Resolving The Riddle of
by Mindy Williams and Danna Lynde
For Service Techs and Housekeepers
Your goal here is to adapt, modify or change around my ideas to suit
your community, budget and residents. These ideas will help you increase
your resident retention. Let's start with your service staff. We all
know that these are the folks who see your residents more than we do. So
it's vital they are prepared to handle customer service situations.
While they are in our residents' homes, it's also important for them to
emphasize to residents the convenience of apartment living. As we
increase the perception of service, we decrease customer defection.
Ideas You Can Implement Immediately
"Just popped in" popcorn. This idea has been around for years
which should give you a giant hint (it works!). Most property management
catalogs have a "We just popped in to fix the problem" sticker
on a bag of microwave popcorn. This idea is cheap - service techs leave
the popcorn on the counter after a
request has been completed. A management company in North Carolina
actually received thank you notes from residents after starting this
Welcome cards from the service staff welcoming new residents (leave this
on the counter with take out menus from local restaurants, so new
residents can eat their first night). Critical: Signatures from the
service team at the bottom of the cards - this starts the service aspect
of your promise on a personalized note.
Photo ID's for your service team can be cheaply made at Kinko's. This
adds a level of professionalism to your service program. Baudville
catalog also sells them (1-800-728-0888).
...with Team Photos on them are the newest rage across the country.
Leave these on the counter for new residents and after service with
service completion forms. These are also a smooth leasing tool for
prospects (how many of your competitors give out the service team's
business card? None.). Remember, people make the difference with good
customer service. It's easier to get mad at an organization, harder to
complain about someone you have a personal relationship with.
Instead of popcorn service techs are
-OUCH! Gum: "Ouch! Sorry about the inconvenience!" (from Kmart
-Carefree Gum "Enjoy a carefree lifestyle."
-100 Grand bars "You're worth a hundred grand to us."
-movie rental coupons
Referral cards for maintenance staff
They leave a card on the counter after a request has been completed
"We hope we've taken care of you request, let your friends know
where you live!"
Hotel-like cards that welcome residents
-Critical: Real signatures from the service team
Personalize Name Tags
Put hometowns on everyone's name tags like in casinos and hotels. This
gives residents and prospects a starting point for conversation.
...are also popular. Let your residents check out:
-A card table
-Fix a Flat
-hide away bed
-Sharper Image (800-344-4444) cigarette lighter car battery charger.
www.sharperimage.com. This cigarette lighter car battery charger is
extremely helpful, especially if you are worried about the liability
associated with jumpstarting cars. Just plug the charger into your
cigarette lighter and it charges your car battery.
-Hotel bellman cart
Move In Appointments
Set up move in appointments with service techs and new residents.
Service techs are there to assist with "learning" the
apartment as well as troubleshoot any problems. Items include:
-"run through" of appliances
-garbage disposal restart button
-how to work the A/C properly.
Your service techs may balk at doing
this saying it will take up too much time. Just remind them how many
garbage disposals they reset each month - and if they teach residents
how to do this it will cut down on calls.
Move In How To Notes
If you don't have service techs to walk through the new home, print Post
It Notes on your own printer. Put the yellow stickies near the
How To Set The Microwave Clock
How To Reset This Disposal
What Should NOT Go In This Disposal
Set Thermostat By...
Post It Notes printed from your
Desk Top Labels: 1-800-241-9730, www.desktoplabels.com.
A New Twist To What We Already Do
Like Jiffy Lube, put stickers on Smoke detectors and Air filters showing
the last date of service. How residents will notice? Probably not many.
But the ones who do will be impressed!
Scented air filters are "in!" Warm Welcomes has vanilla and
chocolate chip cookie scent (great for models) Call them at
1-800-882-8022 for a catalog.
Save water week is May 7-14. This is a
great excuse for you to check for dripping faucets and install
water-saving devices in homes. You can designate a week a quarter as
Save Water Week at your community for preventative maintenance.
Record Service Requests
Follow up cards for service requests. Danna ordered giant plastic
records from Stumps catalog (1-800-348-5084) and left notes for
residents saying, "Let us service you in 'record' time!"
Service Teams Are Part Of The Marketing
Invite service department to marketing meetings since they see our
residents more than we do. We bet they'll have great service and amenity
ideas for you. Also have a meeting so service techs can train inside
staff on "how to write up a work order." This saves the office
staff time and the residents frustration if the correct service was not
performed right the first time.
The days of "Dear Resident" renewal letters are long over. So
why are we still sending them out (I just got one!). Personalize the
letter and remember that residents expect us to "resell" the
apartment to them.
Highlight all improvements, new amenities and services in the letter.
Here are some fun ways to deliver a lease renewal:
"time to renew" balloons.
-Leave on apartment doors inflated with helium
-weight down with a bag of candy
-and an unsigned lease!
