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How Property Managers Are Driving Customer Retention Strategies


While landlords, property managers and building owners have different responsibilities, they’re all striving to answer the same question: How can we best retain residents? Customer retention is the key to managing a successful property, and as renter demands and expectations evolve, real estate professionals need to be prepared to keep up with them.

The 2023 VTS Global Landlord Report found that 91% of property owners surveyed favor creating a hospitality-like experience for residents, and 86% believe that technology will help them accomplish that. Specifically, respondents said that technology will advance resident relationships and prioritize retention. 

Property managers are at the forefront of a building’s customer retention strategy — directly interacting with residents, responding to requests and implementing the technology to make their lives easier. 

Libby Ekre, CPM, 2023 Institute of Real Estate Management, or IREM, president-elect, said she agrees that property managers play a key role in resident retention. 

“Everything we do or say is an experience that will impact how residents feel about their home,” said Ekre, who is a founding principal of MEB Management Services, an accredited management organization in Phoenix. “We don’t have a random product that a customer purchases and walks away with.” 

Bisnow spoke with Ekre to learn more about how property managers are working to retain renters in today’s market and the role technology plays in their retention strategy. 

Bisnow: What role do property managers play in resident retention today? 

Ekre: It’s important for property managers to think about the big picture and get in the habit of starting the process of retaining residents before they move in. We are their home experience provider, we are the product. Our buildings, our service, our actions, our words — all of our team members contribute to the resident experience. Every part of the process matters. From viewing the property to leasing and moving in, we must get it right and allow them to feel comfortable in their new home.  

People most likely stay where they feel valued, safe and comfortable, and where they feel that their property manager cares about them and responds quickly to their needs.  

Bisnow: What are some of the biggest challenges property managers face regarding customer retention?

Ekre: Balancing the rise in inflation that impacted both our clients and our residents. Costs for properties grew and therefore rents were increased to continue to offset this difference. The challenge is making both the client and the customer happy. The pandemic had a profound effect on everyone, and there is a rising concern about the mental well-being of employees, clients and residents — each of whom has their own difficulties and challenges — and property managers are being called to manage through it all.  

Bisnow: What are some of the more creative strategies property managers are using to retain residents? How are they improving the renter experience?  

Ekre: With the busy lifestyles of our residents, it’s become more difficult to arrange face-to-face interactions. As a result, we need to actively seek out our residents, listen to their needs and address them. Changing our view on how we serve our customers on our “normal” schedules to invert our view.    

We use well-timed surveys to elicit feedback and gauge our performance and residents’ interest level in the activities we arrange at our properties, which are designed to create a sense of community. The goal is to discover the amenities that would be most meaningful to them.

Bisnow: What role does technology play in resident retention? What types of technology are renters expecting from their buildings today? 

Ekre: The ability to adapt to our residents’ preferences is key. The largest renter demographic right now is millennial and Gen Z — and a significant percentage of Gen Z is not fully in the rental era yet, due to their age. We found that these generations want a place to live to reflect who they are and what they value most.  

Millennials are the most comfortable experimenting with and adopting new technologies as they unfold, and Gen Z is a generation of technology natives. They’ve always known the conveniences and nuances of technology. In fact, they demand it.

High-speed connectivity, electric vehicle charging stations, garages with vehicle charging outlets, door cameras, face recognition gates, keyless entries, apps to manage lighting and indoor air temperatures, refrigerated storage lockers, lockers for packages, virtual trainers in fully equipped gyms — all are on the list of amenities today’s renters are looking for in a rental property. We have taken it even a step further on a few of our new developments that are powered by solar, reclaiming water for irrigation and tracking personal energy usage. Believe it or not, we are even working with a client who is now gamifying residents’ personal energy savings.  

This article was produced in collaboration between the Institute of Real Estate Management and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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