Good Resident Relations Begin On Day One
Spring into Action - Is Your First Impression a Good One?

As an expert on resident retention, I like to move around a bit to get a feel for different parts of the country, and to examine and test different ideas and activities on a variety of audiences. I chose California as my next home as this state is a leader in resident retention and innovative management ideas. The plan was to be in California for about sic months, so I was excited to have to look for an apartment home just like our prospects. No matter how often I move, I always forget [or block out?] What a nightmare it is searching for a home. It's a real hassle.

With my new perspective, I have some opinions to share. First, get rid of the cheezie move-in gifts. No one wants a coffee mug or plastic visor with your company's log on it. Honest! Most logo-ized specialties are for the birds. In all of my experience of working and touring apartment communities, I have never seen one resident wearing ANYTHING with the management company's logo. Have you? These items are just more things that get in the way as you try to sort out boxes of your own things. I truly think it's better to not give the resident anything versus something that doesn't represent your community to be the first class and client-oriented place it really is. But I do think those move-in gifts can be an important part of starting off on the right foot with your residents. Just cut the cheese. If you need some new ideas, call a welcome gift company that specializes in this type of thing. There are many companies geared especially for our industry - give one of them a try.

Secondly, make sure you stand by your service philosophy. If a new resident reports items that need maintenance, fix them immediately - no matter how insignificant. Those initial first impressions set the tone for the rest of that resident's occupancy. Make them good ones.

Rob Foellinger of MarkeTactics, after years of research, recently completed a study where he found that "very powerful, difficult-to-reverse first impressions are formed within the first 5 days of residence..." Make sure those impressions are what you want your residents to remember.

Thirdly, if you offer phone service through your community as an additional income source, make sure it's a good company. Fighting with phone reps over echoes in the phone lines, having service periodically cut off, and higher phone bills is awful. Ensure that the companies with whom you associate treat your residents with respect and courtesy. If they don't, your company is the one who ultimately looks bad.

We all know how important it is to go the extra step for good customer service. But how many of us really do it? It's funny how often we choose the easy route. Yet we all know excellent customer service really does make a difference. Case in point. I was shopping in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia a few months ago. It was January and my blood has thinned in this last year and a half since I moved out West. We popped into a store and I was shivering because I was so cold. The store owner immediately went to the thermostat, turned up the heat, and told me where the warmest place in the store was to stand. Wow! What a first impression! He continued his at-your-service philosophy the whole time we were there. Did we make a purchase? Yes. Will we recommend the store to friends? Yes. Memorable customer service? Right down to my ice-cold toes.

Spring into action. First impressions do count.
Make sure yours are good ones.

Mindy Williams was once a full-time activities director for one of the largest residential management companies in Washington, D.C. There, she oversaw the resident retention program for forty communities and more than 16,000 apartments. She quickly realized that our industry was in dire need of quality and cost-effective new activities and ideas, and time and work-saving ways to implement successful resident retention programs.

Now editor of Let's Party! The Resident Retention Activities Guide, Mindy's publication has exploded into our industry this year. Especially designed for those who wish to make the most of their marketing dollars and to "shut their back door", Let's Party is jam-packed with new, inexpensive and easy-to-implement retention ideas. For more information, call 714-362-5552

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