Closing Techniques

Don’t sell an apartment. Sell yourself.

I have news that might come as a surprise. You’re not selling apartments. Nope. You’re selling yourself.

Posted in: Customer Experience | Tagged: ,


Customer Journey Map Preparation

Customer Journey Map PreparationWe’re one month into 2015, and we’ve already noticing a few trending topics. One of those topics is customer journey maps. This is more than just a buzz word. With our every growing focus on the customer experience, we think this topic is here to stay.


So what is a customer journey map? It is a framework that maps the resident lifecycle. That’s the easy definition. The more complicated definition is below.


A customer journey map documents your resident and prospect experience from the perspective of their eyes. This helps you understand how your customers interact with you today, and it also identifies improvement opportunities.


That last sentence is the important one. Understanding your customers and what to invest in moving forward is half the battle. We get so much feedback from surveys, social media, reviews, and casual conversations that it can be difficult to know where to even begin! Defining your customer journey map helps you do that.





Customer journey maps are excellent at showing the gaps between customer expectations and perceptions of the actual experience at your property. They also help you figure out the “why” and “how”. This means you must be abundantly clear on what you want to accomplish. If you begin with the end in mind, a journey map will define the right path for getting there.


Like anything, preparation is key. Before you start the journey map process, make sure you and your team fully understand your goals.


Before I ever have the actual journey mapping session, I always sit down with the stakeholders to talk about goals. We all must be on the same page about what we are working towards. And if you start a journey map without the goals discussions, the map will be a disaster!


You must also clearly identify whom you want to map. Customer journey maps are intended to be used for very specific target groups. Broad demographics won’t work, because there are too many variables within the group. Keep it small and focused. You can always do an additional map for secondary audience.


Posted in: Customer Experience, Understanding Your Customer |


How to Follow Up

How To Follow UpYou answered 5 prospects calls, gave 2 tours, and received 8 online leads. All today. Now what? You have 15 people that are potential residents and no idea what to do next.

Follow up is an art. And, it’s kind of boring…if you do it the way it’s always been done. Phone numbers and email addresses have no value if you don’t use them properly. Your follow up methods are key to developing a great customer experience that turns a prospect into a resident into an advocate.



The clock is ticking, and you have a short period of time to reengage. Let’s review a few tips to follow up effectively.


  1. Send a personalized email.

Take a minute to send them an email that is not a template or scripted. Send it from your business email address rather than the generic community address. The email shouldn’t be long or formal. Simply thank them for the call/tour/message, and even include something from your conversation. Easy.


  1. Know when to follow up

Timing is everything. I know that when someone calls me during the middle of the business day, I get irritated.   And forget about me responding to an email on a Monday. Know when it is convenient for your prospect or residents rather than when it is convenient for you.


  1. Emphasis your values with personalization

Chances are pretty good that your pitch sounds like your neighbors pitch. Apartments are a commodity, but they don’t have to be. When you follow up, put an emphasis your unique values. And not just any unique values, make sure the values are personalized to the prospect you’re speaking to.


  1. Smile

This probably sounds silly, but always smile. People can hear and read a smile, and it makes all the difference. It keeps your conversation relaxed and warm. It also removes any anxious or desperate tones. You should also always want your follow up to make your prospects smile.

Misty Sanford
Social Insight Thought Leader
Renter’s Voice
Posted in: Sales and Marketing |


Separate Your Community From the Rest

Separate Your Community From the RestWe are facing a new challenge. All of the product coming online looks the same. And, it looks just like the product that was built two years and even three years ago.


This means that you have to work that much harder to tell your story and find your differentiators. It also means that the customer experience should be at the very top of your list of priorities, because you are what make your community different than all the others.


The leasing and sales process requires that you make a connection with your prospect that builds trust and confidence. When you and your competitors look the same, the prospect would rather lease from the person they like, right?


So keep in mind that your job is not to sell apartments. Your job is to sell the outcome that your residents want, to meet their needs and desires. Outcomes are the primary thing they care about, and it’s your job to show them that they can have those outcomes when they choose you and your community.


If you find that you can’t do this, it might be time to modify your audience. Just like developers, leasing teams can get too focused on trying to appeal to the masses. This results in generic communities and generic experiences. When you know and understand exactly who your renter is and then highly target them in every touch point, you can’t help but meet their needs and desires.


