2007 MFE Awards
Prior to 2007, Houston-based Camden Property Trust had little in the way of corporate protocol when it came to managing the retention of residents. Across the company's 64,465 units at 187 properties from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., the best property managers used traditional notebooks, binders, and tickler files to keep track of who was moving in, who was moving out, and how long it had been since a resident was contacted for any customer service issues.
“Our stronger managers were focused on it and would put together a system,” says John Selindh, Camden's vice president of marketing. “It was a bit unwieldy, but we did see positive results from those that took the time and pain to manage those contacts.” But when Camden migrated to the YieldStar revenue-management program in 2007, the higher turnover rates associated with pushing rents strained retention outreach for even the most organized property managers. According to Selindh, it “was time to get serious about making resident retention a part of what we do as a company and to get it standardized and automated into our OneSite [property management and operating] system.”
The resulting resident retention program, designed by Camden and built by RealPage, integrates into Camden's OneSite property management software. It provides community managers with a daily “snapshot” alert covering all aspects of resident outreach, including action items for residents at move-in, one day after move-in, two weeks after move-in, 75 days after move-in, and every 75 days thereafter. Resident data can be further cross-referenced by unit number, name, move-in date, renewal date, and last date contacted.
After receiving the daily snapshot and completing follow-up, property managers note whether they contacted the resident via e-mail, phone, letter, or in-person; what the outcome of the contact was; add any other pertinent information or resident requests; and save the file back to the system. A “notes” section allows enterprising managers—or anyone else on staff—to easily keep track of resident birthdays, hobbies and interests, and children's and pets' names. Camden further encourages that personal touch by providing “occasion cards” for print or e-mail that managers can use for birthdays and anniversaries, renewal and referral thank yous, or even as invitations to a property pool party.
At $18,000 for development and roll-out, Selindh says the program practically paid for itself at just one property. And despite Yieldstar pushing higher rents, Camden is still maintaining 95 percent occupancy across its portfolio, an achievement made possible in no small part by the property managers' willingness to embrace the retention program. “No matter how good technology is, it really boils down to the people,” Selindh says. “You can provide great tools, but it takes the people to embrace them and make things happen.”
- Company: Camden Property Trust
- Purpose: To improve resident retention company-wide.
- Established: 2007
- Cost: $18,000
- Notable: Technology has helped maintain 95 percent occupancy; allows better management of turnover in conjunction with revenue management.
“WITH SO MANY PROGRAMS BEING IMPLEMENTED IN APARTMENT MANAGEMENT COMPANIES, CAMDEN HAS DEVELOPED A SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE RESIDENT RETENTION TOOL THAT WILL PAY THEM HUGE DIVIDENDS IN TERMS OF LOWER TURNOVER AND ALL OF THE RELATED COSTS. THERE'S NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT IN APARTMENT MANAGEMENT THAN MINIMIZING TURNOVER AND CAMDEN HAS NAILED IT WITH THIS PROGRAM.”
—Dave Woodward, CEO and managing partner, Laramar Communities