I’m often involved in the daily conversation regarding the state of the multifamily marketplace. The conversation is naturally focused around supply and demand. We often speak to the “hot” rental market or “landlord’s” market. In nearly every market there certainly is high demand. Currently, raising rents and absorbing vacant units is often easier, however we should never disregard the fact that the marketplace is still very competitive. To remain competitive, drive performance and move our industry forward, we need to focus our work to provide quality service to our applicants and residents.
Service is typically more inclusive than how we view customer service. Customer service is typically an action, whereas service relates to everything we do. It’s a way of existing, more than just a task and for that we need a very high level of self-awareness around hard work, dedication, creative thinking and self-motivation. This higher level of awareness creates a recognition of service to each other and service to your team. This translates to service to our applicants and our residents.
Self-awareness and careful consideration of our impact often determines how we supply service to our industry but we also need to acknowledge our ever changing marketplace. Newer and more innovative product is coming online quickly. There is also a high level of project acquisitions that is driving renovations and improving the existing housing stock. Acquisition, new competition and higher rents result in a competitive marketplace where resident retention and applicant acquisition will be a direct result of the customer’s experience.
Our customer has also changed. We frequently serve a more diverse customer with higher expectations and lower tolerance for mistakes or poor service. Multifamily housing is no longer just a necessity for those who cannot afford a home or are in need of a temporary place to live. The marketplace has changed to where customers are choosing multifamily as a preference and a lifestyle. More than ever, someone’s apartment is truly their home. It is important to think of an apartment as the base or foundation block of somebody’s life.
To reference this point it is helpful to think of an example that we can all relate to. Think of visiting your favorite restaurant. Imagine you show up to have dinner with friends and the location is much busier than normal. You typically frequent the location since you know the food and service are both of high quality. If you were told that you had to wait 45 minutes for a table when you only had 20 to spare would you wait? If there were 15 other quality restaurants close by you would likely consider your other options in hopes that someone could better accommodate you and potentially find a location that would be more enjoyable for your group.
When thinking of our customers in Multifamily, their experience is more personal because their experience is specific to their home or the foundation of their life. In consideration of just how important service among competition is in our industry, it is helpful to review four guiding principles to consider when delivering service in this new marketplace:
- An applicant or resident’s perception IS their reality,
- More communication is (generally) better than less,
- Hiring and training have never been more important,
- How we work with each other will certainly translate specifically to how we work with our applicants and residents.