8 ways to improve the resident experience at your communities
Find out what areas of resident experience are most important to renters and how you can improve them
Zego’s 2023 Resident Experience Management Report is hot off the press! As always, the report reveals some fresh insights about resident experience management. Not only that, but we share some modern strategies that improve resident satisfaction.
We encourage you to download the report and read through the results! But in the meantime, we’re here to share proven strategies that improve resident experience. And that’s the key areas of the community experience that impacts resident satisfaction.
What does the resident experience mean?
Resident experience is what it is like to live in an apartment community for your renter. It goes beyond the physical aspects of an apartment, although that is important, too. But it’s also the day-to-day aspects of apartment life like paying rent, visitor access, staff interaction, and reserving amenities.
Even the smallest of inconveniences affect how residents feel about your community. So if you want to improve the resident experience you will need to remove points of friction that occur throughout the resident lifecycle. The solution to improving your resident experience starts with the leasing process and ends with the move-out.
Renters often share their experiences living at a community online. And if your renters have too many negative experiences it’s going to ultimately damage your online reputation. This is not good because positive online reviews are critical to attract new renters.
Why is resident experience important?
Offering a good resident experience is important because it lowers your turnover expenses. In our research, we found that a single instance of unit turnover costs almost $4,000! Think about how much that can add up. It’s so costly that many multifamily companies have resident retention goals that they aim to meet.
Of course, turnover to some degree is inevitable. But based on accounts from renters, many instances are preventable. Most residents don’t leave because of extenuating circumstances. Communities frequently lose residents because the living experience falls short of their expectations.
2023 Resident Experience Management Report
Learn the newest trends in resident experience and how companies are applying them to attract and retain more renters. Based on survey data from over 600 property management companies, this free report details what it takes to thrive in this new era.
Tips for offering a standout resident experience
Since there are so many components of the resident experience, how do you know what to focus on? Here are the 8 key areas that improve the multifamily resident experience and impact how renters feel about their community.
- Provide residents a seamless move-in experience
- Keep your community attractive
- Foster a sense of community among your renters
- Enhance communication and responsiveness
- Modernize community technology to appeal to Gen Z
- Improve maintenance services and response times
- Survey your residents
- Actively manage the renewals process
#1: Provide residents a seamless move-in experience
You’ve heard it before. But the phrase, “You never get a second chance at a first impression” really rings true here.
Moving day sets the stage for your relationship with your residents. If moving in is full of inconveniences, you’ll lose a chance for renewals before residents have even settled into their unit. When there are too many hassles during move-in, their initial level of confidence sinks.
So how do you make moving as painless as possible? One of the best things you can do is to proactively eliminate points of friction during the moving process. That way, residents start out with a positive opinion of the community.
Ways to improve the resident move-in experience
There are several things you can do to improve the resident experience during the move-in process. Here are a few things you can start implementing today:
- Offer orientations for residents who are moving in: According to the 2022 NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Report, nearly 70% of renters think it’s “absolutely essential” or “very important” to have an on-site team member conduct a walkthrough or community orientation at move-in.
- Ensure there’s clear communication: Being in the loop on the latest news and happenings makes the community feel like home before they even unpack. Just make sure they sign up or download the community app before move in. That way, they have a convenient avenue for communicating with their on-site teams if they need help during move in.
- Automate move-in checklists: Ideally, the checklist and any tasks assigned to the renter (register pets, pay deposits) are digitized. That saves your renter from turning in several physical forms.
- Ask for feedback: If a resident is unhappy with the move-in process, it’s valuable to have that feedback right away. That allows on-site teams to smooth over any bad feelings to improve the relationship.
- Offer residents a small welcome gift: A bottle of wine or a gift card to a local restaurant can be a great start to making them feel welcome in their new home.
#2: Keep your community attractive
Residents want to feel pride in their home and know it’s well cared for. If your communities are outdated or unkempt, it is a turn-off for residents and prospects. An apartment with modern features not only yields a pleasant home environment, but it lets renters know that their home is routinely updated.
You might think this only applies to its outward look and appearance. But it extends to the building’s technology too. Renters value features that make day-to-day living easier.
Community updates that affect the resident experience
- Never neglect general maintenance: Keeping your community well-tended-to and attractive is a critical part of the resident experience. If your residents encounter a series of eyesores every time they walk through the community, they’ll likely develop negative feelings about their environment.
- Make visually striking areas that renters want to show off: Some residents have high standards about the appearance of their community. Not only do they want it well-cared-for, but they also want a community that is visually striking. Ideally, renters will want to show off the community to friends, family, and social media followers.
- Prioritize connected environments: Fast wifi and smart home technology are quickly becoming table stakes for in-unit amenities. Modernizing other touchpoints within the community like access control, package deliveries, and common work areas also makes life easier on residents.
