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Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 2nd Quarter 2015

Greetings from Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions! We are delighted to bring you the Second Quarter 2015 EPMS Quarterly Shopping Report Performance Comparison. Now is the time to reflect on leasing performance and seek out opportunities which will inspire employees to dig deeper into the leasing conversation with their customers. As your partner, Ellis strives to deliver the most current and effective tools to help you monitor and evaluate on-site leasing engagement and marketing effectiveness, as well as to be able to compare your team’s performance against others in the industry.

2nd Quarter 2015 Benchmark ImageThis year’s Benchmark theme is designed to cultivate internal conversations as we seek to understand and train the multi-generational front-line leasing team and serve the “new” customer. Fostering a diverse workplace is a priority for many companies today because different perspectives drive innovation. As a result, savvy leaders are beginning to realize their training design is not cutting it for the fast-paced, newly emerging Generation Y employee. In this letter, we explore some new ideas in leasing training content which speak to Gen Y’s needs as an employee and customer.

Changing Trends

Despite success in numbers, there are always opportunities for improvement when it comes to serving the customer. Even the most effective leasing consultants can use a little brushing up on their delivery. Do you know where your employees have ranked among your competitors over the last 15 years? These valuable trending graphs provide a snapshot of benchmark averages since inception. It conveys that overall leasing performance has been escalating since the launch of the Benchmark. What does your company trend look like?

2Q2015TrendGraphs

Since 2000, the Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark quarterly ranking and comparison has been our way of identifying and recognizing the leasing performance of participating companies. The basic premise of the benchmark is evaluating performance on the 10 key benchmark questions. Participating companies can qualify for Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze level based on their company average Benchmark performance scores during the quarter.

The overall Benchmark score ranges by category reflected in the charts below were calculated based on all of the shops included in the Ellis Benchmark for 2014. The overall average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score in 2014 was 90. The overall average Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark score in 2014 was 3.7.

2Q2015RankingCharts

The Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark 2nd Quarter 2015 Overall Average score of all participating companies is 90% compared to 1st Quarter 2015 at 91%. The Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark 2nd Quarter 2015 Overall Average score of all participating companies is 3.7, slightly down from 1st Quarter 2015 at 3.8.

2nd Quarter, 2015 Companies Representing 3,404 Total Shops

Advenir Real Estate Management; AMLI Residential; BH Management Services, Inc.; Bozzuto & Associates; CWS Apartment Homes, LLC; Gables Residential Services; GHP Management; Greystar Management Services; Guardian Management, LLC; Holland Residential; IMT Residential; Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.; Monogram Residential Trust; Pacific Living Properties; Palms Associates; Pinnacle (PRMC); Post Properties; RAM Partners, LLC; Simpson Property Group; Sunrise Management; The Bainbridge Companies; Timberland Partners; TriBridge Residential; Venterra Realty; Waterton Residential; Windsor Property Management Co / GID; Wood Partners; ZRS Management, LLC

Congratulations to the 2nd Quarter 2015 Traditional Benchmark Platinum Level Achievers!

  • Gables Residential Services
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • Venterra Realty

Congratulations to the 2nd Quarter 2015 Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers!

  • AMLI Residential
  • CWS Apartment Homes, LLC
  • Gables Residential Services
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • Monogram Residential Trust
  • Post Properties
  • Simpson Property Group
  • Venterra Realty
  • Windsor Property Management Co / GID
  • ZRS Management, LLC

* Companies are listed in alphabetical order.

** The highest level achieved for the 2nd Quarter 2015 Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark was Gold.

We give special recognition to Gables Residential Services; Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.; and Venterra Realty who placed in the highest-achieved levels this quarter for both the Traditional and the Customer Experience Benchmarks.

How did we do?

These charts reflect the average score of all participating companies for each benchmark question and the combined overall benchmark scores.

2Q2015BenchmarkBreakdowns TOPIC: Leasing Training Content

Selling tests the skills of leasing consultants. They learn how to deal with a variety of different personalities, determine what customers need and want, build value in a product/service, and create urgency for action. The best leasing consultants learn from experience, and more often than not, failure teaches more than success. Their foundational training starts in a training room somewhere. Training Directors are tasked with meeting the needs of a multi-generational workforce. This is not always easy. Generation Y (80 million strong) has certainly thrown a wrench into many established training programs because they learn differently and they have a razor thin attention span.

Many industry leaders are jumping on the “we need to change training” bandwagon. What is their goal? It is to create content that is not only effective, but also adaptable to a variety of employees and customers they serve. If you have experience in this arena, you know this can quickly turn into a lengthy list of unachievable goals with minimal resources to get the job done. This process of developing new training programs can be burdensome and quite overwhelming. As your partner in training, we hear the chatter, we understand the complexity of this situation, and we are here to provide you with five thought-provoking talking points which should be framed into your future training program.

