Peer Insights: Blending Automation and Human Touchpoints to Enhance the Rental Experience

Peer Insights: Blending Automation and Human Touchpoints to Enhance the Rental Experience

Each month, we continue to host multifamily industry leaders in our “Sofa Seminar” series, gleaning from their experiences and success in multifamily marketing. In this month’s seminar, we learned how two seasoned multifamily marketers are using AI to enhance the rental experience, generate high-intent leads, and ease the load on leasing agents so they can focus on higher-impact work.

 

Joining us this month are:

  • Lindsey Kuhn, CMO at The Champion Companies, an Ohio-based multifamily real estate firm that owns and manages nearly 5,000 apartments
  • Liz Bogue, Director of Marketing at Bonaventure, a property management firm managing nearly 5,900 apartments across 29 communities in South Carolina and Virginia

 

Below you’ll find a sampling of topics covered in our discussion, which dove into the what, why and how Lindsey and Liz balance AI and human strengths in their marketing programs.

 

Adapting to new renter preferences and behaviors

 

Renter Preferences | PERQ AI Leasing AssistantAs you’re well aware, renter perceptions and decision-making have changed dramatically. “Renters are now renting by choice. They’re staying longer. They’re more demanding,” says Lindsey. Catering to those needs means onsite teams are taking on more responsibilities. “Any chance we can offer our agents or residents technology to make their lives better, that has been met with open arms,” she adds.

 

Lindsey also notes that renters are touring fewer properties and even renting sight-unseen. She reasons that those behaviors are natural outgrowths of renters doing more online research and narrowing their choices before they engage leasing agents. That makes it vital for property websites to inspire trust and deliver support without requiring prospects to call an agent each time they have a question.

 

Improving website engagement and conversions

 

To improve website experiences leading to conversions, Lindsey advises studying your renters’ journey. “Start with the basics, look at your analytics. Where are people coming from? What pages are they interacting with? Ask prospective renters about their shopping experience, if you can,” she explains. Once you understand what prospects are going through and the touchpoints in their search, use technology to make that journey easier.

 

Liz agrees with that approach, adding that visitors spend considerably more time on the property websites she manages after her team added an AI chatbot. “Prospective renters want instant gratification. We’re seeing data that they’re interacting with the bot longer. They’re scheduling tours. They’re asking a lot of questions and those questions are being answered. In the last three months, our AI chatbot was able to answer 93% of prospect questions, which is very impressive,” she shares.

 

Automating lead nurture

 

If someone visits your property website, it’s safe to conclude they’re looking for an apartment. Given how much effort and dollars you’ve invested in getting these prospects there, you need to know who they are. The only way to do that is to provide conversion tools.

 

Once you identify who your visitors are, lead nurture automations can take over to (a) deliver high-intent leads to leasing agents, and (b) nurture lower-priority leads, warming them up, capturing intel and nudging them closer to a “yes” — at which point agents step in. Having those automations in place has been a tremendous time-saver so agents can deliver superior customer service without getting bogged down by unqualified leads, says Liz.

 

Beta testing new technologies

 

Evaluating Tech | PERQ AI Leasing AssistantBoth Liz and Lindsey have well-defined processes for testing new technologies and capturing feedback from leasing agents before they fully deploy new systems. This not only ensures the technology investment will product results, but it also helps them secure buy-in from end users. To that end, both of our guest speakers follow a 90-day-minimum testing period, and have specific ideas about the properties they select to test new technologies,. (Watch the discussion below for details!)

 

Instant polls: How do you compare with seminar attendees?

 

During each seminar, we ask attendees to share their own marketing practices. Here’s what they told us in flash polls:

 

  • 25% personalize marketing messages with basic info like names or job titles
  • 75% personalize marketing messages with information that best suits the prospect (e.g., tour info, names, family info, move-in timelines or other criteria).
  • 75% currently track attribution for their lead sources. 25% aren’t sure.

 

Altogether, most attendees seem to prioritize source attribution and personalization in some capacity.

 

Other subtopics and audience questions

 

Finally, our guest speakers expanded on other key aspects of multifamily marketing performance, including:

 

  • Balancing AI automations with human touchpoints
  • Testing and training team members on new technology
  • Tripling visitor time spent on property websites to increase conversions
  • Managing lead source performance (using source attributions to discern what to change, prioritize, where to increase or reduce spend)
  • Lessons learned and what they’d do differently knowing what they know today

 

We invite you to watch the full discussion below and here’s to a profitable 3rd quarter.

 

 

PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how it works or request a demo.