#3: Foster a sense of community among your renters
You probably already know that the resident experience is better when renters have friends living there too. A survey from Apartment Life even shows that having a few friends in the community makes it 38% more likely that a resident will renew their lease.
That’s why it’s up to your teams to bring residents together and foster a sense of community. When there’s no emotional connection to the community, there’s no pull for residents to stay. A lack of personalized connections (with neighbors, community staff, or amenities that make their apartment feel like home), ultimately lead residents to be lured away to other communities.
How to build a vibrant community that improves the resident experience
- Host community events: Hosting regular events will not only help build friendships among residents, but it will also add value to living in your community. According to a recent survey, a sense of community is the top driver of value for residents over the past nine years!
- Give them a platform to connect: Community apps help bring residents together without on-site teams organizing a function. For instance, residents can post their own event announcements with neighbors – perhaps they want to start a book club or are having a summer BBQ – or if they have items to sell, like furniture.
- Differentiate through events and services: Hosting unique events along with offering services elevates the value of your community. Things like gift wrapping at Christmas time, offering CPA services at tax time, or having local food trucks come by are a few events that can add value to the resident experience.
- Connect residents to local services: Many communities team up with local businesses to offer special discounts to their residents on anything from laundry and dry cleaning services, pet sitters, to local restaurants. Even if they are already familiar with these places, receiving a special discount because they are a member of your community makes them feel special.
#4: Enhance communication and responsiveness
Technology has conditioned us to expect fast communication. And renters hold their property managers to an even higher standard. Since apartment operators are ultimately responsible for people’s homes, the stakes (and expectations) are high. Needless to say, when residents need to reach out to on-site teams they want it to be easy to get in contact with someone.
Not only do they want it to be easy to reach a community manager, they want a quick response. Promptly responding to resident concerns helps build trust in their on-site teams. Plus, it makes residents feel valued when they know their on-site teams are working to resolve their problem.
How to improve the resident experience with good communication
- Communicate with residents on their terms: Let residents choose how they prefer to receive updates from your team. If each interaction with residents is tailored to their preferences, they’ll be less likely to get disgruntled over communication.
- Give residents self-service options: Self-service allows residents to resolve all of the common tasks related to apartment living when it’s convenient for them – all without having to burden your staff. Plus, it eliminates any friction that can arise from in-person interactions.
- Improve convenience and choice across key resident touchpoints: Give residents flexibility about how they interact with your community. For instance, self-guided tours let prospects tour on their own schedule. And once they are a resident, they want the same flexibility for the administrative parts of apartment life.
- Send thank you messages for taking specific actions: Showing your appreciation with a “thank you” goes a long way. Thanking residents after they’ve done something that benefits your company – referred a friend, submitted a review, renewed their lease, etc. – is an important relationship builder.
- Send birthday messages: Recognize your residents on their special day! Getting an unexpected birthday wish always stands out, so be sure to collect their date of birth, and send them a birthday message (through their preferred channel of communication, of course).
#5: Modernize community technology to appeal to Gen Z
Zego’s 2023 Resident Experience Management Report had survey respondents choose the most important aspect of the resident experience in the eyes of their renters. The top response was a tech-enabled lifestyle. Property managers in this survey also said renters have increased their expectations of community technology in the past year. So if you want to improve the resident experience, it’s wise to evaluate the technology at your communities.
There’s no one with higher technology expectations than Gen Z. And, they just happen to have recently taken over as the largest segment of renters. Since they were born into a world full of technology, they have little patience for outdated digital experiences.
When community technology doesn’t meet their standards, they’re likely to go somewhere else – even when everything else checks all of their boxes. A recent survey finds that 62% of Gen Z renters considered community technology as being an “extremely” or “very important” leasing factor. Gen Z also stated that modern community technology is even more essential in a rental than having an extra bedroom.
To appeal to Gen Z’s technology standards, you’ll want to have these things at your community:
- Fast wifi
- Mobile apps for managing rent & payments
- Text rent payments
- Smart locks
- Energy efficient appliances
#6: Improve maintenance services and response times
No matter if you live in a single family home, or in a Class A community, things are going to need repair from time to time. Most renters understand that this is normal. But how your teams resolve these instances plays a big role in the resident experience.
You want residents to feel confident enough in the maintenance process that they’ll report anything that’s not working. If they are turned off by any aspect of the process, they may fail to report things that aren’t critical but that should be addressed. For instance, they might have a leaky faucet or a dishwasher that makes an irritating sound. These “small” things that are a pain to report wear on their nerves. That might prompt them to look for a nicer place. In fact, the NMHC Renter Preferences Report shows that 31% of residents said maintenance was a factor in their decision to leave a community.
