It really has to start with a solid understanding of who your residents and potential residents are and what they want, what they value [...] the underpinning of any experience strategy is going to be the voice of the customer [...] digging into what they want and what's going to make them happy and what's going to make them loyal and want to stay.CEO at Bodine & Co.
It doesn't matter [if] you're an intern or the GM or whatever your role is in the organization, you have some impact and sometimes it's a very big impact, whether you know it or not on that customer or resident experience.CEO at Bodine & Co.
[Surveys] will help you measure, they'll help you get that voice of the customer. But just go on-site and actually talk to your customers face to face. There is nothing in the world like hearing your customers, your residents, actually say the words directly to you.CEO at Bodine & Co.
Drive long term results through the multifamily resident experience
Outside industry perspective of the term resident experience management [02:32]
- Resident experience is from the perspective of the resident. It’s what your residents think, what they feel, what they perceive about all of the different interactions with you as a property management company.
- Resident experience management is everything that happens internally within an organization and there's all kinds of different things involved.
What does an experience first mindset mean for a property management company? [06:01]
- Experience first mindset means that in any decision you are thinking about experience as part of that discussion. Always ask, what is the impact going to be on our residents?
- “Any decision” means anything like a meeting where you're talking about a policy, a process, new technology, hiring, whatever part of your business including operational and financial.
Strategies that multifamily use when it comes to delivering exceptional resident experiences? [7:39]
- Main one is creating a resident journey map. This means mapping all the different steps that residents take, from the time that they first become aware that your particular apartment complex exists, all the way through when they decide to leave.
- Understanding what that real journey looks like, not just the ideal journey but the actual journey, then you can start to understand where to make improvements.
- Don’t neglect the end of the journey and how the residents’ leaving experience is.
What role does technology play to enable and enhance the resident experience? [10:00]
- Important to not take a scatter shot approach and pick things that you think will work.
- Look across the resident journey and look for points where the experience is bad or where you think that you could influence residents’ behavior or attitudes and think about what type of technology might help there.
- Use technology strategically and not technology just for technology's sake.
What about the use of data to enhance the resident experience? [12:02]
- Often a company has all these data points locked away in different systems and so employees don't have access to them. Or, they have tons of data but they don’t know how to harness their data and really bring insights out of that.
- AI could be of immense help in this area.
- When harnessed effectively, can use the data to create personalized experiences.
- This is the world residents’ are getting used to in B2C like with Amazon or Instagram that serves up ads or products based on their activity.
What is omnichannel experience and how might it look within the property management space and strategy execution? [15:15]
- Omnichannel experience is going from different touchpoints, like from digital (e.g. website) to an app to an in-person interaction.
- Key is to bring in the data aspect to make the experience seamless. To make the resident feel valued and part of the community, it’s important to marry the digital and physical touchpoints.
- Underpinning any experience strategy is going to be the voice of the customer and digging into what they really want and what's going to make them happy and what's going to make them loyal and want to stay.
What about staff training and enablement to deliver these kinds of experiences? [20:30]
- This is critical. Just as you've got the voice of the customer, you've got to make sure that you listen to the voice of your employees.
- This refers to them as both the best firsthand knowledge of residents and to making sure that you understand what's going on with them.
- Just as you work on the resident experience, working on the employee experience, it's got to be right up there in terms of importance. They’re all part of the same thing.
How do you measure and track the success of these kinds of initiatives? [22:00]
- Net promoter score, NPS: this is that recommendation question, how likely are you to recommend?
- Employee net promoter score, eNPS: Similar to how likely are you to recommend working here to a friend or a family member question.
- Perceived level of effort: Asking, was this easier? Was this harder than you expected it to be? Or what was your level of effort on some numerical scale? This is a good one because it makes you understand whether or not you're making things easy for your residents.
- Ask open ended questions: With all three above, ask open ended questions alongside to get detail about why they're giving you a particular score.
What about barriers when choosing to implement a new resident experience strategy? [25:07]
- Touched on already, but ignoring the staff experience.
- Getting impatient and considering this as a project. It is not a project, it is the way that you do everything from this point forward.
- Must take a long-term approach. Our attitudes and perceptions don't change overnight, especially if you've had bad experiences.
Final take-away [27:28]
- Get out there and talk with your residents! Surveys are great and you should do them, but there’s nothing like hearing from the residents face-to-face.
Kerry Bodine’s book, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, helps business leaders understand the financial benefits of great customer experiences—and how their organizations must change in order to deliver them.