 

 

Multifamily Marketers Use Technology to Retain Workers, Increase Efficiencies

Multifamily Marketers Use Technology to Retain Workers, Increase Efficiencies

multifamily-marketersBetween burnout and a desire for better work conditions, workers are fleeing the multifamily industry in alarming numbers.

In recent weeks, the Financial Review reported stress levels and mental health issues have spurred up to 30% of property managers to resign in the past year, and research by J. Turner Research reveals the average tenure of today’s apartment community manager stands at just 19.2 months. The resulting labor shortage is forcing many multifamily leaders to reconsider their staff workload and expectations, and ways that technology can ease their load without sacrificing results.

 

Adapting to shifting workforce demands

 

“We’re going to have to fundamentally rethink how we’re staffing up properties and what the expectation is of our teams,” says Yakov Belousov, executive director of operations for Pegasus Residential, in an interview with Multifamily Dive. Under Belousov’s leadership, the Georgia-based property management firm is piloting a four-day workweek as it seeks to improve employee experiences and retention.

“Everyone is looking for work-life balance. They want more time with their family and loved ones. They don’t want to be married to the job.” Belousov explains. To make that happen, the organization will employ technology to enable a “self-serve economy” that’s increasingly prevalent in the industry — think automated tour bookings, virtual support and anytime/anywhere access, for starters.

 

Magnifying workers and relieving workloads with automations, machine learning

 

For PERQ clients, employee benefits inherent in AI-powered lead management are just as important as the ability for prospective renters to access answers and support 24/7. By automating routine tasks like lead capture and nurture, answering FAQs, tour bookings, CRM maintenance, data analysis and more, leasing teams are free to focus on work that’s more meaningful and energizing, such as building relationships with high-intent prospects and identifying new market opportunities.

“Organizations can use AI to automate mundane tasks, freeing up human workers to apply their uniquely human capabilities (such as interpretation, communication, judgment, and empathy) to less-routine tasks, as well as explore new problems and opportunities,” Deloitte researchers explain. “The focus is on augmenting people, not replacing them,”

With that in mind, PERQ’s multifamily lead management platform is designed to benefit all audiences it touches:

 

  • Employees enjoy a lighter workload and more purposeful work, less stress, less chance for human error or poor decision making.
  • Prospects enjoy instant gratification with always-on support and automated, personalized follow-up.
  • The organization enjoys improved lead conversions and marketing ROI.

 

Belousov is a believer in applying technology to improve employee satisfaction and business results, simultaneously: “We have case studies that

show you are not losing any revenue, you are not missing out on leases, your occupancy is not dipping, and your rent growth is exactly where it was before,” even though workers are working fewer hours, he said.

247 assistance | PERQ AI Leasing Assistant

PERQ clients have also reported similar outcomes, averaging an 80% reduction in cost-per-lead, 226% increase in conversions, and 700+ hours saved for onsite teams after automating lead management. Lisa Delgado, PERQ client and VP of Asset Management for Boyd Wilson, has experienced those benefits first-hand. “If you want to be impactful in your [multifamily marketing program], you have to automate. No doubt,” she advises: “Find the right partner for your business.”

PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how it works or request a demo.

Peer Insights: How Multifamily Marketers Use Data to Woo Renters, Cultivate Advocates

Peer Insights: How Multifamily Marketers Use Data to Woo Renters, Cultivate Advocates

Do you really know your renters and what moves them to choose one property over another? In the latest installment of PERQ’s Sofa Seminar Series, we’re joined by two of your peers in exploring how multifamily data can help you turn more leads into renters and advocates.

Special guests Stephanie Rubino (Owner, Rubino Consulting) a marketing consultant who works with Boyd Wilson on their digital marketing tactics and leasing strategy and Lisa Delgado (VP of Asset Management, Boyd Wilson) share actionable tips for attracting and converting more leads into profitable, lasting relationships.

Following are some highlights of that discussion. (You’ll find the full Sofa Seminar presentation at the end of this post.)

 

multifamily-dataCapturing intel on stealth shoppers

 

We know most renters are beginning their property search early — typically three-plus months out, and mostly online. Long before you know who they are, they’re researching, narrowing options, and making decisions about your property.

With that in mind, many multifamily marketers are putting systems in place to facilitate online journeys, and also to capture meaningful insights to maximize the chances of turning those visitors into renters. Desired floor plans, move-in timelines, budget, desired amenities and other preferences are some of the insights you can capture long before prospects are willing to speak with a leasing agent.

