If you’re an apartment operator frustrated with seemingly distracted property managers talking on the phone, texting on their mobile, and checking e-mail while jumping on your community’s Web portal, take heart, as you’ve likely got a 21st-century multitasker adept enough to handle the new challenges of resident communication. “Look left and look right and you’ll see someone thumbing a message into their iPhone, Android, or, if you’re over 40, BlackBerry,” says Steve Gilbert, marketing manager for Charleston, S.C.–based Greystar. “What it validates is the need for community managers to stay with the times and increase their efforts to collect e-mail and mobile-phone contact information to help deliver service to our customers.”

According to “Getting Inside the Head of the Online Renter,” a national study sponsored by Augusta, Ga.-based GraceHill on multifamily communication, leasing, retention and customer service initiatives and released this month by Baltimore,, Md.–based SatisFacts, apartment residents across a range of age demographics show a tendency to prefer not one, but several modes of communication to interact with property operators. While different folks require different strokes when it comes to resident engagement and parley, the use of e-mail and cell phones as primary communication tools continues to grow in resident popularity as landlines, snail mail, and even face-to-face visits continue to wane. According to the survey, when asked to pick their top talk MOs, residents vastly preferred the use of e-mail (89.4 percent) and cell (73.1 percent). While text-message aficionados wrestled for a distant third place with the traditional face-to-face visit, SatisFacts president Doug Miller says texting has been one of the higher-growth categories, with the exception of 65-plus residents, who rank text messaging sixth in popularity behind landline phones and snail mail.

“We can typically predict what a resident satisfaction score can be just by looking at e-mail penetration and communication efforts,” says Miller. “Real simply, if you cannot communicate, you cannot provide service. When resident satisfaction goes up, renewals go with it, and turnover down, and we find clients improving their turnover rate up to 17 percent against the national average when they take these kinds of results and commit to a culture of responsiveness.”