Telephone Follow Ups
I am laughing because today we are going to start with telephone follow ups. There are times that I become so frustrated when I want to call someone and can’t find the telephone number on their website. Seems like the telephone is headed towards extinction!
When it comes to providing a personal touch, telephone follow ups are tough to beat. They’re equally important when it comes to communicating with residents, and pay off equally well in both instances as valuable marketing and retention tools. Cards are fabulous, and letters are great, emails are fast and easy but nothing beats areal, live human voice when it comes to providing service, communicating facts,or just plain conveying interest and appreciation. Use this amazing marketing and retention tool at every given opportunity! Call them, call them, call them! Call when a service request can’t be handled immediately to explain why, or to find out if they’re satisfied with a recently resolved problem and if they need anything else. Call a few residents each day just to see how they’re doing and get a little feedback. When you are not able to make all the calls personally,write out a basic script and get a little help from your staff or from a temp or student with great phon e skills. You want the message that you care for your residents to come across loud and clear!
Before we move on, let’s take a moment to review basic telephone follow ups techniques. First and foremost, when residents call, treat them with the utmost courtesy (no matter what attitude they present to you). Never put a resident on hold or otherwise make him or her wait for your full attention–once you’ve picked up the phone, you’re all theirs. If your residents complain that they cannot get through to you on the telephone, it may be time to install more telephone lines or to hire someone else to assist in answering calls.
Resident Reward and Recognition Programs
In order to be truly effective with telephone follow ups, resident rewards and recognition programs must be ongoing. Thank you notes and cards remind them that you recognize their importance to the community, and giving gifts or bonuses for referrals shows them how much you appreciate their efforts, but effective retention goes far beyond these occasional actions. Many communities believe that their residents feel valued and important based on such gestures when, in fact, this isn’t the case.Remember also that though competitors can often match your rental rates,amenities, features, and services, they can’t capture or match your community’s unique personality.
It’s the little; daily, personal things you do to make your residents feel important and appreciated that have the greatest long-term impact. Perhaps you’re already implementing some of the ideas we’re about to discuss, but it’s still worth your while to take a closer look at the way you communicate with your residents as a matter of daily practice. Please understand that these are strictly resident-retention ideas–they are not to be confused with actually providing quality service to your residents. They are,nonetheless, vital to your community’s success because they create the kind of long-lasting, good feelings between your team and residents that, when coupled with value-added service, makes residents want to come back for more!
The single most important thing you can do to make a resident feel important is to recognize his or her individual identity. This is far less complicated than it sounds–it actually entails little more than recognizing them and making an effort to convey a friendly interest in their happiness and satisfaction as residents of your community. Of course, you should do all you can to learn and remember the names of as many residents as you are able to, but for many of us, recognizing faces is a far more reasonable goal. Here are a few additional suggestions to get you started:
Whenever you have an opportunity personally with a resident, always, always, always pay attention,listen, and learn.
Ask them about their family, especially their children or grandchildren.
Congratulate them on a recent achievement or happy family event, like a job promotion, addition to the family, new automobile, etc.
Ask for their advice or opinion on something related to the community.
Thank them for being a valued resident of your community.
Give them a surprise just for being a resident. Everyone loves a surprise.
Create your own, unique resident recognition and reward program to differentiate your community from the competition, and make your residents feel smart and satisfied in their decision to be a part of your community.
Think of several more ways to make your residents feel important. Add them to your marketing and resident retention plan. Keep in mind that the key to success in making residents feel important is to make them feel as though you’re taking a special and sincere interest in only them, so add a special personal touch to your communications whenever you’re able.
This is where our focus turns from proactive retention efforts to more reactive ones, because not all residents are happy residents, and not all happy residents are happy all of the time. Sometimes you have to make up for bad service or a bad experience. Recovery consists of those actions you take to atone for resident dissatisfaction. Restitution is what you give your residents to compensate them for their inconvenience.Neither is a pleasant term, and some of us have had enough close encounters to squirm a little at the very thought–but would you believe me if I told you that they’ll bring you some of the best retention opportunities you’ll ever encounter?
This is not to say that it’s okay to allow service to slip, but you should welcome any situation that requires service recovery and restitution. Consider that you’re being offered an opportunity for your commitment to excellence to shine through, in stark contrast to whatever situation caused the resident’s dissatisfaction.
Most recovery and restitution opportunities result from resident complaints, but it’s important to realize that these complaints are not always necessarily loud and demanding. Even extreme dissatisfaction can be quiet and, sometimes, almost go unnoticed. If you’ve ever read the statistics concerning the number of people who don’t complain compared to those who do, you know that the “squeaky wheels” are only the “tip of the iceberg.” When Lincoln Property Company was managing my apartments, I learned of a study that said on average when a resident moved out that there were 7-9 items that needed repaired. Why? Because the resident did not request service, instead they quietly moved! You need to check with residents every chance you get to make certain repairs are being taken care of.
Those residents that are the squeaky wheels should be music to your ears, because they perform a special service for you, your staff,and the rest of the community. In taking the time to make their voices heard, they’re giving you the opportunity to focus on a problem and to respond with improved service. Treat each complaint as the valuable opportunity it is by taking the time to acknowledge the issue and resolve it immediately!
You probably already have some type of recovery and restitution program in place, even if it’s just a general understanding born of past experience.
Action: Complete the exercise below for each of your community policies. The result will be an updated recovery and restitution program that should be incorporated into your resident retention plan. We’ve given you a couple of examples to get you started.
Example: Late rental payments will result in a $150 late charge.
Residents are automatically charged if payment is not received by the 5th of the month.
Residents who have never failed to pay on time and who have lived in the community for at least nine months.
Send a letter that tells the resident he or she is valued, and that the late fee has been waived because of prior timeliness.
Think of several more ways to make your residents feel important. Add them to your marketing and resident retention plan.
I am going to end of here today, please take 30 minutes to complete the action steps I have mentioned.
We both have work to do, have fun! Do you consider work fun? I do! My favorite new book is Happy Hour is 9 to 5.
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