Today, many apartment operators continue to grapple with the unknowns arising from the COVID-19 health crisis, making their day-to-day property management decisions more difficult.
However, more and more communities are realizing the benefits that flow from one aspect of property management that is under their control: reputation management.
J Turner Research explored the value of a strong online reputation, measured largely by online reviews, at its second annual J Turner Research Summit in December in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The J Turner Summit offered several ways for apartment communities to improve their Online Reputation Assessment (ORA ™) scores. One is to make an effort to get residents to post reviews on multiple sites (not just Google, for example). Having multiple sites with reviews helps build trust in the community, which can be viewed favorably by apartment seekers.
J Turner Research’s ORA Score has been the primary indicator of community sentiment for many years. Research shared at the summit validated this and its value when comparing individual properties competing with market averages in all types of residential properties based on monthly ORA scores.
Using a statistical model, these ORA scores serve as a benchmark for comparing a company’s individual properties and portfolios nationally, regionally, and against the competition.
The ORA Score is an aggregate compilation of a property’s ratings from various review sites and ILS.
The “Art of Demand”
Bozzuto, the high-scoring ORA company, hosts a Resident Appreciation Day (RAD) every year. Senior Vice President, Marketing and Customer Engagement Kelley Shannon said her company had 100% ownership of its communities and had 750 reviews that day in June.
Additionally, the company has been able to create a large amount of effective social content from its residents who post funny and entertaining pictures and comments on social media.
The fact that residents post reviews can come down to ‘the art of asking’, but ‘you really shouldn’t need to have contests to do it,’ Shannon said. “This should be part of your daily messages with your residents so that they are aware of the posting of notices. “
Nothing like “going beyond expectations”
Trevor Workman, the janitor for the Windsor Bethesda community in Bethesda, Maryland, shared his success story for his property with an ORA ™ score of 98.
Workman embodies excellent customer service and attitude. The community got 120 five-star reviews that specifically mentioned it by name. He celebrated the milestone of March 100 by tattooing five stars on his arm.
“With customer service, you’re passionate or not,” Workman said. “And remember, there is no such thing as going beyond that, because doing it every day is part of that job. The best time to treat your residents well is all the time.
Workman does not see his property as a community, but rather as a “castle”. The occupancy rate of this castle has regularly fluctuated between 98 and 99%.
He recounted how an injured resident contacted him and asked if the property had crutches. It doesn’t, so Workman went to the nearby CVS and bought some from him, using FaceTime while he was at the store to communicate with the resident, who of course also asked for Icy Hot, bandages and other first aid items while he was there.
In another case, a 5-year-old boy showed up at the rental desk looking for a package deal while Trevor trained a new partner. The boy was excited about the delivery of his first baseball glove for the season, which began that day. There were so many packages there that at first the front desk said they didn’t have time to look for the package.
“It should never happen,” Workman said. “We tracked down the package; what if you could have seen the look on the boy’s face when he opened it.
Offer residents a “place at the table”
In Houston’s Memorial Creole apartment community, on-site staff cooked for 48 hours this year to prepare a homemade Thanksgiving meal for residents who hadn’t planned a vacation. Residents who would otherwise have been alone, sat and ate with the team, sharing memories and gratitude for the meal. An unforgettable experience, to say the least.
Joseph Batdorf, president of J Turner Research, said he doesn’t believe customer service will be supported by current robot technology and the use of non-human contact to serve residents.
“If your business is relying on this to deliver the service experience you want to deliver to your residents, I feel like you are in the wrong direction,” Batdorf said.