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June 2012

Look Who’s Talking Now! The Power of Word of Mouth Marketing

By | Customer Experience & Engagement: Keeping the Customer You Earned | No Comments

The Power of Word of Mouth Marketing

If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world. But it’s not merely a country in the traditional sense… rather more like the one of the largest extended families ever known – where trust is shared openly and friends and other social network users are proponents for each other and often serve as virtual ‘neighborhood watchdogs’.

Social networks like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter extend the reach of residents and apartment renters to an exponential range in comparison to five years ago. You are no longer the loudest and most powerful voice being heard – the voice of the customer reigns supreme today.

Whether you are participating or not, word of mouth marketing is impacting your resident retention and apartment marketing efforts – good or bad. A valuable presence in social media is not simply forming communities and pushing information at your followers; it involves a two way dialogue with residents and potential apartment renters.  If you are planning to do business with the Social generation a.k.a. Gen Y, then you MUST know what they want.  See Gen Y characteristics.

Your online reputation is vital to your organization’s success and the negative word of mouth marketing being posted can severely impact your business in today’s social circles swarming the internet.

Apartment ratings and reviews websites may be the first place your residents turn when things go wrong – letting their voices be heard. These may be where your prospective residents also get their first taste of what living in your apartment community is like.

Are they going to like what they find?

Are you aware of the positive and negative word of mouth being broadcast across the Internet about the customer experience you are providing residents?

According to research, these online conversations account for a larger share to influence the customer’s decision to lease than any traditional marketing you can do – and in fact it could account for up to 50% of all purchase decisions. Seeking out, listening to, and responding to customer feedback about your apartment community is essential. The ROI on social media is not easily defined, but one thing is clear. It cannot be a good thing to have negative word of mouth conversations and bad ratings floating around the web with no visible effort to resolve or refute the complaint.

In late 2011, Mckinsey revealed study results that 39 % of companies already employ social media as their primary digital tool to reach customers, and they anticipate that rising to 47% over the next four years (Mckinsey Quarterly November 2011). There is no question this medium is here to stay, is a legitimate channel to sell to, service, and grow your customer base.

While you are investing time and money in a social media management platform, the cost of this is greatly offset by the simple premise of Word of mouth marketing, wherein your current residents and prospective renters are providing an unpaid form of promotion of your apartment community. At no cost to you, they tell other people how much they like your apartments, community and onsite staff.

These loyal customers are one of the most credible sources of ‘advertising’, too, because their friends, family, and social networks know they are staking their personal reputation when they recommend you.

Social media is a big part of the customer’s journey to leasing with you, making monitoring what people say about your brand important – you must respond to resident and prospect comments,  reinforce the positive customer sentiment where it exists and demonstrate empathy and effort to improve where you fall short in the perception of the resident and customer.

Amplification of voice is the greatest benefit of social media as a way to spread word of mouth marketing. When one resident speaks to you, they also speak to many more people at the same time. When you speak to one resident’s concerns, you may also be resolving the concerns of many.

At the very least – when you respond, your customer knows they have been heard and that you value their input. Those who initially post negative online reviews typically either post a positive review when their concern is resolved or they remove the negative post altogether – and increased positive word of mouth means more apartment leases.

 

Why does your company exist?

By | Customer Experience & Engagement: Keeping the Customer You Earned | No Comments

If you don’t know who you are and why you exist as a company it can be difficult to consistently deliver a great customer experience.

Does your company exist only to build apartments, lease them, and deliver the best possible service to the customer? If so, you might be heading in the <em>gnorw</em> direction.

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<!–more–><a href=”http://www.epmsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/RightWrongDirection.jpg”><img class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-1353″ title=”RightWrongDirection” src=”http://www.epmsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/RightWrongDirection-300×270.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”270″ /></a>

Have you ever wondered what your customers really need and want? Is it an apartment? Not necessarily. Maybe they want to live near the beach, need to enroll their children in a great school district, want to be close to work, want to live a few feet from the pool, need to get out of mom and dad’s house, want to make friends, or even watch someone else cut the lawn.

Do you get my drift?

It’s the Drill and Hole Philosophy. <em>A customer doesn’t buy a ¼ inch drill because they need a ¼ inch drill. What they really need is a ¼ inch hole. When you understand what your customers’ need and want, your purpose should become very clear.  </em>

<em><a href=”http://www.epmsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/DrillandHole.jpg”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-1354″ title=”DrillandHole” src=”http://www.epmsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/DrillandHole.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”199″ /></a> </em>

<strong><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>TWO THINGS TO CONSIDER</span></strong>

<strong>Inside Out Mission</strong>

Successful companies like Starbucks and Walt Disney have laid out their reason for doing business—for existing—in a clear and simple mission statement. More often than not, mission statements tend to be an ornament in an office rather than a guide to doing business.

