This post was originally written by Catelyn Bergstedt, Associate Product Manager, Consumer Products at Apartments.com
If only you knew what your residents were thinking. Do they feel at home in their apartments? Is your maintenance staff getting the job done? Do they crave more community events to meet fellow residents?
It might just be that they’re looking for some way to let you know as well. Although we’ve all had our experiences with people a little too comfortable giving unsolicited advice or feedback, many residents would probably love the invitation to let you know how they feel. But be prepared for the good and the bad, both of which can help immensely. If the feedback is good, you’ll know what you’re doing correctly and what to continue doing. If it’s bad, you’ll know what you need to do to make sure residents are getting everything they need and hopefully this will lead to more long-term and renewed leases.
Getting the Feedback
There are several ways to go about getting feedback, and many of the same methods that companies use to gauge their customers’ likes and dislikes will work.
One option is to hold a resident focus group. Put out flyers or send an email announcement (if you have a resident email database) asking for those interested to contact you. You’ll want to keep the group small to keep the discussion effective, so let them know only a few will be chosen.
Select five to ten residents to participate. Consider these residents a sample of the entire building. Let them know a date and time to meet in the community room, or even in the office. And remember that offering a small incentive (nearby restaurant or coffee shop gift cards, or food and drinks at the focus group session) is a great way to get people to show up. Stick to 45 minutes or less, and be ready with a list of questions you want to ask your residents to keep the session structured.
If the residents feel comfortable enough, you’ll hear a lot of insightful information as this is a more personal way of getting feedback. You’ll be in direct conversation with your residents and have the ability to hear how strongly they feel about something, as well as have them elaborate and explain their concerns or suggestions.
Of course, a good, old-fashioned survey is always effective as well. Typing up a survey to print and pass out (or send via email) allows you to get feedback from many more residents, just without the contextual details and elaboration of a focus group. But you can still get your basic questions answered and give your residents the opportunity to get their thoughts out.
Keep the survey simple and short – around ten questions is appropriate. Shorter surveys will increase completion rates, as will allowing those filling out the survey to remain anonymous. Multiple-choice questions with options such as Like, Neutral, and Dislike work well (a question might be “How do you like the newly renovated laundry room?”) as do simple yes or no options (“Would you be interested in participating in a building-wide yard-sale?”). You might also include one or two general open-ended questions to give residents a chance to tell you more (e.g. “How do you feel about the performance of our maintenance team?”).
With either method of obtaining feedback, keep in mind you’ll only want to ask about issues or features that you’re willing to change (and would like to know what residents think first), or for confirmation that the right decision was made (and thus residents are happy overall).
Analyzing the Feedback
With either method (focus group or survey), you’ll want to pay attention to the issues that came up from the most people. You can’t tailor what the building offers to each individual person, but if you’re hearing the same thing from many people, there’s your answer. In the focus group, if multiple residents start eagerly chiming in because they all miss the free coffee on Friday mornings, consider that something to change. On the survey, if you’re seeing that 45 out of 50 people marked that they liked those new dryers, you can feel confident the majority of the residents are happy.
If you’ve done something like this before, let us know! How do you go about getting feedback from your properties’ residents? What kind of response have you gotten?