In the apartment leasing industry, communication is critical – between owners and property managers, between property managers and leasing agents, between leasing agents and the call center and with current and potential residents. Phone calls, emails, texts and face-to-face meetings are constant and can overwhelm…there’s simply not enough hours in the day.
The challenge for operators is to construct a platform that enables everyone to have the right interaction with the right customer at the right time, thereby improving all results derived from your leads to leasing process.
Apartment Leasing Reality
Let’s face it – our industry has a super-transactional oriented view. How can I make a customer go from a person who calls, to a person who tours the property, to a person who leases as quickly as possible? This get-the-prospect-to-lease race is understandable considering only about 5% of leads convert to leases. The reality is that apartment-leasing agents have many challenges and limited bandwidth to deal with them.
But there’s good news – the way to accomplish a better lead-to-lease conversion is to understand what it will take to advance the sale and in turn, craft communication to help your leasing agent engage with their prospects correctly.
First, Understand How Renters Buy
It’s January, and depending on where you live, it’s REALLY cold. For a large portion of the U.S. January is not the ideal time to be moving into a new apartment. But…they may be thinking about it – let’s take Kevin, for example.
Kevin calls the apartment leasing office. This office is managed by a call center that focuses on customer engagement, meaning, they focus on the customer first, instead of filling vacant apartments. The conversation goes something like this:
Kevin: “I’m interested in moving to a larger apartment, but my current lease doesn’t end until April. Can you tell me what will be available?”
The apartment leasing agent, we’ll call her Cathy, knows that at this moment in January, they have no idea what will be available in April. Cathy now has a choice – she can encourage the person to take the wrong step and move the transaction forward now which will result in alienating Kevin because he is not going to pay a fee to break his current lease; or she can take the best next step that benefits the customer. Since Cathy is a customer-engaged apartment leasing agent, she replies:
Cathy: “Thanks for calling, Kevin! We’d love to help you make the transition into a different home in April. At this time, I don’t have the best information to give to you about what’s going to be available then – I honestly just don’t know. But, I will communicate with you when we do have units that will be available to rent at that time and include floor plan, cost, etc. In fact, let’s talk a little more about what you’re looking for, and if something comes up, I will be sure to reach out to you in the near future with information units that match your needs.
While Kevin was hoping for a solid answer, he appreciates Cathy’s straightforward, honest communication and speaks with her further about what he’s looking for in his next home.
Cathy: “Thanks for taking the time with me today, Kevin. If it works in your schedule, I’ll make a note to update you early-March. You can call with questions at any time. In the meantime, I will send you an occasional email so you can stay up-to-date on our properties and learn more about our community.”
This example demonstrates the effective use of the right communication tactics based on what the customer’s desires are…not based on the what the “script” says the next action should be. Through this combination of human and electronic communication Kevin feels listened too, respected and has a great first impression of the apartment leasing agent.
Invest in the Prospect Relationship Platform
Another challenge with apartment leasing agent communication is the lack of a streamlined way of using multiple communication tools to interact with a customer. People are unknown…they don’t always follow the set rules assumed with apartment leasing. Sometimes they forget or miss a scheduled apartment tour.
The prospect not living up to what the property manager expects is nothing new; fortunately, SMS helps to communicate things like missed or forgotten appointments. When you invest in a platform that incorporates multiple forms of communication, including phone, email and texts, the stress and time wasted between leasing agents, property managers and prospects is greatly reduced.
In addition, this platform should provide real-time information on both prospects and existing customers (current residents) allowing transparency not only between leasing agents, but also for the whole company. Clearly communicating where a prospect is within the apartment leasing “pipeline” and what their next best step is in the leasing or renewal process will help your team provide the right level of interaction with customers at the right time.
Consequences of Not Improving Apartment Leasing Communication
Death is not a consequence, thankfully but poor prospect communication will ultimately lead to a lower lead-to-lease ratio and will kill your NOI. Without engaging potential customers and developing the best way to communicate and interact with them - based on their needs - the renting experience can be frustrating for the leasing agent and the prospect. Resolve to improve your apartment leasing agent communication this year – you’ll see an increase in new leases, current customer retention and energized apartment leasing agents.