BH Fully Embraces Best Practices, Trends Presented at Apartmentalize | Live BH

BH Fully Embraces Best Practices, Trends Presented at Apartmentalize

June 27, 2023 |

At the biggest event of the year, centralization, marketing, customer service, and “working from home” make headlines.

More than three dozen BH’ers took in the apartment industry’s largest national event earlier this month, Apartmentalize, hosted by the National Apartment Association (NAA) in Atlanta.

They were part of more than 12,000 attendees and 100 education sessions that covered all aspects of apartment management, as well as an exhibit hall filled with hundreds of multifamily vendors and partners.

The conference validated current best practices in our industry, highlighting several that are already a significant part of BH’s management strategy. Here are three key takeaways:

  1. The Ongoing Debate About Centralized Apartment Leasing

BH President & CEO Joanna Zabriskie attended the exclusive Executive Forum event at Apartmentalize. “Centralization was certainly a buzzword,” she said.

Although the multifamily industry is still debating the pros and cons of centralization, BH firmly believes that centralization benefits residents in apartment communities…and here’s why.

“We aren’t just focused on centralized leasing, we’re creating specialized teams to remove some of the administrative burden from our onsite teams,” Zabriskie said. “This allows them to focus on what they love to do most — creating communities where people can live and thrive.”

Panelist Suzanne Hopson, President, Tricap Residential, agreed saying “specialization” is an even better word to describe the centralized approach.

“Today, so many employees have to wear so many hats, so why not create a specialization in what they do by having them handle what they do best,” she said.

Centralization allows AI-based technology, called virtual leasing assistants (VLA), to handle many of the mundane tasks staff members are usually tasked with, giving them more time to focus on in-person interactions with prospects and residents.

Hopson added that VLAs are more convenient, as they are available 24-7, and inquiring prospects are never interrupted when pursuing information or having to schedule an appointment.

BH’s virtual leasing assistant, Scout, answers prospects’ preliminary questions about price, availability, and policies. It also enables them to self-schedule tours, including virtual leasing tours.

Over a recent 30-day period, Scout communicated with 34,214 leads across the portfolio and saved an estimated 12,659 hours of human time (based on 5 min/message). Plus, Scout is performing at an appointment-setting percentage of 34% for all leads. The VLA handles text and emails, and the BH Contact Center can then handle escalations if the AI gets stuck. This frees us up to absorb verbal interactions.

The panel agreed that centralized leasing works well in many situations. Trosien said that it can depend on the company’s culture. For BH, we have found the right combination of devoted customer service and automation to make centralization a successful model for our clients.

2. Today’s Apartment Resident Journey Must Be Personalized

With consumers expecting and receiving personalized service in so many aspects of their daily lives, apartment operators must also deliver on this.

“If they come to your community and you don’t give them that, it gets clunky right away,” panelist Tony Sousa, Vice President of Operations, RPM Living, said.

Sousa was joined by panelists Lindsay Duffy, Director of Marketing and Training, Western Wealth Communities, and moderator Jacob Carter, Founder, Nurture Boss.

This personalization must occur during the entire resident journey, from lead to tour to application to renewal, the panel said.

At BH, we call this The Mint Experience, and our goal is to provide the ultimate customer service experience for our residents and prospects. We use specialized teams and automation to give our onsite teams the time back in their day to focus on providing wildly awesome service, walking units, and taking time to build relationships with prospects and residents.

Carter said personalized communication is not what it used to be. “Just addressing them by their first name on an email isn’t good enough anymore,” he said.

Duffy urged onsite staff to respond to residents in the same way they reached out themselves. “If they call you, then you call them back,” she said. “Don’t just email them.”

BH meets prospects where they are by offering all viable options (text, email, phone, self-schedule tour) for interacting with our community through the BH Contact Center. This ensures the prospect is communicating via the method they feel most comfortable with and increases the odds of converting them to a tour and ultimately a lease. BH’s new Contact Center can promptly and effectively answer the most important questions asked by residents and prospects.

Using AI self-servicing technology, and a “smart” interactive voice response menu, our Contact Center handled questions with 88% more efficiency, which is significantly higher than the industry averages.

NAA states that 40% of all leads go without a response, covering email, text, phone call, contact form, etc. LeaseHawk reports that 49% of all phone calls go unanswered and RealPage says that from the 80% of missed calls, the caller will not leave a voicemail and does not intend to attempt another call in the future.

3. For Apartment Living, It’s the Rise of the ‘Homebodies’

Data shows more Americans call their homes a ‘sanctuary’ and apartment operators are taking notice.

“Homebody” was once a term reserved for introverts. But data is trending away from that and by 2025 more than 70% of Americans will continue with the at-home habits they adopted during the pandemic lockdowns.

This was part of the “Bold Predictions for 2025 and the Rise of the Homebody” presented by Lia Nichole Smith, Senior Vice President of Education and Performance – and SatisFacts Research.

Smith said the increase in time spent at home shows that even extroverts fit that habit.

“They are still plenty social – they are extroverts, after all — they just want everyone to come to their home,” she said. “More people view their home as a sanctuary.”

BH is using Virtual Merchandising, which captures the floorplan and unit-level content for every floorplan to provide more video content, giving prospects as much time as they need to visualize their potential new spaces and how those might meet their needs should they work from home or spend more time entertaining friends.

Apartment operators must also take notice and offer amenities that cater to being at home. They need to be aware that their daily operations are now being observed by their residents, who aren’t simply leaving their apartments at 8 a.m. and coming home at 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The US Census said the number of Americans working from home will increase from 27.6 million in 2021 to 36.2 million in 2025.

BH is making work-from-home and stay-at-home residents happier by providing 24-hour maintenance requests so they can get the service they need whenever they need it and valet trash removal, so they never have to worry about trash day.

Our smart-home technology simplifies residents’ lives, and our modern, well-rounded fitness centers keep our residents healthy without them having to leave the property. As BH continues to address the everyday needs of our residents, our operations, marketing, and management teams are fully in the “now” when it comes to appealing to those who have made renting a lifestyle choice. After all, our mission is to “create places where people can live and thrive.”