worked. (But because of COVID) we now have virtual tours, self-guided tours, even selfie tours! And we are able to reach a much broader group of people because we are giving residents options that work best for them.” Chris Jett, EVP for Lynd Company, added “With the technology we’re seeing, we’ve been able to help people like front line workers that wouldn’t be able to come to see an apartment between 10am-5pm.“ Outside of potential residents, our connection with current residents is also changing in a needed way. “We have to be okay with the fact that some of the old fashioned ways we used to communicate with residents is just that: old fashioned,” says Bellack. “Residents over the last 5 years have said I want you to communicate in my language and my currency. And we need to listen.” As we know with any great relationship, communication is key. Which leads to our next takeaway…
#2 – Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
This was a direct quote from Bellack, and if you’re wondering how important it is… well we have the stats to back it up. Jennifer Carter, Director of Client Performance at SatisFacts and ApartmentRatings, shared with the group that there is a direct correlation between communication and resident renewal. “Our surveys found that residents who have leases ending within 6 months, report that communication with the property greatly factors into their decision for renewal.” As so many of us are feeling in the dark during this time, residents want something stable in a world that’s unstable for them. It’s our responsibility to provide residents with comfort and ease. “Communicate details as often as possible.” adds Carter. This includes cleaning processes, reopening procedures, anything that can show the residents we are here for them, we care for them, and we are keeping them safe.
#3 – Establish focused time.
Time is our most valuable asset. If the pandemic has emphasized anything to us, it’s that we waste so much time throughout our days. Going forward we need to prioritize both the residents and our employees’ time and use it in the most efficient way possible. Justin Dunckel, President of Paragon Apartments out of Detroit says, “I thought the world was going to end when we stopped taking packages in our office. In my 25 years in this business, (removing package management) is the best decision we ever made. I am never taking another package distraction in our office again.” This is just one example of many “distractions” that pulls our employees away from their actual roles and the ability for authentic connection with residents. Michael Wilson, VP of Asset Management for Mark-Taylor, says one thing they’ve implemented and will be moving forward with is appointment-only “meetings” with residents. “This really allows us to spend more time with residents individually one-on-one, to have the conversations that are a bit more personal and make them feel valued,” says Wilson. Bellack added, “I hope if we all come out of this with one thing, it’s a whole lot more focused time.”
#4 – Lead with compassion.
“The little things that we do to show we care, make a huge difference,” says Clare. The actionable items we take that step outside the box of our specific roles to help our communities and our employees, especially during this time, are seen and valued. “Our property managers really do feel like they have 200-300 families looking to them for leadership. We need to continue to look for ways to support them and make their lives easier,” says McDonald. We need to emphasize to our own teams that we are here to support them so they can then effectively support the communities. “Think about your own mental health as well as the mental health of your employees,” says Marshall Friday, Director of Multifamily Sales with ADT. Our teams are considered frontline workers, they’re not only taking care of full communities in a crisis but caring for the individual resident that is too scared to go to the grocery store whom they pick up groceries for. At the end of the day, people are going to care about the businesses that took care of their employees and took care of their consumers. For example, Lynd Company held a contest for residents to decorate their doors for front line workers. Chosen winners were surprised with 1-month of free rent, and the grand prize winner, 6-months free rent. “These are the things that our residents will remember,” says Clare.
#5 – Spread positivity.
We also heard of some of the great humanitarian acts that have happened during this time. For example, there was a resident who called management asking for them to randomly choose another resident who had lost their job and was unable to pay rent. This resident wrote a check to pay the stranger’s rent in full. These things are happening everywhere, but as Bellack added, “We Americans have a very short memory.” We hear the great humanitarian efforts, and then we get pulled right back into the fear and panic projected by other media outlets. “As leaders on this call, we need to remember to lead by example,” says Bellack. “If you have a procedure where you’re getting good stories of kindness on a weekly basis, keep doing it. Make it part of your standard operating procedures.” The Lynd Company started “Easing the time with Lynd Living” which is feel-good stories, a couple of times per week, to simply keep easing the fear. “Leveraging social media to share these stories can be extremely beneficial in maintaining a connection between employees and residents,” says Carter.
As we wrap up our 4-part series, we want to again thank all of the suppliers and property management companies that have joined us in sparking engaging and thoughtful conversations through their collaboration. The way everyone has come together to support and help each other truly illustrates how the multifamily industry believes in the family part of our name in so many ways.
Our industry and our people will get through this time by working together and we’re confident we’ll come out even stronger on the other side.
If you missed any of the sessions within our 4-part series, check out the full recordings here.