3 min read
It has been a year for everyone, including the multifamily industry. Properties and management companies had to shift in how they operate and communicate in order to meet health guidelines and ensure that they are working towards getting leases signed.
Jamin Harkness, EVP at The Management Group (TMG), sat down with our EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, to look back at 2020 and discuss how to keep moving forward. From diversity and company culture, updated pet and mental health policies, to resident retention, Jamin has a lot of insight on how to help multifamily companies and teams evolve with the times.
Self-Guided Tours Reimagined
Prospects typically want to see the floorplan in person before making a decision. Not everyone is comfortable with an in-person tour still, but a self-guided tour is a great compromise. Jamin has redefined what a self-guided tour can be.
By installing a Ring camera and stocking up the fridge of staged units with snacks, the onsite teams at TMG properties can keep an eye on what prospects are doing inside the unit and offer a more immersive experience.
Jamin explains, “they grab Cheetos and a Coke, take a seat on the couch, and really see themselves living there.” While staging a unit helps prospects picture in their head what it would be like to live in the unit, by offering snacks and the leisure to relax in the unit, Jamin has created an experience that is more impactful to the prospect.
Company Culture and CRM
Jamin and TMG came into this year knowing that diversity and equity within their company is an initiative that needs life past 2020. From shutting down the company early last February to allow everyone the time and space to learn about diverse topics and coming back to discuss them in a more casual setting as a team, these initiatives are great for creating a company culture where everyone feels heard and included. He also began sending employees fun company shirts, branded items, and other fun inexpensive fun gifts every month.
When it comes to the technical aspect, Jamin notes that working from home has really improved performance from the onsite teams. While they only have one, at most two, people in the office for package handling, Jamin expects to always have at least one person working from home when the world opens up again.
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“There’s less distractions and they can focus on the CRM,” he says. Jamin also started implementing multiple weekly meetings to get everyone from onsite teams to board members on the same page and to communicate openly and clearly. Along with work from home, Jamin highlighted many times how important maintenance has been during all of this. While there are more work orders because more people are at home, they are spending more time on preventative work as well to help keep their property up to date and working efficiently.
On top of maintenance work everyday, he makes sure they are provided with and are using personal protective equipment (PPE) and given a monthly bonus to show how much these workers are appreciated and valued by the properties.
Throughout the chat, Jamin provided many resources —from daily logs related to COVID symptoms to internal communication on health guidelines similar to OSHA except for multifamily companies. You can find all the resources that were shared below along with similar articles.
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[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Consumers want options. The way we shop, do our research online and who we choose to do business with all comes down to each individual person. There’s no difference when it comes to touring your property. Giving consumers options online for how they can tour your property on their own terms is necessary, whether that’s a video, virtual tour, self-guided tour or in-person tour.
While the majority of prospects will start their research online, the next steps they take depends on their comfort level of interacting with your team during this pandemic and how soon they’re ready to rent.
During our recent webinar, we talked to Karen Gladney, co-founder of Power Pro Leasing, about touring options, while focusing more specifically on how to offer better self-guided tours. She visited 100 properties in 100 days and says the results were alarming. “Forty-six precent of the time, I had to wait or was sent away. Just think if I had been offered a self-guided tour experience and how I could have been taken care of in that moment,” Gladney says.
When they started their “Tour Your Way” campaign eight months ago, Gladney says the studies were showing 95% consumers prefer to shop alone while going through a buying decision and 90% want to speak to a human being during that time. “How do you blend those?,” she asks. “You don’t operate in two different silos.”
Better Self-Guided Tours Start with A Plan
Self-guided tours aren’t new. Look at hotels, for example. We’re able to all check in at a desk, grab the key card and find our way to the room without hotel staff walking us there. “Walk through your property and make sure your signage is as strong as it can be to help guide prospects where they should go,” Gladney advises. It seems simple enough, yet so many properties lack the necessary signage.
Look at your current touring situation, too. What type of tours do you offer? How can you improve? As technology and smart locks continue to improve, so are self-guided tours. Gladney says even if you don’t have the budget to incorporate new features, leaving a key on a table and putting a touring plan in place will help you succeed. “You are going to see higher returns if you offer more tour options,” she says. “That’s just a fact.”
Start by sharing on your website the different options of tours you offer. Give people on your website the ability to book the type of tour they want and most importantly follow up with those who tour your property.
For someone who schedules a tour, confirm the tour time and ask them if they have any questions in advance. After the tour, ask them which unit they preferred if they looked at multiple options or ask them what their favorite features were of the property. It’s all about communication. “Follow up matters because you remain relevant and top of mind,” Gladney says.
First and foremost, be yourself when you’re talking to a prospect. “We are all salespeople, but be your authentic self. Some people will buy you and some people won’t,” Gladney says. You just have to try.
Self-Guided Tour Options Here to Stay
Training your team to role play can help each leasing specialist better understand what it feels like to be in the prospects shoes. “Make sure every team member acts like the prospect. Have them go online, go to your online scheduling tool, select the tour and then have another team member deliver the experience.” You’ll find gaps, missing signage, and most importantly how to improve.
As you map out your touring experience, you should also be able to identify gaps in technology you might have. Gladney recommends requesting a demo, not a slideshow, from vendors you’re considering. You’ll be able to see exactly how that technology will help your property.
“The best experiences and collaboration comes out of working with people you enjoy,” she says. “Be careful of vendors who try to be everything to be everyone. Typically, a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.” Operators have the power to ask how vendors can work together to get the most benefit.
As we move into the future, remember that everyone has a different comfort level and you and your team will need to stay sensitive to that. By offering different touring options, including self-guided tours, you’re letting each prospect choose the best option for themselves. “I believe self-guided tours will stay and properties who keep it will be ahead of the curve against their competition,” Gladney says.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
Additional Multifamily Resources
Your apartment doesn’t need bells and whistles to offer self-guided apartment tours. During our recent lunch and learn with Power Pro Leasing, a mobile leasing app for apartment operators that also offers self-guided tour technology, attendees learned putting a plan in place is all it takes to begin.
Karen Gladney, co-founder of Power Pro, says consumers have come to expect options when looking at an apartment and why they believe in the philosophy of “tour your own way.” Even after the pandemic, apartments will still need to offer multiple tour options, whether that’s self-guided, video or in-person tours.
Everyone will be moving at their own pace in the months to come, Gladney says, and while some will be comfortable scheduling an in-person tour of a unit, others will want to do it all on their own.
The first step properties should take is mapping out a vision for the ultimate touring experience. Train your teams on what each type of tour, including self-guided tours, should look like. To begin, everyone on your team should play the role of the prospect and leasing specialist for each of the tour types you offer. Enabling your teams will help them to be successful.
Most importantly, human connection still needs to be a part of the process even when offering self-guided tours. Your communication on the front end and right after that tour will be the ultimate factor in whether someone chooses to lease from you.
Resources to Help with Property Tours
Eleven Self-Touring Tips to Make it a VIP Experience
100 Properties: A View Into the Leasing Experience
Re-opening Strategies for Apartment Communities
7 Feelings Your Apartment Website Should Create
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Power Pro Leasing
Additional Multifamily Resources