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    Where Customer Engagement and Loyalty Intersect in Multifamily


    Where Customer Engagement and Loyalty Intersect in Multifamily

    “We are missing [remarketing] opportunities as an industry,” said Gigi Giannoni, Vice President of Marketing and PR at Gables Residential. “Raise your hand if you regularly continue the relationship with your prospects throughout their lifecycle, even if they don’t lease from you,” she challenged the AIM | 18 audience. Only a few hands went up, underscoring the morning’s theme of unexplored connection to renter prospects.

    “It’s something that the hotel and resort industry does well,” according to Giannoni. “The minute someone comes through the door, they get an email. Who knows? Even if they don’t rent with you, they might be back. Maybe they’ll have a bad experience elsewhere. Maybe they’ll decide to relocate. At Gables, we touch them four times. Those touchpoints are tied to their lease expiration wherever they go.”

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    And does it work? According to Giannoni, not always — but when it does, it’s powerful. “We’ll have people come back after getting these calls and emails from us and they’ll say, ‘Boy, you’re persistent. But you really made me feel important.’”

    Panel moderator John Hinckley, co-founder and CEO of Modern Message, draws comparisons to the airline industry. “Southwest does a great job of engaging customers and encouraging them to interact and share their experiences,” he said. “They keep in touch. They tell you how many miles you’ve flown and how close you are to the next status level. When you’re in, you feel like you’re building something with them. They had a rough month last month,” added Hinckley. “For the first time in the history of the airline, someone died on their plane. But customers are still defending them. And the same thing happened with United last year.”

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    Loyalty and retention are the cornerstones of Gables’ marketing strategy. “We started thinking that way because we were looking to take advantage of our huge database of prospects,” Giannoni explained. “In today’s day and age, engagement is critical to making people feel valued. And with the advent of technology, those engagement points throughout the lifecycle of the resident become extremely important.”

    For the last six years Joseph Batdorf, President of J. Turner Research, has been focused on analyzing the latest facts and trends relating to online reviews. “We feel that opinions expressed by residents in surveys are the most accurate reflection of customer service at a property,” he said. Reviews carry so much weight these days — opinions posted on Facebook pages, as well as reviews and pictures, are very important especially among residents who are students.

    And what about manager responses to complaints on sites like Facebook, Google or Yelp? “Residents reject cookie-cutter responses,” Batdorf shared. “They care less about the apology and more about whether the manager has the right attitude and a commitment to fix the issue raised. People really put a lot of stock into whether or not managers respond well.”

    Giannoni agrees about the impact of social media chatter. “Loyalty impacts social media, as well as ratings and reviews,” she said. “People might leave your community, but then they’re still out there in ‘space’ engaging and talking. We’re noticing that more and more residents stay in touch with staff. Sometimes, they’ll even follow staff members when the staff member transfers!”

    So Giannoni recommends letting people “get involved in what’s happening in their own community. Treat them as an extension of your onsite team,” she advised. “It’s amazing how that will make them want to stay.”

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