By Aaron Hassen
Most would agree that a computer or mobile device is the likely first point of contact with today’s apartment prospect. According to the e-tailing group and HubSpot, half of consumers spend 75 percent of their shopping time researching online. In fact, about two-thirds to 90 percent of the buying process is often done before a prospect ever engages with a salesperson (or leasing agent, in this case).
How are you adapting for and engaging with this more mobile, tech-savvy apartment hunter?
Judy Newman, investment manager at Discovery Heights in Washington, added Contact At Once! chat to their property website and online ads…and it’s paying off.
Why & How Apartment Chat Works for Them
When prospects visit the website, “they’re deciding to call you or your competitor,” Judy explains. “I wanted to capture those leads before they went to our competitors, and having the live chat option helps. We generate at least five new leads per week from chat.”
- Add the apartment chat link everywhere – “The more you use the chat link in Craigslist ads and elsewhere, the more chances you’ll have to start conversations with prospects.”
- Set up everyone on your team to chat – Discovery Heights usually has three agents/day available, which gives them a “much higher chat success rate,” according to Judy. Even if there is a phone call or tour, at least one person is usually still available to chat.
- Use the shortcut responses – Contact At Once! includes a library of prewritten, customizable chat responses to increase your response speed (and help with your spelling).
- Always ask when the chatter can come see the property –Judy says this type of question is essential to work into the chat to confirm the appointment or at least get the prospect thinking about it.
- Extend chat to your residents –Residents can take advantage of the chat convenience by asking simple questions like “Is my package there?” This saves time and the immediate answers make them happy.
- Train for customer experience, not chat – Chatting is not rocket science, and Judy’s team doesn’t go through any specific chat training. Instead, they are highly trained on how to figure out what’s important for the individual customer.
- Consider the subconscious goal of the prospect – Often, prospects chat in a question that’s easily answerable from the website. “It’s like they’re subconsciously trying to learn how well your property is managed, how trustworthy it is, how well they like you,” says Judy. It’s up to you to provide the right experience, even if it’s just answering a few questions.
You can also use chat during your off-hours to generate more leases (Contact At Once! provides mobile chat apps at no additional charge). One of Discovery Heights’ top leasing agents posts and is available to chat from ads like Craigslist around 10:00pm. He tells people to call, chat or email him at any time, often resulting in several contacts and appointments for the next day.
This ability to communicate instantly—wherever you or the prospect are—is only going to get more important. “Our future leads grew up texting, chatting, using computers,” adds Judy. “We can’t ignore this communication. We have to be part of it to capture those future leads. Get in now so you can stand out…or you’ll be missing out.”
By Aaron Hassen
Way #1: Get MORE Done
Are you busy? That’s a silly question to ask leasing agents and property managers who are part accountants, part salespeople, part public relations directors and part community therapists. There are only so many hours in the day. So, the successful ones are those who figure out how to do more things in less time.
This is one way website chat can be a big help. Whereas, a leasing agent can only speak with one person at a time in person or on the phone, that same agent can chat with multiple people at once, or chat while answering emails. She can even chat with one prospective renter while speaking with another individual on the phone.
Chat helps busy professionals answer more inquiries from their apartment website and online listings, while still being able to manage the many other tasks they’re responsible for.
Way #2: Be in MORE Places
No, we haven’t figured out how to conquer that pesky space-time continuum, but online chat allows your leasing office to maintain a live presence on your website and on sites across the Internet. Are you currently getting leads from popular Internet listing sites? If so, GREAT, because you can add chat to those listings and generate even more responses. Receiving inquiries from your apartment website? Chat can be there even when you aren’t—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, that’s vitally important today when shoppers are searching for information across many websites and doing their research at all times of the day and night.
Mobile chat adds another dimension. You can’t take your office phone with you while you’re walking the property, or showing a unit, but chat goes wherever you go, on your smart phone, or tablet. You can decide whether you’ll answer, or have a chat receptionist answer for you—live, professionally trained chat professionals who back you up when you’re away, or simply can’t answer chats for a time. This way you can remain in control (and omnipresent), accomplishing multiple tasks at once without missing sales opportunities.
Way #3: Generate MORE Appointments
Last but not least, chat can help you generate more leasing opportunities. But, wait—do businesses that use website chat really generate more leads? According to our research, yes.