 

Competing for renters’ attention, preference, and dollars

 

For years, many multifamily marketers had attempted to incorporate tech-driven conveniences and automated support to prospects and residents, but were met with resistance from change-verse or budget-conscious decision makers. Once COVID came on the scene, those tech advances became a necessity — a change that’s now permanent as consumer behaviors evolved to become more and more digital-dependent.

“During COVID, our two main words were ‘fluid’ and ‘pivot.’ Nowadays, they’re ‘choice’ and ‘experience,'” says Lisa. To that end, Lisa’s team uses PERQ’s AI chatbot on their website — they call it the iCare bot — to offer choices and create a compelling experience for website visitors.

Stephanie recalls a prospective renter who came to the website with questions about pets, utilities, and the application process at 10 p.m. one night. “Ms. iCare answered all of it,” she shares, referring to the AI chatbot. The idea is to provide instant support and a warm, personable touch when renters can’t (or prefer not to) interact with a leasing agent.

 

Identifying hang-ups, removing friction, and anticipating needs

 

By having visibility into how consumers are experiencing your property online channels — what’s working or isn’t, what’s drawing them in or turning them off — property marketers can get ahead of stumbling blocks that might hinder the results they’re chasing.

An AI-powered lead management system like PERQ’s makes those hidden tripping points visible, enabling you to meet renters’ expectations and give them ’round-the-clock support, without adding to your team’s workload.

 

Improving follow-ups and outcomes

 

Believing that personal follow-up is crucial for converting leads, Lisa and Stephanie note that the iCare chatbot has helped to weed out low-potential window shoppers who do need their questions answered but aren’t likely to convert any time soon (and thus aren’t the best use of leasing agents’ time).

In the meantime, lead capture and nurture automations keep those slow-moving prospects engaged and “warmed up” until they’re ready to tour and engage with an agent one-on-one. By then, agents have visibility into what that prospect wants so they’re better equipped to have a productive (and profitable) conversation. “We do train our teams to read the prospect’s conversation with the iCare bot before responding,” Lisa adds.

That’s where the human element shines, versus weighing agents down with low-impact activities or conversations that are better managed by an AI Assistant. “Our number-one reason for adopting PERQ was to be available to renters 24/7. Unless we started three shifts of leasing teams, this is how we can make it possible,” Lisa explains. “I know with 100% certainty that any digital lead coming into Boyd Wilson is being addressed, I was never able to say that before.”

 

Reducing marketing costs

 

Lastly, Lisa reports the AI lead management automation has enabled her to stop or reduce advertising spend in other channels, without hurting results. “It gives us more money to spend on other things, for sure,” says Lisa. Instead, she redirected media dollars into the automation software.

Asked what advice she’d give to fellow multifamily property marketers, Lisa recommends looking to AI: “If you want to be impactful in your business, you have to automate. No doubt. Find the right partner for your business.”

 

Your turn

 

Wondering what might be possible for your own marketing efforts? We invite you to learn from the full discussion below and sign up for the May Sofa Seminar before you leave today. We hope to see you next time!

 

PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how it works or request a demo.

What is Personalization and Why is it important in Multifamily?

What is Personalization and Why is it important in Multifamily?

The what and the why

multifamily personalization 1 | PERQ AI Leasing AssistantPersonalization is the act of tailoring an experience or communication based on information a company has learned about an individual. Just like you may tailor a gift for a friend, companies can tailor digital experiences or communications based on information they learn about their prospects.

In multifamily, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of change for PMCs. The need for isolation meant that relationship building, which was typically happening in person, needed to happen online. At the same time, consumers became more digital; embracing technology in new ways to research and purchase everything from groceries to cars. With everybody spending all of their time at home, many people decided to relocate to a more suitable place for their new situation, whether it was out of the city or a different floorplan to accommodate their new needs. This led to a surge in leasing activity unlike anything multifamily has seen before.

As the volume of renters in the market rose, supply and demand changes forced those renters to begin exploring their options earlier. In fact, a recent PERQ study indicated that nearly half of renters begin looking online 3 or more months in advance, a shift over prior years’ results. This is a clear indicator that prospective renters’ shopping behavior has changed.

With renters not ready for a tour or lease, they crave information to learn on their own and explore the options before they decide to tour or speak with a person. And they are used to the kind of digital engagement they get from other consumer brands. In short, they want and expect engaging and interesting content that is relevant to them.

According to a recent survey by McKinsey, personalization matters more than ever, with COVID-19 and the surge in digital behaviors raising the bar. Three-quarters of consumers switched to a new store, product, or buying method during the pandemic. So this shift in buying behavior is pervasive.

