Maintaining a solid online reputation is only half the battle when it comes to improving your customer service image.
While much of the focus of reputation management is on increasing and finessing positive reviews, some properties are taking it back to the basics to provide service first, without putting pressure on its tenants to provide online raves.
Such is the case for Dallas-based LumaCorp, whose customer service has been turning some heads recently. The company's Courtyard Apartments in Garland Texas was recently awarded the top property for Excellence in Customer Service by J Turner Research, which surveyed more than 40,000 communities across the nation. And in a separate J Turner study which analyzed data from ratings and reviews sites, four of LumaCorp's properties were among the top 25 in the nation for positive online reputation.
What's more, ApartmentRatings.com recently published its "Top Performers for 2013" list and 13 LumaCorp properties, comprising 62 percent of its portfolio, made the cut.
So, what sets LumaCorp apart from the rest of the industry? It all starts with recognizing that you can’t automate resident satisfaction.
“One of the early mistakes we made was trying to buy [reviews], not earn it,” says Ian Mattingly, LumaCorp’s executive vice president. “The backlash we got was swift and violent from residents.”
It was early on when the company realized that incentivizing residents to write positive reviews wasn’t enough. LumaCorp had to show and prove. And it started with a star leasing team.
“We have to recognize, and I think we do recognize, that we’re not just providing a business service, we’re providing homes,” Mattingly says. “We’re careful in how we train and speak so that [leasing agents] understand it’s that resident’s home. “
The thought process is embedded in training and mission statements, even before leasing agents start on the job. And just as the company tries to avoid incentivizing tenants to leave reviews about the community, they do the same with reviews about specific leasing agents. While the company does encourage residents to provide direct reviews on the actions of their leasing staff, giving those individuals company-wide recognition, it avoids monetizing the good deed.
“Sincerity is key,” Mattingly says. “If someone is being nice just because they’re being paid to be nice, you run the risk of not coming across genuine.”
By utilizing personality profile testing as an earnest piece of the puzzle, the company is able to determine early on if leasing candidates are a good fit for the property, preferring to hire primarily based on attitude, as skills can be easily trained.
With an average hold period that goes beyond the seven-year itch, tenants recognize that LumaCorp is making investments in the community, and the staff has plenty of time to get to know its residents, helping them truly earn positive reviews.
“It starts with providing the service,” Mattingly says. “After you’ve done that, then you can ask for the recognition.”
-Linsey Isaacs is an assistant editor with Multifamily Executive magazine. Follow her on twitter @LinseyI to continue this conversation.