The Power of Resident Satisfaction Surveys

How to collect feedback from renters to meet their needs, harness relationships and improve the community’s reputation.

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Resident satisfaction is within the top three on the list of property managers’ objectives. Satisfied residents who feel heard and acknowledged are an asset to your community, so knowing what kind of experience your residents are having is essential.

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Resident satisfaction surveys are a surefire way to collect this valuable information and enhance your community’s reputation. Surveys that address various touchpoints—from the application and move-in experience to the lease renewal or move-out stage—help property managers pinpoint what their residents need from them and how they can improve their community.

A successful survey involves more than just well-worded questions and relevant topics—it’s also about timing, frequency and follow-up. Surveys are the first step to gaining insights from your residents. When executed correctly, they foster trust and build relationships between the management team and the community. They also give management the opportunity to address or correct an issue before it becomes a bigger problem. According to Cindy Peterson, vice president at Michaels Management, real-time knowledge of what’s working and what needs improvement is an important part of the resident experience.

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Bozzuto Senior Director of Marketing Jenna Miller told Multi-Housing News satisfaction surveys are a key element of her company’s operations and that they “offer valuable insight into the hearts and minds of our residents.” Bozzuto, which manages 80,000 apartments along the East Coast, uses feedback to build trust with residents and to meet their needs by taking actionable steps.

When it comes to surveys, timing is just as important as trust. At Village Green, survey feedback is an important part of creating authentic experiences for residents across the 40,000 apartments it oversees. Melissa Joy, Village Green Southeast Vice President, told MHN her organization uses surveys at four touchpoints to stay engaged with residents along their journey.

These four surveys supply feedback from a prospective renter following an apartment tour, feedback on the move-in experience, feedback after a work order is completed, and feedback 60 to 90 days before lease renewal. This method of actively engaging with residents provides insights into the different elements of community experiences, Joy said.

Less Is More

As valuable as feedback is for your community, it’s important not to induce “survey fatigue” among your residents. Gables Residential Senior Vice President of Human Resources Philip Altschuler said his organization is mindful of timing when surveying residents.

“It’s important to limit the number of surveys they receive about these requests, so they don’t get burned out and stop sharing their feedback,” Altschuler said.

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This approach is especially applicable if a resident has multiple maintenance requests completed in a short period of time. Surveys should not become an annoyance for your residents, as this can result in poor ratings or a lack of participation—both of which can negatively impact your community.

Poor timing can be equally off-putting for your residents. Don’t overwhelm them with a move-in survey on the first or second day after they arrive. Wait one to two weeks for the stress of moving to subside before asking for their feedback. In the same vein, don’t wait too long to seek feedback following a service experience. You’ll want to inquire about your residents’ satisfaction soon after a work order is completed.

Providing a survey shortly after a resident moves out yields feedback on why the resident is leaving, whether any of their needs weren’t met during their lease period or if they had a first-rate experience in your community. Ask for this feedback immediately before or soon after a resident departs.

Clarity and Brevity

When crafting surveys surrounding particular stages of your residents’ journey, another important element to consider is asking the right questions.

Village Green’s Joy said her organization asks questions that address specific points, like whether residents felt the renting process was easy, the move-in experience was welcoming, or the staff was responsive.

“The spirit behind the questions is about interacting with their customers at every level,” she noted.

Michaels Management keeps their move-in and move-out surveys simple with one question each: “How did we do getting you moved in?” and “How are we doing at saying goodbye?”.

In addition, the company’s work order surveys are limited to five questions that are based on the problem that was resolved.

Whether you send out overall surveys or event-specific ones like those distributed around the leasing process, move-in, move-out and other major stages of a resident’s journey, you can employ general surveys to gain feedback on other areas of the experience. These surveys don’t need to include a laundry list of topics, but they should cover some of the major elements of your community, including interaction with staff/management, cleanliness, maintenance, and amenities and community features, to name just a few.

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To get the most out of your residents, structure your surveys in a simple format to make it easy for them to engage. Five-point rating scales are suitable for most surveys. You should also include a comment section for residents to reference specific issues or praise for things they were extremely satisfied with.

“Always include the opportunity to speak to someone personally to say more,” Joy pointed out.

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It’s important to keep in mind that the survey won’t have an impact if your residents don’t participate. Your community staff are your best tool to spread the word to residents, but you can also get creative and go the extra mile. A drawing for a gift card or prize is another way to engage your residents.

The delivery method can also impact your residents’ engagement. Use a third-party platform and send your surveys by email. Make it easy for your residents to access the survey to increase participation. This also helps when it’s time to evaluate responses and metrics because all your data is organized in one place. Keep feedback on your community’s radar by encouraging residents to participate, whether through direct staff interaction or during social events.

Now What?

The steps you take after the survey are also important. Your residents need to feel heard, and acknowledging their responses shows them that you genuinely want to act on their feedback. If you don’t follow through after the survey, your residents may be less likely to share feedback in the future. “Even when your resident survey feedback is positive, there is still always room for improvement. Don’t ever become complacent,” Peterson said.

In most cases, survey responses reveal trends, so be sure to use that as a tool in your management activity. Village Green, for example, uses survey responses to drive new community features and upgrades. The organization refers to residents’ recommendations for new amenities or the frequency of events. When your residents see you’ve made changes based on their feedback, they feel like they have ownership in the community. “People feel like they had a say,” Joy said.

On that same note, Bozzuto extracts the most common questions and comments from their survey responses and adds these to its “You Spoke, We Listen” e-newsletter to let residents know that their concerns have been heard. Survey data can also help property management teams budget resources for their community and plan the design and layout for future projects.

Resident satisfaction is paramount to building trust, ensuring your renters are happy within your community and helping property management teams enrich renters’ experience and identify improvement areas. Let your residents know that you value their feedback in surveys and always keep communication open.

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