According to a 2015 study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, in mid-2015, 43 million families and individuals lived in rental housing, up nearly 9 million from 2005. There are a number of different reasons for this gain, including the housing bubble burst, a decrease in household incomes and tighter mortgage credit. The point is – times are good in the multifamily industry, and signs continue to show that multifamily operators have an opportunity to continue to increase their profitability. Despite this surge (or maybe because of it) in rentals, one of the biggest challenges for multifamily property managers continues to be lead management. While there has been tremendous progress into which marketing channels perform best for generating leads, much of what happens between the initial generation of the lead and when the prospect arrives for a tour is still opaque and is often handled clumsily.
The reason for this is because most operators continue to work with a traditional “property-centric” platform, instead of a “person-centric” platform. While filling your occupancy is certainly important, the traditional structure of focusing on property first, person second; leaves significant gaps around how the lead is managed and in identifying opportunities to make the process more efficient.
Because the process is inherently property-focused and not in alignment with how renters shop, learn and engage, it creates friction and static in the prospect experience, which can harm the overall experience or even cause a prospect to go somewhere else. Without collecting the right data, this could be happening with no means to measure its impact.
Successful Multifamily Lead Management
The goal of multifamily lead management is to create opportunities for property managers to take the right action with the right person at the right time. It begins with the concept of customer engagement; working with people first and connecting them to the property that best meets their needs. By putting the renter at the center of your lead management process and orienting your assets and processes to align with prospect behavior, you gain significant efficiencies and measurably improve the likelihood that the right renter selects one of your properties at possibly higher rents.
The following four points illustrate how developing a customer engagement platform can improve your multifamily lead management system, and ultimately create longer term and more profitable leasing relationships.
1. Take advantage of your submarket density.
Multifamily companies tend to cluster within a submarket. When you cluster properties, using a person-centric platform enables you to maximize the knowledge and time that your leasing associates have spent learning about the area. As the associates gain an understanding about what potential renters are looking for in their next home, they can apply that knowledge across the various properties with their desired location. Now as you gather all of potential renters’ “must-have” requests, it’s easy to help them take the next logical step in their leasing process with you; perhaps it’s with property A, B or C. Either way, you know one of your properties will meet their requirements.
2. A holistic view of multifamily lead management saves time.
In a traditional, property-centric lead management situation, it’s common for one lead/potential renter to be working with multiple property managers within the same management organization. Since there’s no way to accurately track who is speaking with whom, one lead could be viewed as three potential renters, and much time is wasted in managing this one person. This can also lead to higher costs, and when times aren’t quite as good, ineffective forecasting that can lead to higher exposure.
In a customer engagement or “people-centric” platform of multifamily lead management, where the customer is the priority, one leasing agent manages the lead and works to help them make the next logical choice, saving time for the leasing agent and the potential renter.
3. Customer engagement efficiently moves leads to renters.
The person-first priority in multifamily lead management produces a smoother, more efficient transition from prospect to renter.
For example: Sally has called asking if there are any 3-bedroom apartments available within an apartment community. In a traditional multifamily lead management situation (focus is on the property), the leasing agent simply explains that while they don’t have any 3-bedrooms available, they do have a two bedroom with an alcove that could serve as a bedroom. Sally is not interested, simply says “thank you,” and moves on to the competition. Sally’s rental income is lost.
In a customer-engaged platform of multifamily lead management, when Sally calls, the leasing agent takes the time to learn about Sally, asking questions to find out what her needs and desires are for her next home. This leasing agent finds out that Sally has a large family and therefore needs three bedrooms – not an alcove for family to sleep in. Sally feels listened-to and respected and works with the property manager to find the best fit – becoming a satisfied, long-term resident.
4. Multifamily contact centers that focus on the customer create a positive first impression.
During regular business hours, property managers miss 40-60% of inbound lead calls each day. This isn’t because the property managers are incompetent - they are either thinly staffed and unable to predict when the phone will ring; or they are in the midst of talking with a lead and feel awkward answering another lead’s phone call at the same time.
Compound that with the fact that 12%-15% of calls come in after business hours and are sent to voicemail, where only 20% of those people actually leave a message. Potential leads are being ignored based on the lack of manpower available to handle these inquiries.
The use of a contact center for multifamily lead management, especially a center that focuses on the people and not the property, provides an instant answer, and creates a positive first impression for each potential renter. Phone calls are answered promptly by a live person, who asks questions and begins to learn about the wants and needs of the renter. Calls are answered when the customer chooses, not when the property manager is available. In fact, properties that are able to engage with their customers when it’s most convenient for them experience a much higher lead-to-lease conversion.
The time has come to change our thinking within the multifamily lead management arena. It’s time to shift our priority from being a property-centric business, to that which is focused on people. When we move towards client engagement and customer relationship management, time and money are saved, creating happy property managers and satisfied renters.