Nixing Complaints

Prevent the most nagging customer concerns before they happen.

By Erica Rascón, Contributing Editor

The list of renters’ top complaints released by J Turner Research suggests that the performance of onsite staff is the single most important factor in resident retention. Results are based on an analysis of 10,000 customer satisfaction surveys issued at communities throughout the United States.
Three of the top five complaints (and half of the total list) are rooted in poor customer service from onsite and maintenance staff. Customer engagement directly affects online reviews, which are a prominent measure for Millennials. Without quality customer service and the positive online reputation that it builds, properties have limited hope of new and renewed leases.

LumaCorp of Dallas has 14 properties with award-winning customer service ratings. The positive feedback from residents has resulted in increased demand for LumaCorp properties.

Larry Orth, controller with LumaCorp, believes that resident satisfaction stems from his company’s emphasis on staff training, technology and employee recognition.

“There is an emphasis on customer service, from the principals all the way down through the company, including our receptionist who takes residents’ complaints,” explains Orth. “We do a lot of training. We have a lot of events where we all become like a team and we ask, ‘What’s going on out there? How can we improve those things?’” These meetings serve as a springboard for staff members, allowing them to share ideas, troubleshoot, and accommodate renters’ changing expectations.

Results from those meetings have helped LumaCorp develop a consistent way to process and resolve resident complaints. “We have developed a very good system for following up on things, to make sure that people are taken care of,” says Orth.

Ensuring that onsite staff has the time for follow up requires improving efficiency wherever possible. LumaCorp depends on software that automates and streamlines daily leasing and accounting processes to free up time for onsite staff.

“Everybody in the business knows that the real success on a property is determined by the onsite personnel. If you give them the time to get out there and do the leasing and the management, they’ll be successful,” says Orth. “We want them providing the best customer service possible for our resident, and we believe that equipping them with time-saving technology means more time that they can be hands-on with those other things. Less time is spent on administrative and accounting type of functions, and I believe it’s paid off.”

Lastly, acknowledging employees’ achievements goes a long way towards improving and maintaining morale, which has proven to directly enhance customer engagement. “We have an annual awards banquet where we recognize different categories. I know the onsite folks appreciate that,” says Orth. “For our managers, we also offer cash flow bonuses so that they have a lot of incentive to produce out there.”

Employee recognition boosts staff morale and, in turn, improves customer engagement. James Oakley, assistant professor of management at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University lead a team that studied about 100 U.S. companies with a total of 5,000 employees. Their research confirmed a link between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and the financial wellbeing of the company.

“The linkage is through employees’ impact on customers. There is a relationship between attitude and profitability […] that relationship is bridged by satisfied customers. There is a direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and subsequently between customer satisfaction and improved financial performance,” Oakley reports to Northwestern University’s The Forum.

Improving customer service through advanced training, time-saving technology, and employee recognition can alleviate half of renters’ most common complaints, resulting in a resident experience that promotes retention and referrals.

Turner Research Found the Top 10 Apartment
Resident Customer Satisfaction Complaints are:
➊ Rental rates
❷ Poor grounds/common area upkeep
❸ Disorganized staff/lack of communication with staff
❹ Quality of response to maintenance requests
❺ Overall customer service of management staff
❻ Quality of parking/parking availability
❼ Concerns over security/safety/lighting
❽ Lack of upgraded amenities
❾ Pets not on leash/poor pet waste removal
❿ General lack of preventative maintenance on property

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