The Container Store glass milk bottles
Place a sticker with your community information
"Please don't moooooooove! We want you to stay another year!"
"It seems like it was just yesterday..."
Take a picture of the new residents at move-in, keep it in their file,
and send it with a card when it's time to renew
Sally Distributors 1-800-472-5597
Oriental Trading 1-800-228-2269
M&N International 1-800-479-2043
Burpee Seed Corporation-1-800-999-8552 Example: Forget-me-nots!
Some Interesting Renewal Giveaways:
Airline Miles for Renewals
A community near Indianapolis decided to give residents an incentive to
stay instead of a gift after renewing. They chose to give away frequent
flyer miles on American Airlines.
For American Airlines you purchase a
package of miles and can distribute them to residents in whatever
denomination you choose (5,000 costs $100). Two communities in Florida
are doing this with Delta as incentives to LEASE. Obviously, pick the
major airline near your town, call their reservations number and ask for
their Incentive Miles Program. (American: 800-
This company also has renewal and thank you chocolates. Just fax a list
to them each month and Birthday Chocolates will mail your residents
chocolates in "thank you" wrapping paper. Birthday Chocolates
also help with recapture residents - By accident a community in Wichita,
Kansas sent a Birthday Chocolate to a lady who had moved out. Since the
chocolates are mailed first class, the present was forwarded. Imagine
receiving chocolate from the apartment community where you had just
moved from! This resident was so
touched that she moved back as soon as her lease was up. Birthday
This Gift Means A Lot, Costs Little
Reserved Parking for long-term residents is IN. If parking is a problem
at your community, reserve spots for residents who have lived there for
an extended period of time (five, ten, whatever years) to show your
appreciation. This is free!
Go Outside The Box With These Gifts
White Noise Makers
Sound Machines make white noise when you sleep. Managers are giving
these to residents, especially if there is construction or noisy
You can buy sound machines at drug stores, Sharper Image, or Hammacher
Schlemmer. Cost: $10-$70.
Paint A Room
Offer to paint a room a color or add crown molding (usually under $100).
Improving the apartment packages are also popular (clean the carpet, add
a ceiling fan, etc.).
Some communities in California bill their residents each month.
-increase in timely rent payments
-include your own message to residents
"Our apartments are the largest in the area"
"Make FREE photocopies in our business center!"
Sell coupons (Domino's, renter's
insurance, dry cleaners) in the bills to supplement postage.
Send Anniversary Gifts To Residents At
Work and increase referrals too.
Managers across the country have sent
these gifts to residents at work:
-lunch or dinner for two
-an ice cream truck
Here are two ways to use cardboard people for your referral program.
(Advanced Graphics, 925.432.2262).
Star Trek Theme
Beam Them In Scotty promotion. Put boot leg signs out front with
"Beam Yourself In."
Clint Eastwood "Make Our Day."
"Go ahead and make my day... send us your referrals today!"
This is great for existing residents and locators.
Midnight Madness pajama party
At a Midnight Madness Referral promotion in Houston, staff members
dressed in pajamas and curlers, invited residents to the party and
leased 32 apartments that night! Advance promotion is key as it will get
residents and their friends to the party as well as build excitement.
Consider invite the police since you'll be in the office until late.
Check with your attorney before doing this one!
Post Cards With Pictures
At Labelspro.com you can order Avery post cards for $12.30. To add
personality, take a snapshot of the property or your staff and make
color copies at Kinkos. Put the photo on one side leaving the adhesive
on the back. Peel and stick your photo onto your new marketing piece.
Post Card Floor Plans
Do the same thing as above with the Avery post cards only put your floor
plans in black and white on front. Remember to include your property's
name and address at the bottom. These can be used as change of address
cards for residents (hey - they are now "direct mailing" their
friends) or as follow up thank you cards.
Assign each leasing consultant or team member his/her own building. They
are responsible for those referrals and renewals.
Write out your referral flyer and attach it to a glow in the dark rings
(like at fairs and circuses). Hang them on residents' door knobs. You
can even print your message with glow in the dark ink. Your community
will be lit up!
Cards can say:
"We've gotten "glowing" reviews, refer your friends
Once activated, these will glow for up to 6 hours. Buy glow in the dark
rings from M&N or the US Toys catalogs (see Resources Section).
Develop a "most wanted" list.
List your most wonderful residents. Pick up the phone and let them know
how much you appreciate them. Ask them where can you find more residents
just like them.
Using The Internet For Resident
Some of the big management companies are installing Kiosks in leasing
centers where residents can email service requests 24 hours a day. Okay,
so maybe we all can't afford to do this - so make sure residents can
notify you of service concerns in at least three ways: Phone, fax,
email, pagers, drop boxes are examples.
