Resident Satisfaction: Benchmarking Tools

Systematic surveys of multi-family residents can offer valuable insights. This spring, Kettler will roll out a new strategy throughout its 19,000-unit portfolio.

The multi-family sector’s distinct lease structures, customer base and operations all suggest the need for strategies different from those of the other major commercial real estate categories.

Yet those who own and manage apartment communities share with their counterparts in the office, hospitality, retail and industrial sectors the mandate to attract and retain customers. As with other types of assets, systematic surveys of those customers can yield valuable insights.

This spring, Kettler will roll out a new, multi-faceted resident survey strategy throughout its 19,000-unit portfolio, following test runs last year at five of its properties. The McLean, Va.-based developer and operator retained SatisFacts to survey residents at four critical points: application, move-in, maintenance and renewal. The results will offer constant feedback not only on resident recruitment and property operations but also for development. Cindy Clare, president of Kettler’s management business, explained that the surveys will help company leaders answer a critical question: “As we build new product, what do customers like or not like?”

Previously, Kettler had researched performance during the application process by sending in outside consultants to pose as prospective residents. Those stand-ins would then evaluate their experiences and report their impressions. Now, prospective residents will be asked via email how they found out about the property, their impressions of the complex and whether they would lease a unit. The email survey offers “an opportunity to get real feedback from real, live customers,” Clare observed.

Upon move-in, new residents will be asked about the unit’s condition. After a repair or maintenance call, they will get a survey addressing promptness and quality of service. And as renewal time approaches, they will have the opportunity to share their likes and dislikes about their homes. Regional property managers and vice presidents will evaluate the results monthly; Kettler’s senior leadership will review the feedback quarterly.

For more best practices for measuring customer satisfaction, turn to “How Are We Doing?” in the March 2013 issue of Commercial Property Executive.