Apartment Leasing: Customer Experience Is Key For Renters

Customer service is defined as “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services”.

Regardless of professional background or industry, customer service is a term we’re all familiar with — whether by the formal definition above or through our own individual experiences as customers.

In either case, service is a critical component to any modern business model, and its place in the multifamily industry is no different.

While customer service continues to get all the attention, it’s ‘customer experience’ that deserves the accolades.

What’s the Difference Between Customer Service And Customer Experience?

But what do I mean by customer experience exactly? Let me explain by elaborating on why it should be your #1 priority moving forward.

Customer Service is the Past

Customer service is generally perceived as a single interaction, most often processed through the traditional ‘customer service’ department.

In the past, customer service has been treated as a distinct arm of the business that’s focused on throwing proverbial ‘Band-Aids’ on problems that have arisen within, by, or against the company.

As someone who has spent time handling these situations both on-site and in a corporate environment for a multifamily management company, I’m well versed in these reactive Band-Aid moments.

For clarity, an example of this might be if a prospective renter comes by the leasing office to inquire about an apartment and the on-site leasing agent is rude or dismissive. The prospective renter then feels they’re being mistreated and that the leasing agent is not looking out for their best interest. Unfortunately, the next phase of this likely comes in the form of a negative online review.

Cue the fire extinguisher.

But while customer service is viewed as reactive, customer experience is built with a thought-out and proactive emphasis.

Customer Experience is the Now and Future

The Harvard Business Review defines customer experience as “the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company”.

This includes everything from a customer’s initial awareness or discovery of a company, product, or service and progresses through to the actual purchase and/or use of those products or services.

It’s together that these critical moments, or touch points, create an organization’s overall customer experience.

As it applies to the multifamily industry, customer experience could include a renter’s journey, for example, from when they first discovered the apartment community, to when they contacted the community, to when they toured the property, and potentially, to when they decided whether or not to sign a lease as a resident.

All those micro-moments and interactions along the way make up the customer experience.

  • How the community website or online reviews was perceived by the potential renter(s)
  • How helpful and knowledgeable the leasing agent was over the phone when inquiring about the community
  • How willing and accommodating the sales person was when touring the community
  • How much conviction the on-site team had when selling the prospect on living at this community instead of the one down the street that’s just a little bit cheaper

If any of the above interactions turned sour, the renter’s opinion or decision to live at the community could be ruined. Each step lays groundwork for the interactions that follow.

The key takeaway here is that customer experience moves us beyond the traditional definition of customer service — those individual moments when employees are providing direct service to customers.

Customer experience is about the bigger picture — what happens before and after these customer service interactions.

The Challenge of a 24/7 Customer Experience Environment

Building a true, customer experience focused environment is not an easy feat. You and your team must be honest in assessing your current status.

What are you doing right? What could you improve upon? What are your most recent tenants saying about their experience with your team?

A great starting point would be to proactively ask for feedback from your residents.

What do they like about living at your community? Where would they like to see improvements?

By proactively asking for resident feedback, you’re not only getting ahead of potential negative online reviews. You’re also displaying a sincere willingness to improve that your residents will appreciate while also uncovering the improvement areas your residents care about most.

Remember, this isn’t necessarily about providing additional amenities, apartment upgrades, or other things that are out of your staff’s direct control.

Customer experience is about the things you can control.

It’s about ensuring your residents feel completely satisfied with the services provided by your management team, maintenance team, and leasing agents.

The next step is to communicate your vision to all those involved — corporate, contractors, on-site employees, and your residents.

Empower all of your team members with the flexibility to ‘think outside the box’ to deliver added value and satisfaction every time they interact either directly, or indirectly, with your customers.

Better Customer Experiences Create Better Customers

There’s an inverse relationship between the quality of the customer experience that an organization delivers, and the quality of the clientele (or in our case, residents) that company attracts.

In the multifamily industry, building a strong brand through consistent positive customer experiences can help owners and managers attract top-tier renters — residents who are willing to spend more and stay longer in exchange for a property that delivers a superior experience.

Residents expect a positive experience.

By creating an environment where all of your team members understand the value of creating an exceptional customer service, you’ll begin to integrate positive changes into your properties that can help reduce resident complaints, minimize turnover, and in the long run, increase revenue.

Integrating Customer Service Into Customer Experience

The best approach is to integrate customer service into your overall customer experience model.

Customer Service + Customer Fulfillment = The Customer Experience

By thinking of your customer-focused efforts like this, you’re able to truly gain an understanding of the customer experience.

The experience encompasses every aspect of a company’s offerings — from the quality of its customer care to its reputation management, marketing, branding, product and service features, reliability, etc.

This is more important than now than ever before, especially for multifamily organizations that want to continue to differentiate themselves from their market competition.

It’s essential to understand customer experience and approach it holistically, with those individuals responsible giving intentional thought and focus to how their decisions will shape and impact the overall customer experience.

Originally published at blog.letitrain.com.