Last modified on July 8th, 2022
By Katelyn Graumann
When we surveyed renters across the nation for our 2022 Resident Motivations report, their feedback was loud and clear: Renters want property managers and owners to really care about the resident experience. But what exactly does that look like and where do we even begin to try to improve it?
Thankfully, Jay Baer — founder of Convince & Convert, author of six best-selling business books, and customer experience and marketing expert — walked us through ways to do just that on AppFolio’s most recent webinar, “Coveted customer experience: How to over-deliver on what residents care about most.”
As the webinar’s moderator, I got a front row seat to his presentation. Here are my top webinar takeaways.
Takeaway #1: Customer experience is driven by ease-of-use
While customer experience — or, in property management’s case, the resident experience — has always been important, its significance has been amplified over the last 24 months. As Jay noted, it’s because no one wants to deal with any more frustration than they already have to, and this friction-avoidance behavior has fundamentally changed how and why buying decisions are made.
For today’s renters, price may be a buying decision factor, but it’s not the deciding factor. Instead, residents are now making decisions on how easy it will be to work with you. This fact was reinforced in the survey feedback for our 2022 Resident Motivations report, and webinar attendees verified it again when we polled them on how important ease-of-use has become for their own lives:
So ease-of-use is important, but we have to remember that means something different to everyone, which leads to my next key takeaway.
Takeaway #2: Customer expectations change constantly
One of the most fascinating moments of the webinar for me was when Jay confirmed that customer expectations are essentially a constantly moving target. That’s because customer experience is subjective: There is no concrete way to define “good” or “bad” customer experience, because it’s truly based on individual experience.
To make it more challenging, a resident’s customer experience with your business is going to be measured against and shaped by experiences they have with other businesses, too. As Jay explains:
“All they need is a taste of another expectation and then they expect that from you.”
But it’s not as simple as just comparing one experience to another and then doing one better. That’s because the problem with the term “customer experience” is that it makes us think of one finite and holistic experience when it doesn’t actually work like that. Jay argues that “customer experience” doesn’t actually exist. Instead, we need to look at it for what it actually is: hundreds of micro-interactions that occur throughout the day, every day.
Takeaway #3: Focus on being quick, clear, and kind
While it can be easy to feel immediately overwhelmed at the thought of having to tackle hundreds of mini-moments in order to improve the resident experience, Jay says you really only need to focus on three key elements:
- Quick: Respond quickly to your residents, even if the answer is, “I don’t know, but let me find out for you,” because promptness matters. Our 2022 Resident Motivations report alone showed that 1 in 3 residents say they care more about responsiveness and speed from their community manager today than they did pre-pandemic.
- Clear: Provide information that is to the point and easy to understand. This can help eliminate uncertainty and confusion for residents.
- Kind: While it seems obvious to treat residents with kindness, our 2022 Resident Motivations report revealed that renters don’t feel they receive a lot of empathy from property managers and landlords. When residents did receive individual care, it was a source of overwhelming praise. And as Jay noted in the webinar, “you can outflank your competitors just by being better to people than they are.”
It really can be that simple and that easy: quick, clear, and kind. But how you go about it matters, too, as I’ll reveal in my last webinar takeaway.
Takeaway #4: Think small to make a big impact
Going all out on being quick, clear, and kind for every one of the hundreds of interactions a resident has with you or your property management company isn’t possible or sustainable.
However, as Jay pointed out, small changes can have a really big impact on the resident experience, so it’s best to start small. He recommends striving for just a 15% improvement. Ask yourself how you and your teams can be:
- 15% quicker for residents
- 15% clearer with residents
- 15% kinder to residents
Basically, think about incremental improvement instead of huge leaps forward. Some examples might include:
- Quicker: Can you consistently acknowledge that you received residents’ maintenance requests within 10 minutes of their submissions? Again, it’s not about fixing the problem in 10 minutes; it’s about acknowledging you got the request and will follow up to help renters clear it off their mental to-do list.
- Clearer: Can you communicate changes to renewal leasing terms in more understandable ways? Can language be rewritten to be more resident-friendly and transparent?
- Kinder: Can you add extra details and notes into a resident’s profile, so your team can have more personalized conversations and build better relationships with renters during their interactions?
Some of the three components of Jay’s Coveted Customer Experience framework may be easier for your organization to implement than others, and that’s okay. When we polled the webinar audience, they found that Clear and Quick would be easier to improve than Kind:At the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re working toward improving each component. Those little 15% improvements you gain now will make a big difference over time.
Getting started: How to Over-Deliver on What Residents Care About Most
One big question an attendee had at the end of the webinar was how to start measuring what the current resident experience looks like today. Here’s what Jay had to say:
“People’s belief systems and what they care about have changed dramatically. If you haven’t done a survey of residents, what they care about, and their current level of satisfaction, you’re flying blind. The businesses that will succeed disproportionately over the next 18–24 months will be the businesses that understand their customers the most. If you haven’t spent much time, money, or effort on surveying and understanding residents, I would start now.”
Understanding what residents want is the first step to improving their experience. Our 2022 Resident Motivations report is full of insights to help get you started.
For more ideas on how you can start to improve your customer experience, check out our other blog post, “Closing the Gap: 3 Simple Ways to Enhance the Customer Experience.”
Looking for more learning opportunities? Join us April 12, 2022 for a half day of expert content & learnings to future-proof your business and keep you competitive.