As you may know, Apartments.com recently announced the results of our testing and subsequent launch of Live Chat. Long story short, by facilitating a live online conversation directly between the leasing office (or the call center) and the renter, we’re seeing an increase in leads without sacrificing other lead types, like email, phone and availability checks through vendors like VaultWare. We’ve effectively (and not too immodestly) introduced a new, highly effective and incremental lead type to the ILS space, and needless to say are pretty excited about it. But like any lead, you get out of Live Chat what you put into it.
Below is a little exercise I like to call “Good Chat/Not-As-Good Chat,” where I compare two actual Live Chat transcripts taken from our site. A Good Chat takes attentiveness and strong customer service skills. Leasing professionals who focus first on answering questions, not selling a lease, will ultimately capture more lead data and have more success with Live Chat.
Good Chat: The best chat sessions capture some or all of the following: Name, contact info (phone or email or both), move-in date and appointment. Take a look at the following example…
Leasing Professional: Hello, how may I help you?
Renter: for these apt are the utilities included
Leasing Professional: I would be happy to help with that. May I have your name please?
Renter: (Renter provides her first and last name)
<Commentary from CHRIS: A couple of exchanges and already a name.>
Leasing Professional: We include the trash removal & our residents are responsible for the electric & the water/sewer
Leasing Professional: How many bedrooms are you looking for in your new home?
<CHRIS: Looking at transcripts from this leasing agent, you’ll see this question come up often. That’s because it’s pre-scripted. The software we use allows you to have several custom scripts at the ready. This pre-scripted question does a nice job of keeping the conversation going without sounding too intrusive>
Renter: two.im going to try and find a roommate because I don’t think I can afford the one bedroom alone.
Leasing Professional: I do have some two bedroom styles starting from $705/month.
Leasing Professional: Could I ask for a good phone number for you?
Renter: (Renter provides her phone number.) Which styles are starting at 705$
<CHRIS: Notice how the leasing manager gets well into the conversation before asking for, and getting, a piece of personal information like a phone number.>
Leasing Professional: We offer two bedroom/2 bath apartments in our established section that are starting at $705/month. They are coming available in a non-renovated style. When would you like to move?
Renter: Mid August
<CHRIS: Move date.>
Leasing Professional: When could you come by for a tour? Our office hours are Monday-Friday 10 AM – 6 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM, and Sunday 1-5 PM.
Renter: I could come by today at 5.
<CHRIS: And, finally, an appointment.>
Leasing Professional: That would be great! I’ll let everyone know to expect your visit!
Renter: thank you
So there you have it: Name, phone number, move-in date, and an appointment. The total time elapsed during that conversation, by the way, was about seven minutes. Great job!
Now here’s our Not-As-Good Chat example…
Leasing Professional: Hello, how may I help you?
Renter: I was interested in information on your 2 bedroom floorplans.
Leasing Professional: Wonderful, how soon were you looking to move in?
<CHRIS: Why not provide a little information first? Such as, “We have two different 2-bedroom models, one with two full baths, the other with 1 ½ baths.” Offering up some information before asking questions puts the prospect at ease.>
Renter: Well its for my boyfriend. He’s military and I was just trying to get some prices and information for him.
Renter: Are any of the utilities included in your rental prices?
Leasing Professional: Trash removal is the only thing included in the rental rate. Our two bedrooms start at $700.00
<CHRIS: Some good information, including info about the 2 bedrooms. Now would be a good time to start asking the Renter questions, starting with a first name.>
Renter: and what does the pricing depend upon?
Leasing Professional: It depends on the floorplan and the move in time frame.
Renter: Do you participate in the MRPP?
Leasing Professional: Yes, we do. The leasing office will be able to help with more specific pricing.
<CHRIS: Oops! After asking a question too early (about the move date, which, BTW, he doesn’t get), our Leasing Professional seems too eager to pass the buck to the “Leasing Office” (wait a minute, aren’t you the leasing office??). This would have been a good opportunity to start asking for name.>
Renter: Thank you so very much for your time. Have a great day!
Leasing Professional: You are welcome, have a great day!!
And done. A friendly and informative exchange, nothing that would turn the Renter off, but no contact information or appointment. Still, if the prospective renter had a good experience chatting with the property (which appears to be the case here), then all was not lost. That prospective renter could turn into a walk-in.
Not all chats look like the Good Chat. And some are far worse than the Not-As-Good Chat. But by taking a customer service approach over a sales approach, and using a little common sense and courtesy, Live Chat can be a highly effective method for generating quality leads and establishing solid relationships with prospective renters.