 

The call for personalization

Since today’s apartment shopper is looking months in advance and doing considerable research on their own before they are ready to tour, multifamily PMCs need to be able to engage with them in this new way. What do they want? They want to research multiple properties, understand the amenities of different neighborhoods, compare floorplans and rental rates to develop a short list. They want the properties to be in touch, but not TOO in touch. And they don’t want to be spammed. They want to talk to a person when they’re ready.

This puts a lot of pressure on the PMCs to change the way they’ve been engaging with their prospective renters. PMCs have begun to adopt chatbots and leasing assistants that can be there to answer FAQs 24/7 for these digitally savvy prospects. Doing this has helped lean multifamily teams that are just not equipped with the staff to engage with these shoppers in this way.

But today’s consumer is savvy and their standards are high for the websites where they gather information. Studies show that websites that include interactive experiences and offer some level of personalization outperform static websites. Thankfully, these interactive experiences allow for the gathering of the data that is needed to drive personalization.

With renters looking at websites well in advance of their intended move, it’s natural for a property to want to remain top of mind. Historically, that was the role of the onsite team, who would send follow up emails and outreach via phone to touch base. Some AI Leasing Assistants replace this follow up, sending automated touches in an attempt to get a tour scheduled. But consumers expect personalized outreach. In fact, the McKinsey study also found that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.

Personalization is all about helping your customers discover what they love and engaging with them in ways they would respond to. When you successfully provide your customers with meaningful personalized efforts, your customers are more likely to return to your website and engage with your brand. The below chart from the McKinsey report shows the kinds of personalization consumers enjoy.

mckinsey-chart-personalization

How PERQ can help

image of the smiling PERQ chatbotPERQ takes the call for personalization seriously, employing it as a tool to bring automation to the next level. PERQ installs on an existing property website and serves interactive experiences and widgets along with the website chatbot. As PERQ converses with prospects and they explore the experiences, it also collects the interactions in its system so it can be used to personalize automated nurture messaging in SMS and email. PERQ reaches out proactively to the rental prospect to keep a property top of mind, using the channels, timing and content that are the right fit for that individual prospect. When the lead is agent-ready, PERQ passes all of this data along in the renter guest card so the onsite team can tailor their conversation with the prospect accordingly, further personalizing the prospect’s experience.

Interactive website experiences and personalization pays off for multifamily properties. PERQ customers enjoy 2X the lead-to-tour conversion and an 80% savings in cost-per-lead over other lead automation technologies.

PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how it works or request a demo.

Peer Insights: How Wood Residential Sways Gen Z Renters

Peer Insights: How Wood Residential Sways Gen Z Renters

The fastest growing segment in the U.S. renter market, Gen Z renters now lead multifamily market trends — particularly as their habits and priorities differ sharply from earlier generations. How do you sway these modern renters to click, interact, book a tour, and lease a multifamily unit?

Brian Ericson, Senior Vice President of Marketing, and Kira Brown, Senior Marketing Manager at Phoenix-based Wood Residential recently shared the trends they’re seeing and how they’re attracting today’s generation of renters.

Following are some highlights of our discussion, and you can catch the full Sofa Seminar presentation at the bottom of this post.

 

Instant gratification, just a tap or click away

Gen Z craves instant answers, expecting the same ease, immediacy, and anytime/anywhere access they enjoy from online retailers, media platforms, and AI assistants like Siri or Alexa. Fail to provide that lickety-split experience at fleeting moments when you have their attention and they’ll jump ship to a competing website that can satisfy their need for ease and speed.

“Either a leasing agent or automated tool needs to get back to them really fast, because if we don’t, we’ll lose them,” cautions Kira. “If someone else answers their questions right away and we respond 24-36 hours later, that prospect may very well have made their decision by then, even if they’re not planning to move in for a while.”

“The bar we’re being held to isn’t just the competitors down the street. It’s the Amazons of the world,” Brian adds.

 

Longer, self-led searches

Based on their data, Brian and Kira note younger renters are beginning their search months in advance. The tendency is for prospects to do heavy research as “stealth shoppers,” then narrow top choices before they’re comfortable interacting with a leasing agent.

That’s also true for folks moving to new markets, says Kira. Out-of-towners might come check the neighborhood and location, then return home to complete their leasing decision online. When they’re ready to talk, decisions tend to be quick, leaving agents with a short window to respond.

Altogether, those behaviors require multifamily marketers to ensure the right technologies are in place to empower prospects in their research, and deliver lightning-fast support when prospects are ready to engage.

 

Automations as experience enhancers and staff relief

Aside from delivering the anytime/anywhere support Gen Z renters crave, automations also free up staff time to focus on what they do best and what delivers the greatest impact, such as hosting a high-intent prospect tour versus answering the same question about pet policy 30 times a week, for example.