In 2014, she founded Bodine & Co., a customer experience consulting firm focused on helping organizations fundamentally shift to thinking and working in more customer centric ways. She’s also a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and private corporate events around the world.
Kerry’s ideas, analysis, and expert opinions have appeared on sites like The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, and Advertising Age. She contributes a regular column to Touchpoint, the journal published by the global Service Design Network.
Kerry spent seven years with the customer experience practice at Forrester Research. As a vice president and principal analyst, she led Forrester’s research on customer experience design and innovation. She was also the creative force behind the customer experience ecosystem, a framework that helps companies diagnose and fix customer problems at their roots.
In previous roles, Kerry managed consumer research teams; guided the design of websites, mobile apps, and branded social networks; designed interfaces for robots and wearable devices; and, in 1995, developed a Web-based social shopping prototype for AT&T Bell Labs. In addition to her design background, she has completed stints as both a management consultant and an advertising executive.
Kerry holds a master’s degree in human computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.
The State of Resident Experience Management Report
Kerry, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. Glad to be here.
So we reached out to invite you on the show after hearing you speak at RETCON about driving sustainable success through customer experience. And so to kick this off, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background, and how you got involved in the multifamily industry.
Sure, absolutely. So I have worked in this field, in one way or another, really my whole career. I started out designing and developing websites back in, gosh, 1995, which seems like an entire lifetime ago at this point. And have transitioned from making technology easier to use to helping organizations be easier to do business with overall. And so I've written a book actually sitting here behind me if you're watching this on video, Outside in: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. And this is actually about a decade old, but the thing that's great about it is that all of the advice in it is still relevant today. It really doesn't touch on technology too much. Technology, of course, changes all the tme, but this is about how organizations work and organizations as we know move very, very slowly. So the advice is really just as relevant as it was way back when.
So, and then getting involved in resident experience, I actually did some research, a couple of different research projects for a client who creates technology for the resident experience. So I've just continued to get more involved in that and I find it a really interesting space. I work in all kinds of different industries from healthcare to financial services and you name it. And everyone's got a different name for their customer. Here, the customer's called the resident. And so you might hear me slip into saying the customer sometime, but got the resident in my mind here today.
That's actually a perfect segue into one of my first questions for you. Again, because this conversation is focused on customer experience and in this case that is absolutely the resident experience. And so I was wondering, can you humor me and share how you personally define two terms? The first one being resident experience, the second being resident experience management.
Yeah, so it's really interesting because they're two sides of the same coin, really. So the resident experience is what your residents think, what they feel, what they perceive about all of the different interactions with you as a property management company. And that includes before they're actually a resident, interactions where they're deciding where they want to live, all of the different interactions living in the building and then potentially even some interactions that happen afterwards, getting a deposit check back or something like that.
So that's the resident experience. It's really all from the perspective of the resident and sometimes we see a big gap between what organizations think the experience is and what the customers, or in this case the residents think the experience is. But really it's what your residents are thinking and feeling.
And then the resident experience management is everything that happens internally within an organization and there's all kinds of different things involved. And actually that's what my book is really about is how you create and then sustain great experiences. And it's everything from defining the experience that you want to provide in the first place and then everything that you've got to do to make sure that all of your employees, all of your digital touchpoints, all of your physical touchpoints are all supporting that experience each step of the way.
And the management piece can involve measuring what the resident experience is, really surveying them on their thoughts and their attitudes and creating guidelines for staff and employees there. There's all kinds of things that go into it, but it's really making sure that you're delivering that experience that you define and intend to deliver in the first place.
Thanks for that. And I love how your answers really touch on the fact that this is such an expansive concept and it includes so much.
I believe that every single person who works in an organization and also partners that an organization works with are touching the customer experience in some way. It's like this ripple effect. And I don't know if the folks listening to this or watching this have heard this story, but there's this anecdote from back when JFK was president and he was visiting one of the NASA facilities and there was some guy overnight and sweeping the floors. So the president walked up to him and said, "Hey, what's your role here? What are you doing?" And he said, Mr. President, "I'm helping to put a man on the moon." And so that's the same thing with resident experience. It doesn't matter, you're an intern or the GM or whatever your role is in the organization, you have some impact and sometimes it's a very big impact, whether you know it or not on that customer or resident experience.
I love that. Now, you talk a lot about having an experience first mindset. So can you share a little bit with our audience, what does an experience first mindset mean for a property management company?
