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October 2014

HRAC September Morning Coffee - Customer Service

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Hope you were among the many who joined us on September 19th at the Morning Coffee talk hosted by The Villages of Stoney Run where the topic of the day was Customer Service, sponsored by Realpage. The discussion panel was led by Bonaventure Realty Group’s Lindsay Pease and comprised of Signature Management’s Kimberly Fox, Lawson Realty’s Amy Harris and S.L. Nusbaum’s Ariah Rogers. We had a great turnout and were overwhelmed by the participants’ willingness to contribute to the conversation and provide great feedback. 
Starting the morning off was a discussion on our varying types of customers and understanding the difference between our internal and external customers. Everyone you come in contact with or do business with is essentially your customer, be they prospects, vendors, residents and even your employees. Make sure that every interaction you have is another chance to further solidify your relationship in a positive way. It is critical that everyone look at whether they are hitting the basics: know your customers (names, children’s names, pet’s names, apartment numbers, medical issues, big milestones, major life events). Every time you come in contact with a customer, you have an opportunity to make a difference.   Ask them how everything is going in their apartment.  Ask them how the new job is going. Go above and beyond.  What are ways that your team is doing this? Find ways that your service teams can contribute to providing excellent customer care and keep them involved. These are the team members most likely to be meeting one on one with our customers while handling requests in their homes. It is essential that your team be following-up.... after move-in, after service request, complaint filed, etc!  Never over-promise and under-deliver. It is always a good gauge as to how you and your team are doing when you send out and receive feedback from surveys.  Resources limited? Survey Monkey is a great alternative to the paid services out there.
Here comes a tough one that we all know we face daily - resolving our customer’s concerns. The objective is to turn every angry customer into a happy customer. Be sure to use sincerity and empathy to calm them down and always remember that this is their home, their place of solitude. Amy had this to share, "We need to constantly remind ourselves that this is completely different than an experience they may have at a shoe store, or a restaurant, because this is the place that is the most important to them of anywhere in their lives." Allow the balloon to deflate by actively listening and empathizing while they express their concerns. Refrain from interjecting and over-talking as this can only escalate a situation further. Kim offered words of the wise -"Always make sure you have a clear understanding of what your customer is trying to convey in their message. Repeat their message as this will help to ensure that you are able to better facilitate their needs." Most important in this entire process is the need to Follow-up! Follow-up! Follow-up! Remember also that you are setting the expectation so be conscious of under-promising and then over-deliver. Ariah wanted to make sure you don’t lose sight of the Red Carpet Moment - "In this industry, Customer Service is our #1 priority and it is a full time job. Don't roll out the Red Carpet on their first visit and then lose contact after they move in. Make it a priority to reach out to your residents on a regular basis." It is never overrated to take the time to recognize our employees for going above and beyond as making great customer service the standard is key to a successful business.

Okay so now you have all these happy customers, what do you now do with them? Why, ask for the review of course! Don’t discount the power of Apartment Ratings and the like as our customers are reading them! Is there a common theme among your reviews? How do you tackle the issue? What is your current approval rating on Apartment Ratings? Word of mouth is everything and our customers are much more likely to talk about a bad customer experience than a good one. Asking your happy customers to write good reviews online should be second nature and typically happy people who feel valued will have no problem taking a moment to log online and do that for you. 
We really hope that everyone enjoyed this last HRAC Morning Coffee and we look forward to seeing you all at this month’s event to be held October 17th from 8:30-10 am at Spring Water Apartments in Virginia Beach. This event will be generously sponsored by Signal 88 Security and the topic is Resident Retention Through Maintenance to be presented by Caroline Forehand.
To register, please visit today. 

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