Western Real Estate Business

SEP 2018

Western Real Estate Business magazine covers the multifamily, retail, office, healthcare, industrial and hospitality sectors in the Western United States.

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www.REBusinessOnline.com Western Real Estate Business • September 2018 • 63 A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH TO RESIDENT ENGAGEMENT By John Hinckley, CEO, Modern Message The adoption of recent emerging technologies coupled with a growing focus on delivering a great resident experience presents new opportuni- ties for driving resident retention, connectivity and community engage- ment. And it is now more essential than ever. More and more apartment communities are investing time and effort in identifying programs to en- hance community engagement such as community events, communication, feedback and incentives programs. Factoring the high turnover both by residents and onsite staff requires you to implement an engagement strategy that scales. Let's discuss how. Become systematic in how you en- gage with residents. Knowing an en- gaged community is a more valuable community, genuine interaction with residents can create significant value for the property manager, the com- munity, management and ownership company. A primary objective of the onsite staff is filling up an apartment community, retaining residents, and generating an overall good experi- ence. Resident engagement should be a proactive strategy to support these objectives and it must be nurtured and managed regularly, not reactive or as a one-off occurrence. We understand every apartment community will have residents that undergo bad experiences. It's a simple fact, issues will happen. However, these unhappy residents will be high- ly motivated to engage online and post about their bad experience, even though they represent a small per- centage of your overall community. In many cases, those stories can sadly become the online story of your com- munity for prospects to read about. On the other hand, the remaining 90% or so of residents that enjoy a good living experience, have the collective ability to share the most accurate sto- ry about the community. They are the key. With a systematic engagement program, you can change your online story by automating communication with existing residents and connect with them when they are most likely to respond. Who better to be a storyteller about your community than the majority of your residents? Based on five years of testing, experimentation and hy- pothesizing at Modern Message, we are finding the data to be consistent across the U.S. When you have a pur- poseful and progressive approach to resident engagement, more residents will eventually share experiences online and the better your story be- comes. This can play out as a support- ing role to the community managers, and when done right, you can drive amazing content from your residents without overwhelming dependence on the onsite teams. Automated ef- forts through email, apps, text, con- tests and rewards programs are all communication tools that can be used to accomplish your engagement goals. A systematic approach can also start by focusing on resident appreciation. People like to feel heard and acknowl- edged, especially apartment residents. Making your residents feel valued and appreciated while asking them to share feedback is key to success. We know that reviews are a powerful tool in leasing, especially in compet- ing markets. For example, if you had two very similar communities with the same amenities, same rates, same location, it really comes down to what the current residents are saying about their overall experiences. Online re- views can tip the scale, in the mind of a prospect, to the community with the best online reputation. An apart- ment community is more likely to become irrelevant or passed over dur- ing the search process if current resi- dents are not talking about them on- line. You have to get residents to talk about you! Encourage your residents to write honest reviews, but of course, never give an incentive for a positive 3rd party review. Lastly, don't let fear of a few negative resident comments get in the way of utilizing one of the biggest megaphones you have for your community. Your advocates will always overpower the noise. Resident reward programs are an- other strategy that tends to draw peo- IN THE INLAND EMPIRE NO MASTER PLAN LIKE IT UNRIVALED NOW DEVELOPING 5.1 MILLION SQUARE FEET Logistically located in the Inland Empire, the emerging Watson Industrial Park Chino features 5.1 million square feet of highly functional 36' Clear distribution centers that are packed with incomparable detail and sustainable design features. See what sets this Master Plan apart: www.watsonipc.com

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