Looking to the future: Interactive Service Problems: Type in your
problem and the computer will tell you steps to take to fix it. We also
will have an Intranet system where we can contact residents and
prospects by sending
Promote Local Events & Activities
Selling a sense of community is extremely important - you know that
subscribe to Rent & Retain. Make sure your newsletter includes local
and happenings. If an outside company designs your newsletter, ask the
designers to surf these sites for your neighborhood's events.
Stumpsparty.com-prom catalog Theme ideas/party supplies
Shindigsz.com Theme ideas/party supplies
Theplunge.com- set up a web page invitation site to announce community
CelebrateExpress.com on-line party store 1-888-551-3995
Danna and I surveyed welcome gift companies and found out the following.
In our industry, the average cost for welcome gifts is $4-$5. In this
price range, the most popular gifts were:
Arrival Kits/First Day Necessities (basics soap, toilet paper, kitchen
Memo boards/note pads
The most common gift: Toilet Paper (yuk!). In five of my last seven
moves I received toilet paper as part of my move in gift. During my
seminars I tell people what a tacky "gift" this is. At least
one manager jumps up and says, "But people always forget toilet
paper when they move!." I totally agree.
But is TP a gift? I think it should already be in the apartment.
Welcome gift basket companies are
constantly upgrading and updating their products. Call the companies
below and ask for a copy of their newest catalogs.
Warm Welcomes (800-882-8022)
Welcome Home America (800-937-9424)
Leasing Impressions (972-723-6199)
Granny's Goodies (800-888-1636)
Sassy Gift Baskets (1-800-523-8060)
Great American Business Products (800-231-0329(.
Unique Housewarming Gifts We Have Seen
Or Heard About
--Stocked refrigerator on move in day
--milk, orange juice, eggs, bread, ice cream. Consider Kosher food, too.
(Orange County, CA)
-E-gift cards for residents - $25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble
(Arlington, VA/Chicago, IL)
-FREE Computers bought in bulk (Houston, TX).
-FREE Moving Vans (Seattle, WA)
-Hoover vacuums (Phoenix, AZ) 800-757-7712 ext. 2822
-Blockbuster Video Cards in $5-$50 denominations (Chicago, IL)
-KMart "Dollars" in $5-$50 denominations (Orange County, CA)
-Temporary business cards and letterhead (Dallas, TX)
-Reserved parking on move in day. (Denver, CO)
-Home Depot welcome mats. About $5 each
-Video Naturals which are videos of aquariums, the ocean, and a
fireplace. Cost: about $10 each. These are also great conversation
starters for models. 800-950-5545.
-Magazine subscriptions like: Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, Better
Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Martha Stewart's Living
-Decorating for Good: A Step-by-Step Guide to Rearranging What You
Already Own book (Clarkson Potter $14)
-GOLDFISH! A community in Corpus Christie, TX gave away live goldfish to
complement their beach theme.
-E-gift cards for residents ($25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble)
(Arlington, VA/Chicago, IL)
-Cookie pop bouquets (stick a popsicle stick into the cookies before
baking, wrap in brightly-colored cellophane, tie with ribbon) (Nashua,
-Reserved parking on move in day. Just block off a parking space or two
in front of the new resident's home. This avoids the chance of existing
residents' cars being scratched.
Average cost: $7.99
$2.99 in Texas
-gingerbread snacks or candles
-Renew A Zoo
-Renew A Note Doorhanger/notepad
Potpourri & Smelly Candles
Help Residents Grow Roots
..by offering furniture discounts, adding phone lines, upgrading the
apartment, letting residents pick a paint color, helping them convert
their 2nd bedroom into home office, cleaning the carpet, ceiling fans,
organizers, giving them a choice of removable wallpaper from home stores
like Home Depot.
Thank You Certificate
-G.Neil catalog 1-800-999-9111 or Baudville 1-800-728-0888 has cute
thank you certificates you can send to residents. Do this once a
Stored Value Marketing (svm.com) or Giftcertificates.com offers
certificates for many major retailers. Check out these sites.
Send them a card via email from www.bluemountainart.com. Their
cards are adorable and this service is free.
According the American Kennel Club, the most popular breeds registered
in the United States in 1999 were:
Consider your community and consider accepting larger dogs.
Most popular dogs in the U.S.
1. Labrador Retrievers
2. Golden Retrievers
3. German Shepherd
Note that 3 of the 5 dogs weigh over 20 pounds. So, if you have a weight
limit on dogs you are eliminating the majority of pet owners. Many
managers are worried about the bigger dog, bigger waste problem. But
there are ways to combat that as detailed in Rob Foellinger's article in
the book Profit Potentials for Property Managers (888-2RETAIN).
Welcome Gift Examples
Photo tags have pets picture on them 214-720-9191/ www.fototags.com
Dandy Doggie gourmet biscuits 888-236-4568
Give Pet Health Insurance ($100-$200)
Fresh Air Candles 800-364-6637 removes smoke/pet smells
Pet Pantry Food Delivery delivers pet food to your door. To see if the
service is available near you, call 775-782-6512.