Using the PERQ AI leasing agent on their websites, Wood Residential’s chatbot (aptly called “Woody”) has answered 1,800 prospect questions in just three months. “That’s 1,800 straightforward questions that prospects got real-time answers to. They didn’t have to pick up the phone or send an email,” says Brian.

Staff, in turn, gets more time and headspace to devote to higher-impact activities and things they actually enjoy like getting creative, building relationships, and refining strategies. “Automation can make our jobs more interesting and compelling because we’re freeing our teams to focus on what’s hopefully the fun stuff,” shares Brian. “We’re taking a lot of the boring routine stuff like sending copy-paste emails on basic inquiries.”

 

Optimizing cross-channel experiences

Optimizing user experiences on website and mobile, using data to fine-tune what’s working (or isn’t), and leveraging captured data to personalize interactions are some of the ways Wood Residential is evolving their marketing efforts.

We invite you to learn from our full discussion below and check out the PERQ AI Lead Management Platform that’s generated great results for Wood Residential.

PERQ Renter Data Shows Which Resident Events Ideas Are Worth It

PERQ Renter Data Shows Which Resident Events Ideas Are Worth It

Recent reports show that Millennials have the lowest rate of homeownership when compared to the generations before them. When surveyed, 18% expressed that they believe they will be renting for their whole lives. This number has only continued to increase in the last few years.

 

Today’s renters are viewing apartment communities with a different lens than generations past.

 

So, what does this mean for your onsite multifamily teams?

Women working around a big laptop

 

One way to keep residents happy is to cater to their need for community and one way to accomplish this is through fun and creative resident activities ideas for apartments, like virtual event ideas and in-person gatherings to giveaways and promotional experiences. However, with all the other tasks your onsite team is managing, they may not have the time to decide what activities are best for your community to get residents to participate and enjoy themselves.

 

Luckily, some of the guesswork of what residents want can be taken off your team’s plate. PERQ’s Multifamily Field Guide gathers data from over 4 million consumer responses through our leasing automation platform powered by an artificial intelligence (AI) decision engine that lives on over 1000 multifamily property websites all over the nation. The Field Guide offers multifamily property management companies (PMCs), like yours, an inside look into what renters want.

 

Below are a few examples of the kind of data we collect and how your team can interpret it to come up with the best resident activities for your communities.

 

 

SHOPPING AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

On a national level, when it comes to activities renters enjoy the most, shopping and social activities are tied for the number 1 spot. There are plenty of fun resident activities and events that can be centered around shopping and socializing with others including:

  • Pop-up Shops
  • BBQ Cookout/Tailgate
  • National Food/Beverage Days Celebration
  • Cornhole Tournament
  • Food Truck Fridays
  • Puppy Play Date

 

Your communities could partner up with local businesses in the area to do a farmer’s market style pop-up shop event. If the weather allows this can also be done outside. Residents can shop around, talk to one another, and bring their friends and family along. This is a great way for residents to also show the property to others they know who may be looking for their next rental, which could be a great referral opportunity! This kind of event allows for the property to increase resident satisfaction while also fostering relationships with local businesses.

 

Whether it’s the pop-up shops or hosting a Food Truck Friday, be sure to take photos and videos for your property’s website and social media. Events come and go. Being able to show prospects through your website or on your social media actual footage of past resident events gives them a better idea of life in your community.

 

 

VIRTUAL EVENTS

We do live in a world that is ever changing when it comes to whether in-person gatherings are best for everyone given the COVID-19 pandemic. And virtual resident events are still a great option for the colder months and for more casual events. You can host a monthly bingo or trivia night for residents with prizes for the winners. The prizes can be anything from gift cards to local shops in the community or tickets to an event happening in town.

4 friends hanging out on video chat

 

Outside of virtual game nights, you can even host virtual book/podcast clubs. Send out which book or podcast that will be covered in your monthly resident newsletter that way everyone can be prepared.

 

 

This kind of activity is still social but allows for residents to connect with each other on a deeper level. The best part about these virtual events is they can be shifted to in-person when the time comes.

 

You might be wondering if it’s worth doing resident events at all.  However, with more renters staying in the rental market over owning a home, fostering a community at your property is imperative for resident retention and satisfaction. This is your residents’ home and with renters looking to do social activities, creating that space at your properties is essential.

 

Remember, we have the data to help your team select resident events that make the most sense for your communities. Access our full renter data report to get a deeper dive into what your residents and prospects are looking for.

 

PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how it works or request a demo.