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Annual Resident Telesurvey Confirms Service is Key to Retention.

Despite all the money you can invest in the "bells and whistles" of resident retention programs, from move-in gifts to newsletters and social activities ... resident retention begins and ends with service. As you will see, a surprising percentage of residents are either unsure about or choose to not renew their lease due to issues which are under the property staff's control. Quite often, as a matter of fact, the staff is the reason the resident will/may not renew! One of the keys to maximizing performance is to identify these controllable issues and to then take action. If you want to know what these controllable issues are, all you need to do is survey your residents ... and listen!

The results from our telesurveys confirm service is the backbone of retention, and all too frequently is the cause of unnecessary and controllable turnover. No matter how high your occupancy is, finding ways to improve satisfaction and reduce turnover has a direct impact on the bottom line!

In total, over 42 percent of the reasons residents cited for not answering "Very Likely" are issues under the property's control. Want to dramatically improve your bottom line? Focus on your staff and taking care of your residents' basic service needs. By simply providing prompt and professional service you can dramatically impact your bottom line!

Seventeen percent of the reasons that residents gave for not answering "Very Likely" when asked if they planned to renew their lease were related to the property's office, maintenance and custodial staff. Nearly one fifth of the reasons were directly attributable to simply being nice, prompt and capable!

Gift wrapped toilet paper rolls on move-in day are not the answer to increasing satisfaction and renewals ... dedicated, pleasant, well trained staff members and a fully staffed property is most effective way to improve satisfaction ... and the property's performance! Compare the staff related reasons in the top 10 with where, for example, social activities falls in the rankings (#50).

Another 25 percent cited reasons for not renewing that quite often are under the property's control, such as apartment and property appearance issues (like the condition of the painting, carpeting/flooring, window treatments), and the rent increase. To change a resident's mind and insure a renewal, wouldn't you be willing to shampoo the living room carpeting? Many of these issues can be addressed with a basic renewal rewards program which offers a menu of relatively inexpensive in-unit improvement options, with the value of the options increasing the longer the resident has lived at your community. Regarding rent increases, in today's tight markets the only question is "how much is too much"? When 9 percent of residents cite this as a reason for not renewing, one must find the balance between aggressive increases and forcing turnover. These issues are critical given that each move-out costs the property $2,000 in turnover and vacancy related costs.

When reviewing the responses to the question "How could the community be improved?", the answers were equally enlightening. A focus on the basics is what residents are looking for ... the ability to park their car, live in a clean building, working laundry facilities, courteous/capable/dependable staffs, safety, the appearance of building common areas, the appearance and condition of their apartment home, and reasonable rents.

"How Likely To Renew Lease"--Rank Order of Reasons Given for Not Answering "Very Likely"
Bought Home 10%
Rent Increase(**) 9%
Relocation 7%
Moving Home 4%
Office--Courteous, Professional(*) 3%
Convenience-Work(*) 3%
Neighbors 3%
Maintenance--Responsive, Dependable(*) 3%
Maintenance--Work Quality(*) 3%
Community--Cleanliness(*) 3%
Cannot Afford(**) 2%
Apartment--Appearance(**) 2%
Parking(**) 2%
Office--Responsive, Dependable(*) 2%
Kitchen Cabinets(**) 2%
Kitchen Appliances(**) 2%
Apartment--Need Different Size(**) 2%
Apartment--Space, Design 2%
Community--Quality 2%
Maintenance--Courteous, Professional(*) 1%
Halls/Lobbies(**) 1%
Found Better Deal(**) 1%
Utilities 1%
Flooring(**) 1%
Apartment Painting(**) 1%
Safety--Community 1%
Safety--Neighborhood 1%
Neighborhood 1%
Laundry(**) 1%
Roommate Change 1%
Carpeting(**) 1%
Marital Status 1%
Custodians--Responsive, Dependable(*) 1%
Safety--Building(**) 1%
Heating under 1%
Building Exteriors(**) under 1%
Windows under 1%
Custodians--Courteous, Professional(*) under 1%
Pets Not Accepted under 1%
Lost Job under 1%
Air Conditioning(**) under 1%
Landscaping(**) under 1%
Community--Construction under 1%
Services(**) under 1%
Eviction under 1%
Window Treatments(**) under 1%
Illness/Medical under 1%
Recreational Facilities 1%
Other Facilities 1%
Social Activities(**) 1%

"How To Improve"--Rank
Order of Top 20 Suggestions Given

Parking 8%
Better Residents 7%
Community Cleanliness 5%
Lower Rent 5%
Maintenance--Responsive, Dependable 4%
Safety--Building 3%
Safety--Neighborhood 3%
Laundry 3%
Office--Courteous, Professional 3%
Recreational Facilities 3%
Office--Responsive, Dependable 3%
Halls/Lobbies 3%
Maintenance-Work Quality 2%
Kitchen Appliances 2%
Carpeting 2%
Apartment Appearance 2%
Apartment Painting 2%
Kitchen Cabinets 2%
Social Activities 2%
Maintenance--Courteous, Professional 2%

Average SatisFaction Scores--Ranked
(1-5 Scale:

1 Extremely Dissatisfied,
3 Average,
5 Extremely Satisfied):

Maintenance-Courteous, Professional 3.98
Office-Courteous, Professional 3.96
Safety/Security 3.82
Office-Responsive, Dependable 3.77
Exterior Curb Appeal 3.76
Maintenance-Work Quality 3.75
Apartment 3.60
Maintenance-Response Time 3.56
Building Interior Curb Appeal 3.44
Overall Average Score 3.73
Maintenance Problems Still Exist 42%
"Very Likely" To Renew 49%
Would Recommend 81%



The starting point to identifying where attention is needed is to perform annual resident surveys. These help to identify issues, plus quite often give the ultimate rationale needed to get specific property improvements approved. Ask your residents what their issues are ... and listen. Then take action and communicate.

(*) Staff Related, Under Staff Control

(**) Other "Reasonably" Controllable Reasons

Doug Miller, co-founder of SatisFacts Research and President of The Miller Marketing Group, has over 15 years of experience in the multifamily housing industry. SatisFacts, a joint venture of The Miller Group and The Apartment Connection, offers a wide variety of surveys for the industry.
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Author:Miller, Doug
Publication:Units
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:942
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