Misty Sanford
Social Insight Thought Leader
Renter’s Voice


Posted in: Understanding Your Customer |


Receiving Criticism

shutterstock_111480188croppedReceiving criticism is your chance to show off a rare skill; your ability to take negative feedback well. Believe me, it’s not easy. It takes years of practice and a lot of self-awareness. But you have an advantage. Because of the nature of our business, you get to practice receiving feedback almost daily. You get real feedback from your real customers all the time. You don’t have to wait for an annual performance review or even a survey.

So getting feedback is a good thing, but why do we often react poorly? Easy. People are terrible communicators! It’s true! Most people aren’t aware of their tone or even the impact their choice of words has on their message.

We react poorly for other reasons as well. For example:

  • The criticism may seem wrong or unfair.
  • You may dislike or disrespect the person delivering the feedback
  • The feedback may truly disrupt your sense of identity.

All feedback has some truth in it. In some cases, it might only reveal how crazy others are! The more you understand about communication and why feedback causes negative feelings, the easier it is to react appropriately and learn from the experience.

Whether it’s verbal, written, from a resident, or even from a peer, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you receive some unpleasant feedback.

  1. Don’t get angry

This can cause anger on both sides and mistrust.

  1. Don’t cry

The only thing that will be remembered is your tears.

  1. Don’t deny it

This causes doubt and eats away at your credibility.

  1. Don’t blame others

This is a guaranteed way to lose respect.

Posted in: Customer Feedback, Ratings & Reviews |


Become a Better Communicator

I know you all have a lot of goals you are working towards, especially this time of year. But I have one more goal to add to your list. Become a better communicator with your residents.

Your brand and your residents should have the same conversation. Too often those conversations are very different. What I mean is that your marketing messaging and sales pitch too often don’t match the actual resident experience.

This might sound like a typical problem. Who wants to talk about the trash problems or noisy neighbors? No one. And that’s not what you should be talking about. There is the potential for your residents to share so much more. But for them to do so, you have to better understand each other.


You create the same conversation by collecting information from your residents and then also arming them with information about what you’re doing to improve their experience. For example, do they remember that your maintenance team is committed to fixing every issue within 24 hours? What about the free yoga on Saturdays? Probably not. These things easily get missed if the only time you talk about them is during the prospect experience.


To be a good communicator make it a point to continuously resell your service and experience to your residents. This will create better reviews, more engagement, and happier residents. It also gives your prospects a more authentic view of life at your community.

Posted in: Customer Loyalty, Sales and Marketing, Understanding Your Customer |


Extracting the Noise From Your Reviews

Extracting the Noise From Your ReviewsInterpreting a review can be a bit tricky. If your community is like most communities, you get a lot of feedback.

This information comes from surveys, reviews, social media, and even face-to-face conversations, so it can be a bit overwhelming. It might even cause your team to lose focus.

Sure, there are some residents that point out your flaws in the most honest way possible. But most reviews force you to read between the lines or even piece together the story with analytics. In today’s customer centric world, the real skill is learning how to extract the important information from all the noise.

So how do you do that? It’s simple. You define the business problem. You have to start with a little clarity on what you are trying to fix or solve, and if we are honest with ourselves, we all know where we are weak. Defining your weakness and the business problem will help you understand what data and feedback you want to collect. It also helps you understand when, where, how, and from whom.

Next, you want to separate signal from noise. Noise is an obstacle that can prevent you from making progress if you allow it, because it’s a distraction. Here are 3 tips to reduce noise.

  1. Create standardized reporting. Using a company like Ellis makes reporting easy, because we provide a consistent view of the feedback in an easy to understand format.
  1. Use analytics to understand cause and effect and to forecast performance
  1. Segment your audience. Learn and understand what each group values.

Be ready to learn! It’s amazing what you uncover when you start asking the right questions and truly understand the data.

Posted in: Customer Feedback, Mystery Shopping, Ratings & Reviews |


What Ever Happened to GOOD Customer Service?

What Ever Happened to GOOD Customer ServiceOnce upon a time, good customer service was top priority for many companies. In fact, companies regularly affirmed their promise and commitment to good service. For some companies, customer service was a key factor, while others wore it like a badge of honor.