What it essentially means is that in any decision that you're making, in any meeting where you're talking about a policy, a process, new technology, hiring, whatever it is, whatever part of your business, operational, financial, you are thinking about that experience as part of that discussion. Thinking about, okay, if we make this decision, what is the impact going to be on our residents? And you might be thinking why would we do this? And the whole reason is that the experience that customers or residents have directly impacts revenue, cost savings, all of the different types of business metrics that organizations care about.
So that's really what it means is putting the customer right inside your meeting room for those discussions. Not literally, sometimes actually some people do that, they bring customers in to co-create with them different parts of what the experience will look like or how policies or technology are going to work, but at least having that virtual presence of the customer right there while you're making decisions.
Got it. And now your background pulls across multiple industries. So what are some strategies that you can think of that multifamily might be able to mirror from other industries when it comes to delivering exceptional resident experiences?
I would say the number one strategy is around the concept of the resident journey. And so journey mapping is the main activity that people tend to talk about when they think of taking a journey approach to experience design and experience management. All it really means is that you are understanding and sometimes literally mapping out on a piece of paper or a big whiteboard or digitally, whatever it is, all the different steps that residents take. And you can look at it in phases like okay, pre-move in and post-move in. Or you can look at that full end-to-end resident journey from the time that they first become aware that your particular apartment complex exists, all the way through they decide to leave or whatever the end of the journey is that you want to define it as.
And actually the leaving part of the journey is really important. So many organizations, and this is across every single industry, they put so much focus on how are we going to get new customers? How are we going to market to new customers and bring them in to be using our product and services? They don't really think about what that end part of the experience is going to be, but I like to think of this as kind of a breakup and we know how breakups go, have an impact on whether or not those two people are going to talk to each other again or whether they're going to remain friends, whether they're going to consider getting together.
So really putting some attention to the end of that journey is really important as well. And then when you understand what that real journey looks like, not just the ideal journey in your mind, but the real, actual journey that your customers go through, then you can start to understand where to make improvements. You can start to measure important parts of it. And so it really has a broad reach across all aspects of customer experience management.
Got it. And you actually just mentioned this concept of measuring success. And so that kind of leads into my next question, which is what role does or should technology play in enhancing resident experience or managing it effectively?
Yeah, so technology is here, it is huge in terms of enabling great experiences either from behind the scenes with technology that your residents are never going to see or resident facing technology that makes it easier for them to pay their rent or make a maintenance request, whatever it is. And so the thing that I see a lot of organizations doing, because they know that they have to be bringing technology into their business and deploying it in order to improve the experience, they just kind of pick things that they think are going to work.
What I would recommend is rather than taking that scattershot approach and hoping that something is actually going to improve the experience, look across the customer journey and look for points where the experience is bad or you know, think that you could influence your resident behavior or attitudes and think about what type of technology might help there. So chat is a great example, online chat. So many companies have it now, but it seems to be something that a lot of organizations think about just because they feel like they should have a chat. Well, okay, a lot of organizations probably do need chat, but really think about why you need it, at what points in the journey are your residents going to want to reach out to you and are they going to want to reach out through chat at that point or through some other channel. So it's really about using technology strategically and not technology just for technology's sake.
Awesome. And obviously one of the benefits of having technology is the ability to measure and make better decisions, but the flip side is that it can also be used to enhance resident experiences. And so I want to learn a little bit about data itself and how do you see technological innovation opening the door for companies to use data to enhance the resident experience?
Yeah, I mean you're right. Data and technology go hand in hand. And to be completely honest, I do not think enough organizations, it doesn't matter what industry you're in, organizations are not taking advantage of this the way that they should and it's really because I don't think people really understand how to use data. There's a lot of misunderstanding out there about how to interpret data, how to make decisions based on data. It's actually one of my passion points that I really love to help organizations just understand the fundamentals of using data.
But often they've got all these data points locked away in different systems and so employees don't have access to them. And then even if access was available to them, it's just so much. Someone said, and a lot of people have probably said this, "We're swimming in data, we're drowning in data. We are actually at a point where we have too much data and just not enough insights coming out of it." So this is going to be something that I think we're going to see over the next 5 years, 10 years certainly that more and more organizations and technology platforms will be coming out to really help organizations harness their data and really bring insights out of that. I think AI is going to be huge in helping us really make sense of our data.
So Kerry, can you just expand on that just a little bit more? What about when it comes to personalizing experiences with residents? How does data come into play there?