This couldn’t be further from the truth for Starbucks and Walt Disney. Instead of setting out to create the best cup of coffee in the world or the best amusement park in the world, Starbucks and Walt Disney looked <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>inside</span> the customer’s “problem zone” and <strong>built their entire business <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>around</span> giving customers what they need and want. </strong>
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<p style=”text-align: center;”>These two companies know why they exist—to fill the hole—and so do their employees.</p>
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<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Starbucks</span>…170,000 employees on a mission to <strong><em><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Inspire</span> and <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>nurture the human spirit </span>- one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. </em></strong>

<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Walt Disney</span>…156,000 employees on a mission to <strong><em>Make People <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Happy</span>!</em></strong><em> </em>

What? No mention of great coffee or Mickey Mouse?

These two companies know why they exist—to fill the hole—and so do their employees. It comes down to their core DNA. They are mission-driven organizations that just happen to deliver remarkable service along with a remarkable product. Starbucks and Walt Disney offer more than a good cup of coffee and Mickey Mouse—they offer an <em>experience</em> that keeps customers coming back for more. Their customers are fiercely loyal!

<strong>Listen to the Voice</strong>

When you deliver on a mission you’ll know it and when you don’t you’ll know it too. Today’s customer tells us that we have no choice but to listen to their voice, not talk about what we “think” they need. It’s not difficult to hear their voice because social media has amplified it.

<a href=”http://www.epmsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Mystarbucksidea.jpg”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-1355″ title=”Mystarbucksidea” src=”http://www.epmsonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Mystarbucksidea.jpg” alt=”” width=”224″ height=”225″ /></a>

One way companies tune into the voice is by implementing Voice of Customer (VOC) programs to positively impact the customer experience. They do this by collecting feedback in a variety of ways to help make improvements across their organization. Innovation is a result of listening and responding to customer’s needs, wants and desires.

Starbucks has a reputation for listening carefully to their customers. A year ago a customer requested the ability to purchase replacement lids for their cups.  Here is what transpired via <a href=”http://www.mystarbucksidea.com”>www.mystarbucksidea.com</a>, a channel that allows customers to share, vote, discuss and see new ideas come to life.
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<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><strong><em>New Replacement Lid at the Online Starbucks Store by Request</em></strong></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>October 3, 2011 </em></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>As it turns out, Starbucks listens carefully to their customers.</em><em> Customers have requested another new replacement part, which is now available at StarbucksStore.com.</em></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>This new Top Hat Lid is easy to twist and seal to prevent coffee from spilling. The lid will fit both new and old models of the <a href=”http://www.starbucksstore.com/Starbucks%C2%AE-Double-Wall-Ceramic-Traveler%2C-12-fl-oz/011014551,default,pd.html” target=”_blank”><strong>Double Wall Ceramic Tumbler</strong></a>, as well as the Jonathan Adler Red Ceramic Tumbler from last Christmas. The lid will also fit the VIA tumbler with sleeve.</em></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>If you’re interested in purchasing, you can do so here on StarbucksStore.com for only $3.95.</em></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><strong><em>This idea came from a My Starbucks Idea user who thought it would be beneficial to sell replacement lids for all old and new tumblers through the Starbucks website.</em></strong><em> This is a way for Starbucks to be more socially responsible and to also enable customers to continue to reuse their favorite tumblers with replacements for lids that could have cracked or broken over time. Just another way to keep these tumblers out of the landfills and full of delicious Starbucks coffee…</em></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”></h3>
<h3 style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Another user asked for replacement lids online because their custom lids often broke or were lost. And as soon as that happened, the tumbler was completely unusable. Now you can find a solution to your lid problems at the Starbucks store online!</em></h3>
Listening to the customer’s voice can sometimes be a painful experience. It is often unfiltered and raw; however, if you can take the pain and put aside your personal feelings the payoff is very high. Top-performing companies create processes that seek direct, immediate customer feedback—not simply to ensure that things are going well but also to build in methods of systematic innovation and improvement. No one wants to remain static.

Tell us how you listen to the voice of your customer to continually work to improve the customer experience.

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Idk y ur calling… jst txt me, k?

By | Understanding Generational Differences: How to Appeal to Different Age Groups | No Comments

Gen Y and the Txting Xperience

The digital age spells a new era of communication. Text messaging, mobile phones, and chat forums have spawned a new language, comprising alphanumeric words, acronyms, abbreviations, and those addictive emoticons.  🙂

How is it impacting Generation Y? Is it ruining their grammar and communication skills? Is it making it difficult for other generations to communicate with them?

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