[Updated 7/16/2015]

If you’ve recently decided to buy web-based property management software, you’re probably excited about all the tools and technology available that will help you improve productivity and efficiency. Utilizing online resident portals improves rent capture and streamlines property management tasks. However, just because you see the benefits doesn’t mean all residents will embrace the switch from a personal, face-to-face customer experience.

Millennials and young adults are more likely to get on board with the latest technology faster than older adults. If you’re having trouble convincing residents to use portals for maintenance requests and communication, here are a few tips that might help.

Step One: Reward Feedback

Consumers today are driven by incentives. Everyday we’re bombarded with buy-one-get-one-free offers and special discounts from retailers hoping to entice us to try their product. Property managers can repurpose that strategy to increase online activity.

A recent study found that physicians who offered incentives to patients who signed up for a patient portal brought surprising results. Forbes reported that incentives motivated patients to have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked more often and 96% were willing to engage in healthy lifestyle changes.

What might appeal to your residents?  How about a chance to enter a drawing for a rent reduction, free parking, or a dinner-for-two coupon from a local restaurant – just for completing a survey? Social media polls are very popular. Set a definite timeframe for your promotion – the month of November or the first two weeks of the month. Make sure you allow residents enough time to participate.

Whether you use a printed survey or online version, ask residents to give feedback on your resident portal. Ask questions about convenience, navigation and content.

This gives residents an opportunity to take advantage of portal services and it gives you a chance to gather valuable information about resident expectations and perceptions about your property.

Step Two: Build Loyalty

To encourage engagement, connect portal activity to charitable donations. Consider donating a specified amount for each Facebook posts or response to an online poll. Designate a charity or let residents suggest their favorite organization.

Research shows that consumers are more likely to engage with companies that share similar values – make your efforts personal.

You could tie your contributions to national campaigns. For example, November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s campaign to raise awareness about COPD is also in November.

Step Three: Save Your Residents Money

Encouraging your residents to shift to online portals for routine communication, maintenance requests and rent payments will save you significant amounts of money and time. Pass that savings along to customers – or expect them to pay for the “inconvenience” it puts on your management team. Initiate a small fee if residents continue to make offline payments and phone in maintenance requests.

If you choose this strategy, make certain you give everyone ample notice before you start charging the service fee. Update residents with email and social media posts. It may take several messages – and several different types of message – to reach everyone in your community. Post flyers in the office or deliver printed notices door-to-door to announce the upcoming change in policy.

Step Four: Keep Everyone Engaged

Develop a program that drives residents to your portal. A weekly or monthly drawing will keep residents engaged. Use your bulk email, or better yet, use your one-click software management feature to text residents an invitation to complete an online survey on your company website or announce a drawing for everyone who pays their rent on or before the due date through the resident portal. You don’t have to offer a big reward, but make it worthwhile and relevant to your residents.

Additional Tip: Make It Simple

According to research done by Pew Research Center, 77% of seniors indicated that they would need help with learning a new technology. To help those not as technically savvy to adopt your online tenant portal, you need to give them a little extra attention. Create a YouTube video to show them exactly how to use the features. Or, offer in-person walkthroughs so you can quickly answer any questions as they follow along. For some people, it’s easier to follow instructions when the steps are visually explained. But remember to create a new video for every major update to the software. Those who aren’t comfortable with new technology might not see the attraction to online property management right away. But by making the transition easy for this audience, your residents will be more likely to comply with learning the new software and will appreciate the benefits in the long run.

Successfully implementing property management software doesn’t have to be difficult. Just remember, some residents will embrace technology just because it’s new – others need some extra motivation.