8 ways to improve the resident experience at your communities
How to manage the key areas of the resident experience
If you haven’t already heard, we just published our first-ever, State of the Resident Experience Report! For those who have yet to read it, the report reveals some fresh insights about resident experience management. Not only that, but we went in-depth around eight areas that improve resident satisfaction.
We encourage you to download the report and read through the results! But in the meantime, we’re here to give you the Cliff’s Notes on one important piece. And that’s the key areas of the community experience that impacts resident satisfaction.
Resident experience impacts retention rates
Before we share our tips, retaining residents is extremely important. 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.
FREE DOWNLOAD Download The State of Resident Experience Management Report to get fresh insights about improving the resident experience.
Want a better resident experience management strategy?
Download The State of Resident Experience Management Report to get fresh insights about improving the resident experience.
What is the resident experience and how do I improve it?
The resident experience goes beyond the aspects of a community like paying rent, visitor access, staff interaction, and reserving amenities. It is all resident touchpoints that can be improved in order to deliver remarkable community living experiences.
You can improve the resident experience by removing points of friction that occur throughout the resident lifecycle. You’ll want to examine every touchpoint starting with the leasing process all the way to move-out. Below is a list of touchpoints that impact the resident experience. Even the smallest of inconveniences affect how residents feel about your community. Here are seven key areas to perfect for the sake of resident satisfaction.
#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 may 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
From offering communication to providing assistance to creating move-in checklists, there are numerous items 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 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences Report, the majority of renters think it’s “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 way, filling out and turning in several physical forms isn’t necessary.
- 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 grievances so the relationship can get off to a better start.
- Offer residents a small welcome gift: A bottle of wine or a gift card to a favorite community 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 have outdated features and/or are unkempt, it will be 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: Build a vibrant community
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 communication and responsiveness with residents
- Communicate with residents on their terms: Let residents choose how they prefer to receive communication 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: 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.
Ultimately, 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.
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).
- Make it easy for residents to submit a work order: If there’s not an easy way for them to submit a maintenance request, that can cause frustration. NMHC’s data shows that 64% of renters think the easiest way to report an issue is by using a community app. This lets them post pictures and comments about what is happening so your teams are fully prepared.
- Keep residents updated on the status of their work order: Residents don’t want to be in the dark about the status of their repair. It’s important they know what’s happening in their home and an ETA for when it will be done.
- 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.
#6: 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.
#7: 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.
#8: Modernize where possible
Did you know that having modern features is the top reason a renter chooses to renew their lease? That’s what our survey respondents ranked as the top reason renters choose to stay in their community.
Interestingly, property managers also ranked “modern living features” as the top thing that leads residents to choose another community. So the more outdated your community, the less likely you will retain residents. That’s why it’s important to keep on top of updates.
Prioritize technology updates
When apartment communities offer modern features it gives renters a more seamless living experience than when things are old and outdated. There are countless ways you can update a community, so how do you know what to start with?
Well, according to NMHC, three out of five of the top things that renters want in a community are technology-related. So making technology improvements are a good way to boost resident satisfaction.
Another reason technology updates are important is because Gen Z is the fastest-growing segment of renters. Because they are digital natives, they have little patience for outdated technology.
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 report, The State of Resident Experience Management covers all the bases. Not only that, it offers suggestions for improving the community living experience.