1. Take Control of the Customer Conversation. Why is it important for Leasing Consultants to learn how to take control of the customer conversation? The answer is Generation Y. Compared to previous generations, Generation Y (1978-1995) has some very different spending habits that have taken the marketplace by surprise. They do not seem to enjoy purchasing things. They are hanging out in their digital space, numb to most sales attempts – including yours. What do they want from your Leasing Consultant?

  • An insightful expert—a partner—to guide them through the process. To get to the root of the need they do not even know they have yet. Amazon does a fantastic job at this by using their customer data!
  • Customization. They researched your product, price, and customer reviews before driving to your office. They need someone who is inquisitive about their life and needs in a genuine and transparent way.
  • Respect their time and acknowledge their product knowledge. Gen Y has already looked up you and 5 of your competitors online; they are familiar with your product, your service, and what your customers are saying about you. Quit the “out of the box” presentations.
  • How will your product and service make my life better? Leasing Consultants need to think about the product and services they sell in a slightly new way. Connect with them emotionally.

While the popular Consultative Selling Process is not dead, it does require some new additives. What is the buzz on the street? Insight Selling and The Challenger Sale models are getting the attention of many training decision makers. In the book, The Challenger Sale, the authors reveal their findings on sales effectiveness from an exhaustive study of over 6,000 sales representatives across a variety of industries.

Sales reps fall into one of five profiles; Relationship Builders, Hard Workers, Lone Wolves, Reactive Problem Solvers, and Challengers. In this study, only one group consistently outperformed the rest—Challengers.

The Challengers successfully reframe customers’ expectations and deliver a distinctive purchase experience that drives higher levels of customer loyalty and ultimately greater growth.

  • They teach their customers something they do not know or identify a problem they do not even realize they have.
  • They tailor their sales message to the customer.
  • They take control of the sales conversation.

Today’s effective Leasing Consultant can conduct directional conversations that are interesting, educational, and thought-provoking. In turn they use their insight, combine it with their product and industry knowledge, and take the customer’s conversation in an intentionally useful direction for both parties involved. By taking control of the customer conversation, they encourage customers to want to take the next step and make a purchasing decision. How a Leasing Consultant sells has become more important than what they sell.

Are your leasing consultants taking control of the customer conversation?

 

2. Selling to Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Why does understanding generational differences matter in sales? There are many differences between the generations, both in their values and expectations as well as in the lifestyles they prefer to live. This can be a challenge when attempting to sell a product or service. Leasing Consultants need to learn how to cater their sales and marketing message to many different generations at the same time. By teaching employees what different generations value, they can more effectively engage with any customer and increase loyalty. What does each generation want your Leasing Consultant to know about them?

 

  • Traditionalists (individuals who are 70 to 78 years old) came of age buying clothing, insurance, furniture, and just about everything else from salespeople who were also the store owners as well as their neighbors and friends. They like human interaction, not digital. Look them in the eye. Offer transparency, honesty. Do not rush them.
  • Baby Boomers (individuals who are 51 to 69 years old) have been pitched by every creepy salesperson selling every imaginable product. They have seen and heard it all. They want integrity and common courtesy. Time wasters and scripted pitches will not cut it. Give them the facts. Be relevant.
  • Generation X (individuals who are 38 to 50 years old) is the latch-key generation. They are street smart, and they have done their homework. They want a no-nonsense sales approach. Get them from point A to point B. Efficiency is the operative word when selling to and serving this generation of customers. They appreciate good service and good deals.
  • Generation Y (individuals who are 20 to 37 years old) have grown up dominated by technology. They live online and they buy online. They were raised on self-esteem and made to feel that each one of them is special and unique. Respect their individuality. They value customization of everything from their music to their jeans and soda. So you need to customize their sale. Oh, mom and dad might be tagging along, too. They love their parents and often include them in their big decisions.

While no generation fits perfectly in a box, Generation Y have their own unique tendencies which effective salespeople understand. How much do your employees know about generational differences?

 

3. The Power of Customer Experience (CX). A customer experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. Why is it important? Meaningful, memorable, fun, unusual and unexpected experiences influence the way customers perceive you in general. These little details are so easy to overlook, so tempting to brush off as unimportant. But add a number of these small details together, and you end up with something of far more value than you would without them. When all things are equal, what causes a customer to lease from one Leasing Consultant over another? It is the little things like attentiveness, recognition, personalization, and consideration. The goal of every Leasing Consultant should be to create such an unforgettably great experience that their customers are loyal for life and will recommend their product and services to their friends and family members. Where do you start?

  • Excel at conducting very basic customer interactions day in and day out.
  • Make a concerted effort to treat customers well.
  • Take the time to get to know the customer.

