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Want to improve communication with your residents? Let’s talk.

Kevin Bloom | February 18th, 2022

Best practices and proven communication insights to make residents happy, keep them happy and help retain them as renters for your apartments or condos.

Let’s face it, residents of your apartment, condo complex or any MDU you might manage or own can fill your day (and often your night) with complaints, missed rent payments, not following terms of the lease or simply not renewing their lease and even moving to another MDU. It’s a costly situation nobody wants to face. It also probably happens at the most inconvenient times, not that there’s ever a good time to face these challenges.

Then, just when this storm seems to calm down a little, it just whips back up into a wild frenzy. Ignoring it can seem like a tempting avoidance strategy for some temporary relief. The problem is that these challenges will still be there until they are resolved. Even then these shaky (at best) lines of communication can lead to even more complaints that only expound your communication challenges with residents – especially when you factor in the language barriers you’re trying to overcome.

Poor communication. Poor resident satisfaction.
The Consumer Federation of America released a comprehensive report recently that indicated tenant complaints were among the top five topics over the last year that landlords received. Interestingly, in their list of top 10 complaints, overall effective “communication” ranked number seven with deposit and rent disputes ranked right up there as well.

What would happen in the perfect world where the residents of your apartment or condo complex always seemed happy? As an MDU manager or owner this would surely remove a lot of stress from your work life. It would also allow you to focus on so many other essential things with your property that you tend to neglect because time is at such a premium.

“Maintaining stellar communication helps your residents see your MDU not just as a place to live, but as their home,” states MultiFamily Insiders, 2021. This is backed even further by ApartmentRatings, the largest online rating community for rental housing. They have gone so far as to do an in depth review of resident data and resident reviews to create a Multifamily Property Experience and Performance Index (MPEPI) that clearly indicates:

“Communication and connection offers a sense of community and serves to make residents feel valued and important. And when a resident feels like they belong they tend to want to stay in place.”

You can talk all day about wanting to improve resident communication, but how do you actually achieve it?
All too often resident communication can be archaic at best, incredibly time consuming and not even close to effective for an MDU. It can involve slipping notes under the door, pinning important messages on bulletin boards that everyone misses. Or random emails sent out in a mass blast that may not appeal to everyone. And those residents you hope notice your message, will they actually read it? Maybe. Maybe not.

Add to this that you have to communicate with lots of residents, from a lot of different countries, all speaking a lot of different languages. Those language barriers are one of the greatest communication challenges for MDU property managers. So, communication methods you might use that seem tried and true provide false feelings of actually helping your residents. Especially if it’s in a language a resident can’t read or much less understand.

Millionacres, a company specializing in condo and apartment real estate investing, advises automating these more important messages such as rent-due notices, lease renewal reminders, maintenance and other more formal items. They point out that, in today’s wired world, automating these tasks through technology tools will ultimately save enormous amounts of paperwork and administration time. This ensures that essential resident messages are sent out quickly and noticed by the residents just as quickly.

The vast majority of today’s MDU renters are under the age of 50, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC). So, it’s not surprising that the overall preferred method of communication for these younger generations is through modern technology solutions accessed through smart devices such as an iPhone, Android phone or even a tablet.

The dilemma? If you’re not exactly technology savvy it can be very difficult to decipher what solutions work best, and which ones to avoid, to best communicate with residents in a way they require. The NMHC states: “This can make communication challenging when you want to make a great impression and keep the lines of communication open.” Don’t fret. Keep reading. The features you should look for in your MDU resident communication technology are all listed here.

Connecting with residents who want to be connected.
According to Michale Broder, President of Brightline Strategies and a 20+ year expert in tenant retention, “It is more important than ever that you focus your communications on what creates communication value. Everything else is just noise.” He also points out essential insights as to what types of communication you should send to achieve happy apartment or condo residents:

“Is it the right information? Is it expressed in the right way, across the right channel, to the right audience? Are the messages not just seen but heard, understood and acted upon? Do they measurably drive engagement, preference, loyalty and advocacy?”

What are the “right” informational messages that your residents want to receive, and read? The communication should relate to, but not be limited to, the following communication topics:

  • Emergency alerts
  • Safety Reminders
  • Maintenance Reminders
  • Service Updates
  • Rent Reminders
  • Event Promotions
  • Renewal reminders

What to look for in a technology solution that will actually be effective, and what to avoid.
The residents who live in your apartment or condo community want to stay informed about what’s happening. When they are in the “know” it’s only natural that they feel more comfortable about where they live and are more likely to renew because of this level of security. This is the perfect world, but it’s not easy to achieve with imperfect methods of communication.

You’ve probably tried reaching them with emails. Yes, it’s the easiest and cheapest way to communicate with your target audience. It can also be the least effective. A solution can be found in SMS. This offers a much higher rate of engagement, but few MDU managers know how to send messages to a mixed audience that includes SMS. Let’s not forget newsletters. Actually, forget about communicating using this communication method since they are never timely and contain an overwhelming amount of information and are never

We talked about language barriers a bit within a diverse MDU resident mix. But it’s worth repeating. This is something that isn’t going to go away, rather, it’s going to become a much larger challenge that needs to be addressed since these people can’t be left out just because they didn’t learn your language.

Now let’s get into the specifics of the technology required for improved resident communication and the features it should include. For starters, it must use a SAAS based platform and offer a unified portal where you can compose and then deliver messages across a growing number of channels and delivered in the residents language of choice through their smartphone. Basically, it must be intuitive to use, quick to implement as well as deliver communication residents will open, read and act upon if they need to. Here are the “must have” features in detail:

Translation: Messages should appear in your residents preferred language such as Spanish, Russian, Chinese and countless other languages – all translated into their preferred language based on the language preset on their smartphone. Now they will know for sure about things like service and maintenance dates as well as reminding them that rent is almost due. It is also recommended that the communication technology you select have text-to-speech capabilities in a multitude of languages.

Omnichannel: Messages should work across a multitude of channels (omni channel) such as SMS, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Email, and LinkedIn.

Proximity Beacon: Wherever your residents are located you should be able to connect and notify them in real time with specific messages based on their current location. They could be near an onsite work zone you need them to avoid or they could be walking by the pool and you want to invite them to a special Resident Appreciation happy hour.

Target Group Messaging: Some messages you send may be intended for specific resident groups such as new residents, residents with leases about to expire, residents with families, etc. This is why the communication technology you use has the feature that allows targeting these specific groups.

Native CRM function: This is required because you can then offer things such as digital membership cards to the clubhouse, pool or even a party venue. You can also use this feature for digital vouchers that can reward residents for high reviews on social media of your apartment or condo as well as reward them for referrals or lease renewals.

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council from a 2022 report, 79% of renters who consult social media and online review sites say that negative reviews have stopped them from visiting a property during their apartment search.

Data Analytics: One essential feature you communication technology must have is real time message analytics. This enables you to immediately measure the communication effectiveness with your residents. Now you know, without a doubt, that they are getting your messages and reading them.

Improved resident communication. It starts with the right technology.
Improving the line of communication with your tenants doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a bit of time. But the quickest and most effective way to get there is using a communication technology platform that lets you send messages to your tenants at the right place, right time and in the right language. When all that is in place you have happy residents who want to stay and truly go the extra step to refer others to live there, too.

Learn more about the best MDU resident communication technology available and how it can help make your residents happier, stay longer and recommend your apartment or condo to others.