By Jennifer Carter
Published 3 months ago
Updated 3 months ago
Our industry has made great strides around leasing centralization, where many have realized that new technologies, like self guided tours and virtual touring, were not created to replace human interaction - but to augment the customer experience.
In the SatisFacts 2019 Online Renter Study, the perception of quality customer service was ranked #2 in importance regarding the leasing decision, which let us know that the elimination of leasing jobs wasn’t on the horizon. Self-guided tours have allowed us to better customize a prospects experience, ultimately complimenting the onsite team's quality customer service. Fast forward to 2023, and the massive importance of customer service has not changed.
Moving forward, the evolution of maintenance is on the horizon. With COVID accelerating the pace of change in the multifamily world and beyond, residents have had to deal with a number of changes. Many now work from home. The need for exceptional customer service still stands as important - if not more important. With the new expectation of instant resolution, a preference for DIY, and work-from-home hours, how can the onsite maintenance teams handle these new resident expectations? Better yet, how can they handle the needs from residents alongside an astounding increase in open maintenance positions and staffing challenges across the industry?
We continue to hear about maintenance centralization; will the evolution of maintenance become equally as important today as leasing was 5 years ago?
When we think about "centralizing" anything, it doesn't mean removing current people from their positions. Perhaps we can look at centralization as an opportunity to focus more on the quality of our current employees, enhancing our processes, and investing in our people. Currently in our industry, we continue to see the average response time to a service request to be a standard 24/48 hour, or even 72 hour time frame. Most residents' service requests are easy fixes - garbage disposal, microwave filter, the switch in the electrical box or even a blind slat replacement. In order to increase or even maintain our residents’ expectations, we must look to innovative solutions that will allow our residents to be heard, and service them in a way that they prefer, despite these staffing challenges.
In a recent Revyse Community poll, 78% of respondents said they were planning to increase the speed of their maintenance technology adoption in 2024.
We know that when a resident is deciding whether or not to renew their lease, "quality of maintenance service provided” scored a 4.61 out of 5, on the SatisFacts Biennial Online Survey. This is the second highest factor impacting their renewal decision. This tells us that, just like the importance of providing options when leasing (touring in person, virtual or self guided), residents want more options for maintenance service. DIY, FaceTime service calls, and optimizing current maintenance techs time on each service request must become part of the future in multifamily.
According to a 2020 Survey from Kingsley,
The requirement for social distance, as well as continued focus on worker health and safety, will remain yet for some time. To help in communication and improving work, virtual technology should be a more widely used method of performing maintenance diagnostics and troubleshooting.
When a resident reaches out for maintenance assistance within their home, we must look for opportunities to increase resident satisfaction, reduce the response times, and provide them with flexible choices in how we can service their requests. Video tutorials, FAQ guides for DIY fixes, and dispatching remote technicians, all help to optimize the current maintenance team while giving the resident the flexibility they want.
My opinion 1,418 days ago still stands true. We must look at the traditional role of maintenance and view new solutions as an evolution - not as an elimination - to keep up with the changing expectations and preferences of our residents.