Selling the Sizzle to Deliver Value and Retain Residents
Story by: Tim Blackwell
What distinguishes one multifamily community from the other today goes beyond exterior architecture or color choices for walls. The ability to provide residents with the tools to nurture their social lives or improve their living experiences with the same ease as an evening stroll is redefining what separates apartments.
The Value of Resident Portals
In the past, apartment neighbors really only got to know each other by being outside, chance meetings in the parking lot or hanging out at the pool. And the onsite staff was mostly limited to spreading the word of community events by hanging flyers on door knobs or through a newsletter.
Online resident portals – once only depended upon to make service requests or pay rent – have become a key vehicle for renters to quickly and easily interact with each other or apartment staff.
Nowadays, it’s the way apartments are selling their communities and retaining residents, as well as delivering the value of multifamily living while conforming to today’s online world.
“Social media is part of our daily lives and it’s just reality. Community managers need to be able to give residents the tools they demand and need to connect with their neighbors and be a part of their community,” said Jennifer Torigoe, Industry Principle Resident Services at RealPage.
Social engagement factor
“Communities that offer online platforms to enable residents to do more than simply paying their rent or reporting a maintenance issue have the advantage”, Torigoe says. Residents young and old are relying more on platforms that enable them to reserve amenities, engage with neighbors, receive package notifications and set up or change utility providers among other services.
A few years ago, a newly transplanted Orange County, Calif., resident from the East Coast faced a lonely Thanksgiving at her new senior living community. With no local family and few friends, she turned to the ActiveBuilding community bulletin board feature looking for someone to share a turkey leg.
Soon, she set an extra plate at the table.
“She connected with another resident and they had Thanksgiving dinner together,” Torigoe recalled. “It’s a sense of community that’s not just appealing to a specific generation. Whether it’s military wives who move around and need to find babysitters, find friends and get more connected with the community or people who are retired and looking for a walking buddy or just somebody with similar interests, resident portals are bringing communities together.”
Critical communication between staff and residents
Online resident portals also provide a critical link between staff and residents that have proven to be effective and even help under dire circumstances.
In February 2015, a fire broke out and spread rapidly throughout The Torch, an 87-floor residential skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Building management used ActiveBuilding’s mass messaging feature to notify and help in the safe evacuation of the high-rise’s 1,500 residents.
After the fire, building management used the platform to provide up-to-date information via texts, emails, posts to the portal wall and messaging on lobby screens about repairs and re-entry to owners and tenants on and offsite. Updates, such as the staged, floor-by-floor approach to re-entering the building, were generated through the portal.
Later, information that needed to be conveyed to the community was channeled through the platform.
“Whether it’s a fire or winter storm, or simply turning off the water in the building, it’s key for communities to be able to communicate with residents in the ways they are used to and expect to receive information today,” Torigoe said.
Convenient access to resident services
Convenient access to resident services through an online portal helps residents and staff manage the day-to-day minutia of living in apartment communities. Package delivery notification is one feature that residents are demanding, based on apartment industry data. An online portal solution with email, text, and instant messaging capabilities offers communities a more reliable way of letting residents know they have parcels, Torigoe says.
Beyond that, a solution that helps residents reserve club rooms, set up utilities, make service requests and view announcements from onsite staff have replaced traditional methods of providing resident services. Mobile-optimized technology punctuates the service, enabling resident access from beyond the community.
“We have to make it easy and convenient for residents,” Torigoe said. “It’s essential to provide multiple channels of communication, whether it’s calling, instant messaging the staff or responding to emails.”
“It’s about how multifamily communities can increase resident touch points and communication, keep residents in loop of what’s going on in their community and surrounding area.”