Perception is Reality: What Your Apartment Community Says About You
Take a Physical Environment Audit of the Property
Everything a potential resident sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches before they even meet you speaks to them and leaves a lasting impression. When was the last time you completed a physical environment audit at your community to check exactly what your apartment property is saying?
The devil is often in the details. Here are three areas you should “listen closely” to and ensure that what they’re saying matches your priorities and values:
Audit #1: The Leasing Office
Imagine a potential resident entering your leasing office. She notices trash in the parking lot. When she enters the lobby area, she sees employees standing around eating and engaged in personal conversations. She proceeds to the restroom and finds that the toilet roll dispensers are empty and the trash container is overflowing.
She re-enters the leasing area only to see paperwork piled on leasing desks, overflowing trashcans, sticky note reminders painted on employee desks, and burned out light bulbs in the lounge area. The music is too loud, and the cookie tray is empty.
Anything the customer observes at your apartment community that contradicts the marketing message they have already been exposed to online or from a referral becomes an intrusion on their customer experience. Even minor intrusions add up and result in concern.
On the other hand, when customers sense an atmosphere of professionalism, care, and order, they feel a sense of confidence. And confidence speaks to everyone.
From the office entry, flowerbeds, table magazines, refreshments, music, bathroom, employee attire, wall decorations, and leasing desks to brochures, printed materials, table signage, business cards, television channel, lighting and colors, all things speak.
What is your leasing office saying to your customer?
Audit #2: Community Signage
Most companies pay attention to the big things but forget about the little details that help shape the customer perception. Small details, such as signage, can negatively impact the customer experience. Believe it or not, your signage has by far the highest occurrence of negative cues to your potential residents.
Here are a few examples:
- Future Resident Parking ONLY: Does this mean when I become a resident I must park in the rear?
- Out of Order: What else doesn’t work?
- No Parking: Why? Where should I park?
- Closed for Lunch: Really? I am visiting you on my lunch break.
- We will return at _____ (clock sign): No one ever returns when they say they will. This speaks very loudly to your customer; you have broken a promise before you’ve even met.
It is important to engage your on-site leasing professionals in becoming aware of any signage that might detract from the customer experience. If they are creative, it’s possible to turn a negative sign into a positive and humorous one. Here are a few signs that not only will elicit a chuckle from customers (or inspire them to Instagram or Pin you!) but also will encourage them to follow the rules:
- Unattended Children Under the Age of 12 Will be Given an Espresso and a Free Puppy
- Santa is short of presents for the Towing Company. Your car will make a PERFECT Gift.
- Please do not enter. Your GPS is wrong this time.
- I wouldn’t park here. The last car that parked here is still missing.
- RESERVED: Labradoodle Owner Parking ONLY
- Happy people park here; grumpy people please park in rear.
It is not always the words themselves that send a negative message to customers. Faded signage, unattractive colors, chipped paint, tattered flags, rotted wood, outdated graphics and fonts, and even the size of the sign can speak an unpleasant message to customers.
All things speak. What is your property signage saying to your customer?
Audit #3: The Apartment Units
Imagine this: The leasing professional at an apartment community shows you the model home. The sidewalk is freshly painted; not a piece of trash can be seen along the way. As they open the door, the smell of fresh roses consumes your senses. The apartment is spotless, and the furniture fits perfectly. The sun is setting as you stand on the back patio and watch the baby ducks swim by. The view is AMAZING! It is like a setting drawn right from a Harlequin Romance novel.
Then they take you to “your” apartment home.
As you follow the trail of dripped ice cream on the sidewalk, the smell of fresh dog urine fills the air. Inside the apartment, it is difficult to overlook the 5X5 stain in the middle of the dining room. You turn your attention to the beautifully appointed kitchen, but the stench coming out of the refrigerator almost knocks you to your knees. After trying several times to open the back patio door, it finally releases. The mold and mud from the previous rain covers the patio, and insects quickly scamper out of the storage closet when you look inside. “Free pets!” the leasing consultant shouts out with a balance of humor and seriousness in her tone.
When it comes to your product—the apartment—make certain that the transition from the clubhouse, to the model, to the available unit doesn’t spring any surprises on the customer.
All things speak. What are your apartment units saying to your customer?
Small Details Send Big Messages
It’s the little things, the small details, which communicate strong messages to customers and potential residents. Sometimes these messages seem trivial to us, but to the customer they are significant. Every detail says something about your company’s commitment to the resident experience.
All things speak. What is your apartment community saying about you?
Story by: Joanna Ellis