Remember when the phrase “the customer is always right” was in vogue. At that time, companies would pride themselves on a strong customer commitment and keeping the customer satisfied in order to regenerate business. What really happened? It is as though inherent respect for one another has gone out the window. These days, good customer service is virtually non-existent. Customer service has been sacrificed in exchange for making money. When did the almighty dollar substitute for treating others respectfully? Somewhere along the road we lost our way. We somehow forgot what it means to have innate compassion and empathy, as well as civility towards others.

After receiving substandard service in so many business interactions lately, I wondered what was happening. The lack of customer service from the staff at the doctor’s office, whose inability to treat patients with kindness is apparent to the business that puts on a good face until you sign your name on the dotted line. Do they not realize that their customers, patients and the like keep their businesses thriving? More importantly, do they not understand that people are due the utmost empathy and compassion in all interactions? Remember the Golden Rule, “Do unto others, as you would have them done unto you.”

As one who has completed several customer service compliance audits with over 500 in the area of apartment services, I am amazed at the lack of respect for others. In many of my interactions with leasing office personnel, I am in awe at one, how the staff person obtained a job that requires good customer service in the first place. Secondly, who are the leaders leading and developing the staff working under their tutelage?

Should we hold the deliverer of poor customer service accountable or should light be shone in the direction of those who allow the poor customer service habits to continue? As agents of the company, there is a responsibility to provide good customer service, have genuine respect for others and facilitate the company’s mission while establishing, promoting and protecting the brand.

How do I know the difference between good versus bad customer service? I know because I have been the recipient of both. As a consumer, I know how it feels to be appreciated and valued as customer. Conversely, I know how it feels to be disrespected and undervalued. In addition, I have conducted compliance audits where the customer service was outstanding and others where it was not so much. There were instances when I felt special as a customer and others not. Ultimately, at the end of every interaction, the customer should always leave happy.

The takeaway message is ask the hard questions. Am I giving others my best? Am I treating others the way I want to be treated? Am I making a lasting impression that positively or negatively impacts my company? If the answer is yes, continue to fine-tune this behavior and strive for improvement. If the answer is no, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask if you would like to be treated in that manner?

Posted in: Generational Understanding, Uncategorized | Tagged:


How Do You Make Your Reviews Work For You?

shutterstock_115236073What if you could get your reviews to do the leasing for you? Whether you realize it or not, reviews are already playing a huge role in the sales process. For example, do you know that 84% of millennials say consumer written content on brand sites influences what they buy (Social Trends Report 2013)?


This means they are not only looking at review sites, but they also expect to see reviews on your website. They want real content from real people. Not marketing fluff.


Sounds easy enough, right? Think again. Getting people to write reviews is challenging, because only 28% of consumers have ever written a review (Saurage Report). That’s it! As consumers and prospects, we all love reviews, but we don’t return the favor by writing our own reviews.


The fact is that you can master the SEO game and be extremely visible on search results pages, but until you have positive reviews, or any reviews for that matter, your relevance to prospects is minimal. Reviews are critical to your online success.


So, how do you encourage reviews?


  1. Respond to ALL reviews.

You are probably really good at responding to the negative stuff, but you also need to address every single positive review and thank the reviewer for their feedback. You want prospects to see just how committed you are to your residents.


  1. Know when to ask for reviews

Be strategic about when you ask for reviews. And, make it easy for residents to leave you a review. Don’t assume they know where to leave feedback.


  1. Amplify the good stuff

Spread the word when you get a good review! Post them on your website, social media pages, email marketing, and even internal communications. Don’t forget that prospects expect to see reviews on channels you control.


Misty Sanford

Social Insight Thought Leader

Renter’s Voice

Posted in: Uncategorized |


Reporting Social Media ROI

When social media becomes a business initiative, reporting ROI becomes an expectation. A sometimes overwhelming expectation. Unlike traditional marketing, there is almost too much data. The old rules don’t apply, and reporting ROI no longer fits into a perfectly consistent report. It is fluid and we must adapt to the unique characteristics of the social web.

Posted in: Social Media Marketing | Tagged: ,


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