That is the holy grail because people everywhere, it doesn't matter if you're a customer of some organization, our expectations are getting set and reset and reset every single day by companies like Amazon, Instagram owned by Meta, who also does Facebook, of course, but they are creating segments of one. I like something on Instagram and when I scroll up, the very next thing is based on what I just clicked on. And so people are getting used to these incredibly, incredibly personalized experiences. We've gone from a website saying, "Hi Kerry" to it, just delivering me exactly what I want. And so of course that's all possible because of data and it really underscores the importance of learning where your data is in the organization, sharing it with people across the organization and really finding out how you can make the best use of it.
Thanks for that. And we do live in such a digital first world. And so I want to talk a little bit more about omnichannel experiences. Can you maybe briefly describe what omnichannel experiences might look like within the property management space, maybe with some examples and how they play a role in creating a positive resident experience?
So omnichannel just really refers to going from a digital touchpoint, like a website to maybe another digital touchpoint, chat or a mobile app, but also going to a phone interaction, going to an in-person interaction. So you can think of this in the sales and marketing journey where a new resident is learning about your offerings and the living experience that you offer. And so they might see an ad, maybe it's a billboard, maybe it's something in a magazine, maybe they've talked to a friend, whatever it is, maybe it's online. And then maybe they go to Google, do a search, they go to a website, they learn about it, they schedule an appointment, and then they go and see someone in person and take a tour of the actual physical spaces. So that's all great and certainly we've had the capability to do that for many, many years as long as the web has been around and we've had phones and physical location.
But what's really important is bringing the data into that so that you can make all of those experiences seamless. It doesn't work so well if someone schedules an appointment to come tour the facilities and then they get there and the person meeting them has no idea who they are or isn't expecting them. Same thing. I mean with maintenance requests, it doesn't matter. Customers want to be known, people want to be known. And so it's really about creating all of those seamless interactions where you make your resident feel valued and feel that you really appreciate them as a person and not just tenant number, and this unit. I mean, no one wants to feel like that. They want to feel like, yeah, I'm a part of this community, the people who work here really care about me and they know me. And so that's really what the omnichannel experience is. And certainly given and just the amount of experience that happens in the physical space with this particular industry, it's really important that be married into all of the digital and other channels, so.
Got it. So for those property management companies that might be out there, and they're in the early stages of thinking through, what does a strategy look like to develop those types of experiences? What are some practical steps that they can take to start driving meaningful and long-term results?
Well, just like I was talking about with technology, it's about doing things with intention. So you are providing an experience to your residents already. And so the question is that an intentional experience that you have defined ahead of time and then taken actions to ensure that it's going to plan? Or are you just letting things happen? And so when I think of strategy, it's really about that intentionality to make sure that what you... let me start that over. So when I think about strategy, I really think about that intentionality of making sure that you have defined the experience. And let's face it, there are tons of different types of living experiences, which one do you want to provide? Which one is best for your target market for what your product is? The experience has to fold into all of these other different parts of your strategy.
Oh my gosh, this is such a complicated answer, so I'll just pick it up from there. So the experience has to fold into every other part of your business strategy. And the way you can make sure that you are really going down a path with your experience strategy that is going to serve both your current residents and your potential residents, but also your business. It really has to start with a solid understanding of who your residents and potential residents are and what they want, what they value. And so for me, really the underpinning of any experience strategy is going to be the voice of the customer and really, really digging into what they want and what's going to make them happy and what's going to make them loyal and want to stay.
Got it. And I've touched on this next topic with a couple of guests of mine, but I'm curious, how important is staff training and enablement to delivering these kinds of experiences? Can you share maybe one or two best practices that you've identified in this area that might be helpful?
Yeah, absolutely. And really it dovetails from what I was just talking about. Just as you've got the voice of the customer, you've got to make sure that you’re listening to the voice of your employees as well. Your employees are, first of all, going to be the people who can give you the best firsthand knowledge of your customers because they are interacting with them every single day. So they're just a great source of information for you. But also the voice of the employee refers to making sure that you understand what's going on with them. They're the ones who you have trusted to make your residents happy and make sure that they want to keep renewing their leases. And so making sure that your employees and your staff are happy is also important.
So just as you work on the resident experience, working on the employee experience, it's got to be right up there in terms of importance. And some people argue you got to focus on the employee experience first and then the resident experience will follow. To me, they're just all part of the same thing.
Great. And I wish I had thought of this earlier when we were talking about technology and access to data, but I'm curious, how can property management companies now measure and track the success of these kinds of initiatives? Are there maybe one or two metrics that you think they should focus on?
