— By Mark Peters, president and general manager at Zego —
Property managers are always looking for ways to improve resident satisfaction. But that’s not so easy in today’s competitive rental market, where renters reportedly have higher standards of value and service than they once did.
Resident satisfaction directly affects a property’s financial performance. A recent study from financial advisory firm Deloitte found that great customer experiences grow revenue. Companies can earn up to 140 percent more from customers who have had positive experiences with their business. These individuals are also likely to remain customers for five years longer than those who’ve had mediocre or negative experiences.
When translating this to the multifamily industry, renters who are happy with their community often renew their leases. Those who aren’t happy move out and leave property managers with the cost to turn that unit — which can be nearly $4,000, according to a 2022 report from property management automation company Zego.
While there are reasons besides owner and operator control that can drive residents to move out, communities that deliver positive resident experiences tend to have much higher retention rates and lower turnover costs.
Resident satisfaction will always be dependent upon good customer service and a pleasant living experience. As the market evolves, there are four tactics owners and operators can adopt to keep today’s renters happy.
Implement Automation for a More Efficient Community
Data from Zego indicates that short-staffed or overwhelmed on-site teams can impact resident satisfaction, leading to high resident turnover. It’s crucial to prioritize resident interactions over cumbersome manual tasks to enhance resident satisfaction and reduce staff stress. Striking the right balance between automated workflows and human touch is essential.
To address this challenge, property managers can leverage automation for a wide range of tasks, freeing up time for on-site teams to focus on the residents.
Properties may already rely on automation in some shape or form. However, many solutions leave gaps throughout the end-to-end process that employees must resolve. Some communities may already have automated parts of the rent collection process, for instance, but what about post-payment issues? Automation, such as revenue protection services, can efficiently handle costly and time consuming situations like chargebacks, NSF returns and delinquent funds.
Automation streamlines a range of hefty on-site tasks such as resident payments, utility billing, resident communication and package notifications. This results in faster, more efficient services, and ultimately contributes to both increased staff and resident satisfaction.
Communities thrive when there’s a strong relationship between on-site teams and residents. The goal when implementing automation is to provide residents with good customer service and reduce stress for on-site associates.
Bring Community Technology to Gen Z Standards
Technology plays a prominent role in resident satisfaction. Many renters feel that tech-enabled lifestyle is the most important aspect of the resident experience. Property managers, meanwhile, report that tenants have increased their expectations of community technology in the past year.
It’s vital to meet the tech-savvy expectations of today’s renters, especially the Gen Z demographic. Gen Z comprises people born between 1996 and 2010. This generation has recently become the largest segment of renters, according to RentCafe.
When technology doesn’t meet Gen Z’s high standards, they will likely abandon a community — even when everything else checks their boxes.
A recent survey from Construction Executive magazine found that 62 percent of Gen Z renters considered community technology an “extremely” or “very important” leasing factor. Gen Z also reported that modern community technology is even more essential in a rental than an extra bedroom. Beyond fast Wi-Fi, they cite a desire for a mobile app to manage rent and maintenance, smart locks, thermostats and energy-efficient appliances.
Gen Z is also entering the workforce at higher rates, and this generation is clear about their preference to work for businesses that embrace technology.
A study by Zapier found that one in six Gen Z employees have quit a job because their employer did not provide the technology necessary to do their job. 95 percent of Gen Z employees also stated they are willing to automate parts of their jobs to avoid performing mundane work.
And remember, staffing shortages are hurting resident satisfaction. Therefore, it’s wise to consider Gen Z’s work preferences to attract and retain their promising talent.
Beyond helping teams accomplish more with less, automation is important in overcoming staffing shortages by offering an appealing employee experience. Keep these statistics in mind when considering the employee experience for on-site teams, as many positions within on-site teams are likely being filled by Gen Z’ers.
Use Surveys to Monitor Resident Satisfaction and Potential Turnover
Surveying renters and addressing their feedback will always be a good practice. With current market conditions projecting a wave of resident turnover, this tactic will be even more critical for resident satisfaction success in 2024.
Quarterly surveys are frequent enough that residents will recall positive and negative experiences and help operators keep tabs on resident sentiment.
Once survey responses are received, it’s crucial to acknowledge resident voices to ensure their suggestions will be considered when implementing community improvements.
When renters leave a community, don’t accept it as a loss and move on. It’s important to know why residents are leaving and identify trending issues that can be fixed. Send existing residents a quick survey after they give notice to vacate to understand why they decided to leave.
Improve Maintenance Workflows for Technicians and Residents
A top resident satisfaction struggle for property managers is resolving maintenance issues. The 2024 NMHC Resident Preferences Report showed that 31 percent of residents said maintenance was a deciding factor in leaving a community.
Property maintenance and updates should be completed without burdening residents or draining team members. Without an effective work order management system, property updates will only lead to decreased resident satisfaction and unhappy maintenance technicians.
Some renters accept and acknowledge that repairs are occasionally necessary. Others quickly become irritated when something doesn’t work perfectly. Regardless, the process of resolving maintenance issues can severely impact resident satisfaction. When evaluating work order management systems, some resident-facing aspects to keep in mind include:
- Easy to initiate. One way to increase a renter’s frustration about a maintenance issue is to make them call or email a property manager. Contactless, self-service options are far more convenient for residents. Ideally, they can submit and track service requests through a resident experience app.
- Details, please! A platform should allow them to submit a ticket in just a few steps. But they also need the capabilities to elaborate on a request — not just check a box on what’s wrong. When they can add details or pictures to the work order, it communicates the issue to ensure technicians are prepared upon arrival.
- Status updates. Residents want to be updated on their maintenance request process from when they submit it to when the issue is resolved. A work order platform should provide updates so that on-site teams are not burdened with another task.
With multifamily turnover costs about $4,000 per unit and renter expectations high, providing a top-tier resident experience is a necessity. By striking the right balance between automation and personal touch, operators can relieve employee stress and retain residents.
Mark Peters began working at Zego in 2018. He has held several leadership positions across the company’s finance, customer success and partnerships divisions, helping to propel Zego from private equity ownership with Vista Equity Partners to Global Payments. Most recently, Peters headed Zego’s finance, payment operations, customer renewals and business systems departments, driving cross-functional leadership to ensure the company’s current and future success.