True customer loyalty is perhaps the greatest asset a community can develop. Loyal residents are more likely to renew and—equally important—refer their friends and family. ‘Satisfied’ residents are not always loyal and there are even times when loyal residents are not loyal. Customer loyalty can be difficult to build and even harder to sustain, but when you consider the fact that the cost of attracting new residents is significantly more than that of maintaining a relationship with existing ones, you have a powerful incentive… and you could use some pretty powerful ‘glue’!
Glue is essential in building, repairing or improving something. The manufacturer of Gorilla Glue claims it can handle the toughest jobs on planet earth. Check out some of the “Tough Stories” on their website.
“In January 2010, I Gorilla glued a new 2010 penny to my sidewalk to see how long it would stay. As the weather was cold, I was not sure if it would work. That year, we had a record snow fall and shoveled our sidewalk numerous times. Many people have tried to pry the penny loose. As of May 2012, that cent, although very weathered, has remained in place. I have enclosed a photo of the cent. You have a great product, which has stood the test of time, weather, and people.” Best Wishes, Al
Al was already a loyal customer but he decided to put Gorilla Glue to the test. I bet he has told a few of his friends about it, too.
Do your loyal customers “test” you? Are your residents proudly voicing how great your community is to their friends and family? How difficult is it for your competition to pry your residents loose?
Here are five great ways to build customer loyalty and make sure your residents are “stuck like glue”.
1. HIRE NICE FRONT LINE PEOPLE
I know what you are thinking. “Doesn’t everyone do that?” The answer is No. It’s not that the people they are hiring are bad—they are just wrong for the job. Customer loyalty is often the direct result of the relationships your employees build and maintain with your residents. So to build customer loyalty, hire the right people, hire the right people, hire the right people, and then hire the right people. In the book, The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty, the author Carmine Gallo dedicates a section on how Apple hires its retail employees.
“Apple doesn’t look for exceptional intelligence or technical mastery. Rather, the company wants employees who demonstrate an appealing, friendly, enthusiastic personality who take joy in helping others discover tools they can use to change the way they live, work and play.”
In other words, they hire for attitude.
2. HIRE (and promote) NICE MANAGERS WHO KNOW HOW TO LEAD PEOPLE
There’s an old saying: “Fish stinks from the head down.” Well, customer loyalty starts at the top and works its way down and across a company. Managers who are competent, respect their employees, have integrity, are consistent in their decisions and actions, and display a willingness to protect their employees will have an easier time earning their trust. All of these qualities will help build employee loyalty. Loyal employees feel good about their jobs and pass that loyalty along to residents.
If we don’t have the right leaders it is crazy to expect residents to have a great experience because we don’t have the right tools in place. Creating the right experience for employees can have a positive impact on resident experience, resulting in more loyal residents, which in turn positively impacts property performance.
If all else fails order a bottle of Gorilla Glue because property management just might be one of the “toughest jobs on earth!”
3. HUMAN INTERACTION
Many people prefer to do their own research and keep a distance from the “in-person sale”—but when they are finally ready to buy they want to talk to a human being. If no one is available they get irritated.
Research shows that consumers are begging for a conversation with a real person more than ever—live chat, telephone, texting, in-person etc.—someone they can interact with on the other side. So don’t underestimate the power of a phone call, live chat or in-person visit when it comes to connecting with your residents and building customer loyalty.
4. ENGAGE RESIDENTS
Engagement strengthens your relationship with residents by providing an open channel for communication and customer feedback. An engaged resident is more than satisfied—they are loyal. They are more likely to support you during the good and bad times because a relationship has been established. If you are always engaging your residents they will give you more feedback because they know you are prepared to handle it.
Listen to ALL customer feedback; notes, rumors, phone calls, loyalty surveys, apartment ratings sites, comment cards… everything you can find. Responding quickly to their feedback can actually increase customer loyalty even in cases where the resident has experienced something negative. How can you engage your residents?
5. DIFFERENTIATE YOUR COMMUNITY FROM THE COMPETITION
A resident’s commitment to your community cannot be assumed or taken for granted. Your competition will always be there with another offer or a lower rental rate. Consider all of the different customer touch points that you have in place from the beginning to the end. How can you differentiate your community or the processes?
- When your residents call the office do they use the same phone number as potential customers? Wouldn’t it be a nice change for a resident to call the leasing office and someone answer with this, “Thank you for being a valued resident of XYZ Apartments, how can I help you?” What a surprise it would be to acknowledge that they actually live there and pay rent every month.
- Do you begin and end your leasing process in the same manner as your competitors? You know the drill—enter leasing office, sit down, speak, walk out door, walk to amenities, walk to model, return to office, ask for deposit (let’s hope). Are you giving them what they expect or are you giving them a nice surprise?
Differentiation drives customer loyalty when those unique traits and improvements are based on what matters most to your residents.
It’s a well-known fact that the cost of keeping an existing resident is much less than trying to attract a new one. Still, there are communities that refuse to listen to the voice of the customer. These communities spend incredible amounts of money on marketing and advertising to attract new residents, while neglecting their existing resident base.
Focusing your efforts on existing customers is critical to success. According to research 60% to 80% of a business’ lost customers reported being ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ right before they took their loyalty elsewhere. Consistency is the key! Yes, it takes discipline and sometimes a change in the way that you do business—it’s not always an easy task—but the payoff is high. Whether your community is small or large, high-end or somewhere in-between, these points can be adapted to your business.
Any effort you make to keep your residents happy is an improvement, and each extra effort will increase customer loyalty. Make it a habit to conscientiously view your customers (internal and external) as the most important asset you have. After all, if you do not have customers, you do not have a business!
What are you doing to get your residents stuck like glue? I would love to hear your ideas and success stories!
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