Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | May 4, 2021

How changes in renter priorities are leading multi-family brands to rethink local experiences

How changes in renter priorities are leading multi-family brands to rethink local experiences

Two weeks ago we released Chatmeter’s latest Local Brand Report: Top Multi-Family Brands of 2021. In the report, we explored the current state of the multi-family industry from a renter’s perspective by taking a look at the online visibility and reputation of multi-family brands. The report itself shares some great insight into the state of the multi-family industry, but I wanted to take some time to share my thoughts as to what these findings mean for property management companies looking to improve the local experience.

While we’ve seen lots of changes in the world of local SEO and reputation over the years (anyone remember Yahoo?) – one thing just doesn’t change – the need for national brands to listen, understand and adapt to consumer ever-changing needs. Property Management is no exception to this trend. According to iProperty Management, 55% of property managers report wanting to improve customer service by providing a more social face to the business. In light of COVID-19, we’re seeing even more multi-family brands understand the importance of digital transformation to deliver a level of customer service that renters not only want but expect from their property management.

What Do Online Reviews Tell Us About Today’s Renters?

Speaking with Chatmeter customers, I’ve heard stories of how more tenants were turning to online reviews to leave maintenance or service issues instead of talking to management face-to-face. Being able to respond to these reviews quickly and identify common issues through reviews is vital to the success of multi-family brands.

For renters, reviews are an integral part of the rental process. Most neighborhoods offer relatively similar options when it comes to price, square footage, amenities, or even age of the rental properties available. Whether multi-family brands know it or not, the decision often comes down to online reputation. A 4.5-star building versus a 4-star building makes a huge difference to today’s renters.

Interestingly enough, our report found that the pandemic caused a shift in renter priorities. In 2020, Chatmeter saw 73% drop in review volume between the months of February and April. As reviews started to return, we noticed common themes in the topics that were appearing in reviews. Although renters may still be leaving feedback about maintenance issues, we noticed reviews with terms like “community”, “experience”, and “neighbor” return to pre-pandemic mention volume faster than terms like “people”, “management”,  and “manager”.

Why does this matter? Compared to pre-pandemic averages, online reviews show that renters have become less concerned with management and more concerned about the community and overall experience. Of the 50 brands we analyzed in our report, we found that the “experience” was one area most brands were able to improve throughout 2020. Renter sentiment around the topic of “experience” rose half a point in positive sentiment (on a scale of 1 to 5), higher than any other topic during that time.

How Can Multi-Family Brands Deliver Better Community Experiences?

The multi-family brands in our report manage tens or hundreds of thousands of units across the country. To create truly local and community-based experiences requires more than just a great onsite manager. It requires the right listening tools, the involvement of multiple stakeholders, and innovative thinking.

Understanding the needs of every community requires national property managers to not only create but encourage two-way dialogue with their tenants. Sending regular surveys, creating local social media accounts, managing their local business listings, are all ways brands can ensure not only that they’re collecting customer feedback, but that they’re responding to it as well. Using a tool to analyze this feedback makes it all the easier to pinpoint the exact wants and needs of tenants at every unique location.

It’s important to understand that as much as national property management companies need brand alignment, it doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all experience will work in every community. Involve multiple stakeholders from onsite management to marketing, acquisition, and more to leverage their unique perspectives to help create experiences that foster resident renewal. Creating truly local experiences isn’t just a conversation the multi-family industry is having, but it’s a common topic for CMOs in every industry, especially among brands with a national footprint. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and explore what other industries are doing to create localized experiences.

Lastly, property management companies need to be innovative in their thinking. Today’s generation of renters are looking for property management brands that care about their health, are taking action to be more sustainable, and understand the growing shift to remote work. Bring back the community garden, create coworking spaces, offer cooking classes, upgrade the wifi, it’s time to rethink what today’s renters are looking for in amenities.

Watching the digital transformation of multi-family brands has been exciting, they’re far ahead of the curve compared to some other industries Chatmeter has reported on in the past. To learn more about our findings from the Local Brand Report click here.

What are your thoughts on the report or the state of the multi-family industry? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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