Yeah, certainly net promoter score, NPS is one of those. So net promoter score, if you're not familiar with it, it is that recommendation question, how likely are you to recommend? The net promoter score question, so NPS, there's also eNPS, which is your employee net promoter score, which is just tweaking the question a little bit to ask how likely are you to recommend working here to a friend or a family member? And that question doesn't really give you insight into what to fix, question itself. Typically you ask an open-ended question, why did you give that particular rating? But it's a great indicator. It's kind of like taking the temperature of what your experience is, either your resident experience or your employee experience. Taking our temperature with a thermometer doesn't tell us exactly what's wrong with us, but it tells us if we're sick or not or if we've got a fever or not.
So that's what I think of, that's what I would compare NPS to. And then for specific tasks that your residents really aren't going to want to do, like paying their rent or putting in a maintenance request, another metric that I really recommend is the perceived level of effort that they have to put in. So for some tasks, this just is irrelevant. If it's going to a social event, asking people about the level of effort to do that probably doesn't make sense. But when it's things that, oh yeah, I got to go do this, asking for that perceived level of effort, was this easier? Was this harder than you expected it to be? Or what was your level of effort on some numerical scale? There's a lot of different ways to ask that question. But it's a good one because it makes you understand whether or not you're making things easy for your customers and really what you're putting them through. But with all of these metrics, I would always recommend some open-ended questions to really get detail about why they're giving you a particular score.
I love that level of effort. I've definitely heard of NPS and eNPS and some of those others, but hadn't considered the level of effort and that's huge.
Yeah, and on websites it's a great metric for that because things that could be super easy, they're just not as easy, websites or mobile app or whatever it is. We're getting there. We're getting the point where things are pretty streamlined and easy, but still there's a lot of room for improvement out there.
Great. And so what are some potential challenges or barriers that you think property management companies might face when choosing to implement a new resident experience strategy and maybe how can they overcome them?
Well, we've already talked about one of them, which is ignoring the staff experience. Whenever you are implementing some type of change, you've got to make sure that your staff are on board. They can make things pretty difficult for you if they don't have buy-in, if they don't feel like they're involved, if they feel like being overlooked. So absolutely, that's a big one.
What I see with a lot of organizations who start down the experience path is that they get really impatient. And this makes sense. I mean, we are living in a world where I can order just about anything I want and have it delivered tomorrow and maybe even this afternoon. And so we are very impatient. The stock market makes us very impatient. Everything is just faster, faster, faster, faster. And so a lot of organizations, they get excited about the experience, strategy, about the potential of it, and then they don't see results like next week, and they tend to lose steam at that point and stop putting an effort into it. And then it just becomes the excitement of the day. This was a project, customer experience resident, it is not a project, it is the way that you do everything from this point forward.
And so my advice for getting over that hurdle is just you've got to take a long view on why you decided to focus on the resident experience in the first place and then just keep on going and you will see the results of it. But our attitudes and perceptions don't change overnight, especially if you've had bad experiences working with a particular company or organization. So it takes some time to get people to understand what's happening, understand that this isn't just a one-off thing. So definitely give it some time and take a long-term approach.
Thanks, Kerry. And as we start wrapping up this conversation-
I know it went by so quickly. Any final words of wisdoms or takeaways for our listeners that underscore the ROI on delivering an excellent resident experience?
You've just got to get out there and talk with your customers. Again, they are going to give you the information that you need to get on the right path. It doesn't matter if you provide, I don't know, let's say ice cream every afternoon. I'm just making something up. You might think that's a great experience because you love ice cream, but if the people in your buildings don't care about that, then you've just wasted a lot of money, which of course gets to the ROI. So ice cream may not be that much of an investment, but when you start thinking about technology, really any large investment staff, major policy changes, the way that you're really doing business every day, you've got to make sure that you're basing that on what your customers, your residents, really want in order to see that ROI.
So get out there and talk with your customers. And I know we've talked about surveys a couple times in this meeting today in our podcast. I know we've talked about surveys several times already and they're great. They will help you measure, they'll help you get that voice of the customer, but just go on site and actually talk to your customers face-to-face. There is nothing in the world like hearing your customers, your residents actually say the words directly to you. So that's what I'd recommend. Go out there, talk to your residents face-to-face.
Awesome. Well, Kerry, thank you so much for coming on and joining me today. It was great to have this conversation. I hope to have more-
My pleasure, my absolute pleasure. I really believe in this. I'm so happy. This is what I do every single day, and I wish everyone just a great success with their resident experiences.