A report by McKinsey (2014) found that companies that focus on maximizing satisfaction in the basic areas, with regard to the entire Customer Experience, have the potential to increase customer satisfaction by 20%. Any touch point a customer has with your brand is an opportunity to make a great or not-so-great experience for that customer.

Do your employees understand their impact on the Customer Experience from the Property Manager to the Leasing Consultant to the Groundskeeper?

 

4. Building & Selling Value. Why does building and selling value matter in leasing apartments? If you offer the best product, that should be all that matters, right? Customers buy what they perceive as being of value to them, and it is not always the nicest product with the most elaborate menu of services. They are more likely to set an appointment, walk through your door, lease an apartment, and renew their lease when their perceived value is high – value in your product, your services, and your leasing consultant’s conversation. Because customers often use price as the dominant factor in a sale, leasing consultants need to demonstrate that sometimes the higher price is actually a better solution – a higher value. Value is the only reason people are willing to pay $5.00 for a $0.50 cup of coffee at Starbucks! It is about more than just coffee. How can a leasing consultant build and sell value in their product and services?

  • By asking questions that are insightful.
  • By helping customers consider issues they had not thought about.
  • By moving the discussion way beyond the standard “what is your price?”
  • By changing the customer conversation and being prepared to answer their pressing question, “How is your product and service going to positively impact my life?”

When more than one in four U.S. renters use at least half their family income to pay for housing and utilities, an apartment community can no longer be just another place to live. Do you have a unique value proposition? Do your employees know how to sell it to their customers?

 5. The Changing Classroom. Why is the classroom changing? One of the main drivers is the ability to adapt instruction to the needs of today’s new learners, Generation Y. The week-long training classes, 12 inch training binders, and pure Instructor Led Training (ILT) with little hands on practice are not effective with this generation. Their wants and needs are different, and the way they learn is different, too.

According to Dean Debnam, CEO of Workplace Options, “Workers under the age of 30 grew up with different tools and expectations than middle aged workers and baby boomers. Younger professionals are more inclined to communicate and interact effectively through technology, so the standard model of one person lecturing to a room full of people may not be the most productive approach to reach this age group.” In 2011, Workplace Options conducted a study of 459 working Americans about their experiences with training programs and found stark differences between the training desires of younger and older respondents. The younger group was deeply dissatisfied with the kind of training they were receiving.

What demands did the Workplace Options survey reveal? How is the property management industry responding to their new audience?

  • 75 percent of younger workers want training programs available remotely through handheld mobile devices. 40 percent of respondents ages 30-45 and 26 percent ages 46-65 agreed.
    • Gaming and quizzes in an online learning platform
    • Q & A via Facebook: Pairing successful leasing consultants with brand new employees after their training is complete; leading focused discussions to support and encourage new employees as they enter the “real world”
    • Pre-recorded YouTube “Sales Talks” showcasing top Leasing Consultants discussing challenging topics
  • 63 percent of young workers would like shorter classes. Overall, 39 percent of respondents agreed.
    • Faster paced classes to balance short attention spans
    • Moving compliance training online vs. in-person
    • Shorter classes stick to the “big idea” approach and move the rest online
    • Spicing up training presentations with more pictures and video
    • Specific problem/solution focused leasing mini workshops
  • 95 percent of younger employees would like internal communications training so they are more comfortable talking to supervisors. 67 percent of respondents ages 30-45 and 66 percent of workers ages 46-65 agreed.
    • Real life scenario based training to engage and challenge learners
    • Executive presence – CEO telling the company’s story in-person; Regional Managers participating in new leasing training classes; ultimately the breaking of the top down philosophy divide and increase in transparency
  • 70 percent of younger workers said the availability of personal or professional development training is an important employee perk.
    • Formal mentoring programs focus on building employee loyalty
    • Collaborative learning – new and experienced leasing employees at a table engaging in a high-level leasing challenge; discussing, possibly debating, an issue, making shared decisions, and producing a solution that demonstrates a deeper understanding

Training Directors, if you are going to attract, train, and retain the very best sales talent, then you must start thinking differently about how you engage, educate, and mentor new employees. Meeting the needs of a multi-generational workforce and customer is not easy, but it is essential for overall success. Training content should be current, effective, and support the needs of the internal and the external customers you serve. Similar to the leasing process, you must sometimes learn from trial and error – testing new approaches and making adjustments along the way.

Join us next quarter as we dig deeper into the Training Environment topic.

We thank you for your ongoing participation and feedback, which help make this report informative, fresh, and a reliable resource. We hope you will find Ellis Partners in Management Solutions, a feedback company and multifamily partner since 1984, to be not only the finest source for mystery shopping but also a training and feedback resource for your organization. Additional support and information can be found under Training and Articles on our website.

 

Prepared by Joanna Ellis, Chief Executive Officer

July 15, 2015

 

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