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Service heroes: with its award-winning service, Regency has found that taking "heroic" steps leads to delighted customers and plenty of renewed leases.

Regency has made exceptional service part of its culture by emphasizing it, demonstrating it, measuring it and hiring people who believe in it. Making residents happy is personally gratifying to employees and makes them more invested in their jobs. That this exemplary service has led to several awards is a source of pride--and motivation to continue the winning streak.

Regency's property managers agree that hiring personable employees, training them to "get it right the first time," and defining how each role contributes to team goals are the keys to meeting residents' expectations and avoiding unnecessary sources of dissatisfaction. Exceeding expectations requires continuous effort.

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Lessons the company has learned in these categories can help any community take its service to a higher level.

First Impressions.

Making a great first impression is critical. Starting off a resident's experience in their new home with a welcome phone call on the day after move-in sends a positive message. And asking the right questions can lead to a list of little things that need to be done, which reduces the number of maintenance callbacks. At one Regency property, the manager welcomes new international residents to the country and the apartment community before they arrive by sending information packages, transportation schedules and other helpful materials.

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Survey Feedback. While Regency property management teams rely on annual survey feedback to help solve perceived problems, they also solicit and act on resident feedback year-round.

Annual survey results often help teams uncover easy-to-correct sources of dissatisfaction. For example, residents "missed" a bench that was removed during a landscaping project, so a replacement was installed. Comments about inadequate bike racks resulted in the addition of a covered bike shelter with additional racks. Recurring complaints about laundry equipment prompted the company to conduct an analysis and outsource laundry rooms to a third-party service partner.

One properly developed a parking permit plan that greatly reduced complaints. The plan ensured one space for each resident's "tagged" car in the closest lot and provided visitor and second-car parking further away.

Good Neighbors. Many managers call a portion of their residents each month to ask how things are going. Employees are encouraged to use casual conversation and interaction as opportunities to ask questions to identify problems, but also to determine what residents want and what they value in their apartment homes. For many residents, having staff act as the proverbial "good neighbor" is greatly appreciated. Stopping in to chat or to help with changing a light bulb for an older resident or collecting mail and newspapers and watering plants for residents who are out of town are simple things that give residents a sense of belonging to their community.

Try This

Simple, inexpensive onsite convenience services are a welcomed premium for busy residents. When the post office removed a nearby mail collection box at one community, the management team was prompted to set up a box for outgoing mail in their office.

The manager at another property, which offers valet recycling pick-up, responded to frequent sighs from residents who wanted to recycle but had a hard time finding the required bags by providing the bags in the office.

A simple book exchange program costs nothing, yet receives constant praise and allows residents to mingle and connect.

One Regency community developed "Resident Rewards" to give residents tangible rewards for renewing their leases. Benefits can include one late-fee waiver, a full unit repaint, professional carpet cleaning, a security deposit refund and other incentives that grow in value as residents stay more years.

When uncontrollable events--Midwest weather being among them--impact residents' lives, property management teams can become heroes. During a weeklong summer power outage, one management team grilled food nightly for its residents. Several residents commented that none of their family or friends in other communities experienced such thoughtful treatment.

At the same property, an ice storm caused another major power outage. The staff assisted residents in finding warm shelter in another Regency property, opened vacant apartments that had power, and checked in frequently and provided warm places to shower for those who did not want to leave their apartments. Again, residents appreciated staff who went above and beyond.

For Regency Apartments, the mission is simple: Be nice. Be professional. Be attentive. Be creative. Show appreciation. And, when you have the chance, be a hero.

Bob Pratten is President and CEO of Regency Apartments, based in Champaign, III. He can be reached at 217/359-7031 or b.pratten@&regencyapartments.com. His company has earned three consecutive "Best in Industry" awards based on results from CEL & Associates' resident satisfaction surveys.
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Author:Pratten, Bob
Publication:Units
Date:Oct 1, 2010
Words:764
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