Dial A Vet 800-719-8916
Home Pet Shop-1-800-346-074
Great American Business Products has a cute sign that shows your
community is pet friendly. Call 1-800-231-0329 for a sample.
Web sites for pet owners
Petopia.com-pet supplies on line.
Parties & Services
Pinball machines in club rooms
Info-Seminars are in - tax, bookeeping, computer
To Celebrate Memorial Day
-give towels, suntan lotion, and magazines for free
-send out the rubber duckie key chains from Oriental Trading Company
with a note saying, "Pool opens Memorial Day. Remember to pick up
your pool pass by _______." Duckies are 20¢ each. Do this at least
two weeks before Memorial Day and we guarantee you'll avoid at least
some of the last minute crunch.
Neighbor Day is May 21
-have a good neighbor contest
May Is Career Apparel Month - Have a fashion show
On Site Video Rentals
Video Rental Services 800-475-5184
35% of residents used the first month (Dallas, TX)
8 residents used the first afternoon -- 2 were delinquent and paid their
rents (Hurst, TX)
Average community size: 259 units, 57% of residents use the service
Prices start at $2 per tape
Exercise and Spanish tapes
Looking ahead: CD and DVD Rentals.
Make your own CD .................
Grocery Store Ideas
Triple Ice Cream scoop day - May 24th
Toothpaste tube invented in 1892 on May 22nd
Looking ahead: Leasing Consultants will ask prospects how they like
coffee -- half caf, skim, grande latte with a shot of hazelnut syrup!
Cappucino Vending Machines: 800-575-1445, surf www.vending-machines.com.
Pie-"please don't dessert us...renew today!"
Etiquette week May 7-13
Waiting list increased 200%
Girl Scout Troop in Kalamazoo, MI Merit Badges / senior residents
-activities included: story telling, Halloween party, cookie selling,
cleaning up the property, special buddies, letter writing, wrapping
for the seniors
May 18th is Call your relatives day.
Personal Phone Cards
Southwestern Bell has phone cards activated with 3-5 question survey.
800-363-7852 ext. 204.
AT&T pre-paid phone cards: 800-443-3933.
Subscribe to Family Fun Magazine
Floor Plans Coloring Books
... from Solitaire Creative in Houston, 713-465-225......, keep
prospects' children busy and serve as a marketing tool once they leave
your office. Or, make your own coloring books by copying on white paper
and stapling the floor plans together. Make sure the name of your
community, your phone number,
address and directions are on the floor plans.More Activities For Little
OnesThe Right Start catalog: 1-800-Little-1 or 800-548-8531
McGruff Safety Council catalog: 1-800-288-3344.
Newsletters are on Rent & Retain's What's Not Hot list for 2000.
Because most newsletters we see are at least one of the following:
-the same as your competitors'
-treat residents like they are third graders with word searches, puzzles
information that is not interesting.
If you have a good newsletter - keep
Photos increase readership by 200%
A newsletter has a 400% higher readership than a brochure.
On site 14 of 20 managers said newsletter more effective than brochure.
California State University at
Fullerton did a study for News Graphics And
83% of residents read it in part
66% look forward to it
34% made a recipe
19% saved a recipe.
Don't use the same newsletter company! I shopped four communities in
Northern Virginia and three of the four used the same company. If I was
prospect who went home and laid out all of the marketing materials, I
be drawn to the newsletter that was not like the others.
-Sassy Designs 888-397-2779
-Mike Lifestyles 800-305-0546
-News Graphics 949-951-0883.
May Events Calendar from Rent & Retain Magazine. 1-888-2RETAIN.
Better Hearing Month
Books to add to leasing library:
101 Ways to Make Training Active - Mel Silberman
2340 Sales, Marketing & Retention Tips - Mindy Williams
Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas!
Profit Potentials - Mindy Williams (888-2RETAIN)
Creating Customer Connections-Jack Burke-ISBN # 1-56343-149-1. Includes
customer service tear out forms.
Custom Cameras 800-878-3456 Print your
logo/picture on the outside of disposable cameras.
Caption Cameras 818-772-4538 Prints your own message at the bottom of
the picture when film is developed.
Wholesale Cameras 800-488-2339 Cheap disposable cameras for $6 each.
Since it's five to seven times more
expensive to find a new resident than it is to keep your current ones
AND each turn costs you close to $2,000 with rent loss, your resident
retention program is a serious INVESTMENT.Implementing just a few of
these ideas will help you increase your profit potential and make your
residents happier. That means we all win!
To reach Danna, call 281-596-8851 or
email halschick@aolcom. To reach Mindy,
call 888-2RETAIN (273-8246) or email email@example.com.