Customer relationship management in multifamily has skyrocketed as apartment managers have unearthed a wide range of crucial capabilities over the last few years.
By Morgan Dzak
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems have been around for decades, but multifamily has unearthed their wide range of crucial capabilities over the last few years.
The rapid rise of CRMs was due to major changes in the leasing process, with new technology rollouts, software integrations and self-service models. But the value of CRMs extend beyond a solution to leasing changes, and the technology now plays a central role in data tracking and lease conversions.
CRM use in multifamily skyrocketed as the “PropTech” boom launched multifamily into a new era of technology and software solutions for virtual and self-service leasing. Apartment operators have recently started tapping into the true potential of CRMs and how to further operationalize their systems in a new age of leasing. CRMs are the leasing professional’s main tool, and without one, companies lose a vital piece of effective data-driven leasing and customer service.
“We need to understand what’s actually working, what’s converting traffic and what we can either amplify because it’s working, or scale back because it’s not providing the conversions we want,” said Jennifer Staciokas, executive managing director of property management at Western Wealth. “In this industry, we really need transparency into all the sources we’re tracking and insight to make the best decisions.”
Multifamily has transformed into a data-driven industry, and CRMs provide the necessary data and reporting functionality to glean that highly coveted competitive advantage and optimize conversion rates. While CRMs have become an invaluable tool, many operators are now experimenting with new ways to maximize its impact.
Tracking and Optimizing the Customer Journey
More and more operators have started integrating automation and artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots into their CRMs to enhance multitouch attribution efforts. Once thought of as something that would replace leasing teams, automation and AI chatbots have proven to be supplemental tools that help leasing teams execute their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Leasing teams get a key snapshot into where leads are coming from and what’s truly driving lease conversions.
“We always talk about the different touchpoints in the customer journey and being able to attribute where all that traffic is coming from,” Staciokas said. “Coupling a CRM with automation efforts and looking at which sources are truly driving conversions helps us adjust the spend so more money can be allocated to those sources. Then we can focus the automation on the sources that are actually converting to leases.”
Automation provides the necessary touchpoints customers of today need, and the touchpoints are delivered consistently. Guest cards are often closed after two or three touchpoints, but automation offers a much more engaging eight to 12 touchpoints, and without getting the leasing team involved. When synced with a CRM, automation tools and AI chatbots aggregate guest card information so leasing teams are set up to analyze lead sources and data around successful conversions.
“Lead and conversion tracking has to become part of the day-to-day and it’s important to hold team members accountable to the process,” Staciokas said. “It really comes down to discipline and accountability and making sure leasing teams understand the importance of every single lead they receive. We show them the reporting on how much leads and leases cost and how it actually impacts the overall value of the community. One lead can be extremely important when you think about the true value of the property.”
CRM integrations like automation and setting up marketing-based triggers also provide consistent, timely follow-up communication for all customers. This is difficult for leasing teams to do manually when there is such an influx in online leads from different platforms. This functionality has been revolutionary for the modern apartment search experience.
“Customers often send information requests to five or seven different communities and hear back from only one or two,” Staciokas said. “When a customer doesn’t get a call or an email back, the lead dies, and that’s not good for either party. When they get a quick response with continued communication, it shows them we care for them as a resident and makes their decision to lease there much easier.”
According to data from Nurture Boss, only 55 percent of customers hear back from an apartment community they contacted for more information. With automation in place, 100 percent of customers hear back with personalized follow-ups developed with CRM data gathered from the guest cards. That maximizes not only CRM impact, but boosts lease conversions, and it delivers more qualified leads to onsite teams.
“If we’re able to keep that constant communication going, then leasing teams can close leads faster,” Staciokas said. “The onsite teams have to do less legwork because they know who truly has the intent to sign a lease and the real need to move.”
Automated communication with ample touchpoints moves customers further down the funnel without burdening leasing teams. By the time a customer speaks to a leasing associate, they are ready to become a resident. Automating the customer journey can ultimately automate lease conversions, and leasing teams can then focus more on customer service and closing leads.
Leveraging Data for Personalization
A CRM is the gatekeeper of the data. While it’s integrated into the property management system, the CRM is the true gold mine of actionable insight. Clean data becomes an especially important piece of maximizing CRM impact and lease conversion.
“It’s crucial to make sure the data is clean, and what that means is all of the ad sources are linked properly and leasing teams are monitoring the data that is of the utmost importance,” Staciokas said.
Clean data also ensures customers are getting appropriate information and follow up. CRM data combined with an automation or machine-learning tool can personalize correspondence, and modern consumer behavior patterns point to the need for personalization.
According to research from Statista, 90 percent of U.S. consumers think personalized marketing content is somewhat to very appealing. Another survey of U.S. marketers found 63 percent of participants noted that the primary benefit of personalization is increased conversion rates.
“There has been a notable shift in how the multifamily industry views consumerism, and the emphasis is now being placed on the overall experience the customer has,” said Jacob Carter, CEO of Nurture Boss. “Multifamily is dialing into creating better experiences for people looking for an apartment. Technology really changed everything, and modern customers expect more seamless, personal interactions.”
As multifamily continues to integrate more machine-learning tools into the leasing process, the path to personalization will become more streamlined and refined. An apartment search is a deeply personal experience, so this level of attention to detail enhances the customer journey and leads to satisfied customers who are more likely to sign a lease.
CRMs have rapidly become a foundation of leasing strategies and customer experiences. As operators continue to experiment with ways to operationalize their CRMs and maximize impact, customer experiences will only get better and lease conversion rates will climb.
“It makes everybody more efficient,” Staciokas said. “Onsite it cuts down the time to conversion and to actually signing a lease, and it creates a better overall customer experience. It’s a complete win-win.”
About the author:
Morgan Dzak is an account manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing and previously spent time as a digital content specialist for Cornerstone Apartment Services in Denver.