Maintenance best practices that improve resident experience
- Proactively contact residents about their maintenance needs: Checking in with residents to make sure things are functioning properly sends a message that you value their comfort and want them to be satisfied with their home. Plus, you may be able to resolve minor issues before they turn into something bigger (or more expensive to fix).
- Collect Rsat score on maintenance visits: After a work order is complete, send out a quick one question automated survey that determines their Resident Satisfaction Score (Rsat). Each resident rates their experience on a scale of 1-5. Over time, you will be able to track if the average score goes up or down. That lets you identify any trends about what’s making them happy or unsatisfied with the process.
- Schedule a walkthrough before sending a renewal offer: Chances are, if your residents have things in their unit that could use some attention, they won’t be too keen to renew. Before you talk renewals, inspect their unit. If there are items that don’t work properly, arrange for it to get fixed.
- Resolve all maintenance issues before sending a renewal offer: If you conduct a walkthrough before renewal time, it’s extremely important to follow through on your promises. Residents will hesitate to renew if there are unkept promises about improvements to their home.
Using a maintenance app to improve resident experience
A work order management system makes it easy for residents to report issues with their unit. Plus, it instantly relays details of the problem to your maintenance techs to speed up the process. Here are three key features on the resident facing side that your app needs to have.
- Easy to initiate: Want to increase a renter’s frustration about something being broken in their apartment? Just make them call or email a property manager to report the problem. Contactless, self-service options are far more convenient. Ideally, they can submit and automatically track service requests through their community-branded resident experience app.
- Details, please!: Your platform should allow them to submit a ticket in just a few steps. But they also need the ability to elaborate on a request – not just check a box on what’s wrong. Renters need to be able to add their own details or pictures to the work order. This helps communicate the problem so your technician arrives prepared.
- Status updates: Residents want to stay updated about the repair process from the moment they submit a request to the minute the issue is fixed. A work order platform needs to generate updates so your techs or your on-site teams don’t have to continually contact the resident.
#7: Survey your residents
Never underestimate the value of surveying your residents. Any opinions they can offer you – whether it’s good or bad – gives you insights that will help craft a good resident experience. Plus, it allows you to resolve any issues that are bothering them. Often residents won’t speak up when they have concerns. Instead, they’ll just move out. Proactively surveying residents allows you to uncover issues that wouldn’t have been brought to your attention otherwise.
How to survey renters about the resident experience
- Send resident satisfaction surveys each quarter: Asking residents for feedback lets them know that you care about their experience. Once you get survey responses, it’s important to act on their feedback to show residents that you’re listening. If you can’t implement their suggestions, let them know you value their feedback and offer an alternative solution.
- Measure resident net promoter score (rNPS): Net Promoter Score is a metric used in customer experience programs. It measures the loyalty of customers to a company using a single question survey. Your score will range from -100 to +100. This lets companies track the happiness of your residents over time.
- Conduct an exit interview survey at move-out: It’s important to know why you have turnover so you can find ways to improve the resident experience. After a resident gives notice to vacate, send them a quick survey asking why they decided to leave.
#8: Actively manage the renewals process
You will have better luck with renewal rates by strategizing the process. Don’t just send them a renewal letter before the lease expires and hope for the best. Offering incentives well ahead of lease expiration boosts your chances of a renewal.
Tactics for managing the renewal process
- Send renewal notices well in advance & give incentives to renew early: By encouraging residents to renew early, you can avoid the scramble of trying to fill a vacancy with only 30 days notice. This will also give you a better idea of who plans to vacate with more lead time so you have more time to fill the vacancy.
- Allow renters to lock in rates with a longer lease term: Offer lease terms of 18 months, 24 months, or 36 months. This gives residents peace of mind that they won’t have an unexpected rent increases. And, it ensures that you’ll retain that resident beyond the typical 12-month leasing cycle.
- Provide a service, improvement, or upgrade at time of renewal (e.g. anniversary menu): Encourage residents to renew by offering an upgrade or improvement to their apartment. It also makes residents feel valued and appreciated for their loyalty to the community.
- Create a 12-month resident retention marketing plan: Create a plan that spans the lifecycle of the resident. Start at move-in and create multiple touchpoints up until lease renewal. By creating a plan, you operationalize resident retention making it repeatable and scalable.
More insights about the resident experience
There are so many ways that you can improve the resident experience. For more insights about how apartment operators handle resident experience management, look no more. Our 2023 Resident Experience Management Report covers all the bases. Not only that, it offers suggestions for improving the community living experience.
Elevate your resident experience
With Zego, you can not only boost resident satisfaction but also improve NOI. Request a demo and see how you can elevate your resident experience, reduce turnover costs, and take your multifamily community to new heights.