Many businesses who implement live chat tell us they see at least a 25% increase in the number of contacts they receive from their websites. More and more people prefer text-based communications to phone and people appreciate the immediacy of chat, especially when they’re culling through many websites and online listings in an apartment hunt. In one recent industry-specific survey, the majority of Contact At Once! users said they would recommend website chat as a “sure” way to sell more.
You can get more done, leverage your best agents better, and generate more leasing opportunities with apartment chat.
By Aaron Hassen
What do the objectives of online chat and multifamily marketers have in common? Well, everything. Sophisticated multifamily marketers are quickly learning what other industries have known for years: Online chat is the ideal way to increase both the quantity and quality of sales prospects by using an add-on that is so inexpensive and efficient that it pays for itself.
Consider major retailers who sell exclusively online. They see substantially higher conversion rates when offering the option to chat. Service industries, such as airlines, have made online chat a cornerstone of their customer contact strategy. Even technical support functions have migrated to chat sessions to dispense advice.
How Did It Happen?
It started out as a cost saving exercise. With chat, one agent can handle four or more inquiries at a time, versus one at a time over the phone. But those who launched chat for call deflection soon experienced three interesting and positive side effects:
1. Sales leads did not stay the same, they increased. Rather than cannibalize other channels (like phone and form leads), the chat sessions represented almost 100% incremental lead volume. And even though call volume did not drop as anticipated, the companies were delighted with the increased results, without having invested a single cent more in lead generation.
2. Agent efficiency improved. Agents were no longer tied down on a call and could actually accomplish more tasks while chatting.
3. Lead quality improved. Prospects who initiated chat sessions tended to be more engaged and agents were able to move them through the sales funnel with a structured nurturing process, including scripted responses and leading questions.
Why So Perfect?
Behavioral studies have shown that people have a wide range of comfort levels. Some prefer face-to-face interaction, while others like to speak on the phone. Still others prefer the anonymity of online conversations. The apartment world has long relied on email to reach this third group. But the time delay with email, sometimes days, often results in lost opportunities. Chat and text appeal to this segment, giving them the immediacy of a phone call and the convenience of text-based communication.
Check The Features
One of the most compelling selling points for chat in apartment leasing is the ability to script responses. Most prospect questions are very predictable and fall in just a few categories—price, availability and policies. It’s easy to develop effective responses and leading questions, as if your very best sales agent is communicating with every single prospect!
Some providers even offer a chat answering service. That makes a web storefront open for business 24/7 and levels the playing field for even the smallest community. A hybrid model of implementation—where internal agents answer chats when they are available and hand off to the answering service at other times—provides the perfect solution for maximizing results using limited resources.
Online chat is a quick and easy way for multifamily marketers to reach and convert more prospects. That makes advertising investments much more efficient. The tracking and reporting are invaluable to owners and managers who can review every session to see how their team is handling inquiries. An added benefit is that chat becomes a cursory research tool, providing immediate feedback regarding what’s important to potential customers.
Finally, chat and text options are the perfect way to sell your community to smart phone users who have a strong preference for on-the-go communications.
A Perfect Bottom Line
For apartment marketers, online chat opens another door to online prospects who are actively looking. And more active prospects mean more leases at higher rates.
By Aaron Hassen
For decades, placing a phone call was the quickest way to obtain property information. However, in 2012 and the era of instant access – Google, Bing, iPhones and iPads – that really isn’t the case anymore. In response to the change, Apartments.com and ApartmentFinder.com recently began adding live chat to apartment listings and properties across the country are benefiting from increased renter response and the efficiency of chat for setting appointments. What’s more, an increasing number of properties are also adding live chat to their own websites in order to make their communities more accessible to today’s renters.
With so many leasing offices now online and leasing agents taking advantage of live chat, we thought it useful to provide 7 important next steps (or tips) for getting the most out of apartment chat. Here they are:
For best results, place chat buttons alongside your phone numbers or email addresses throughout your website.
If you have purchased Contact At Once! Property Edition for your website, chat can become a primary way your website visitors connect with you. The placement and appearance of your chat buttons are important factors in how many responses you’ll receive. Contact At Once! users and administrators automatically gain access to the Contact At Once! portal where a variety of button styles and options are available. If you’d prefer to upload your own button design, just email Contact At Once! Support with your custom button image as an attachment and they can upload it for you.
Remember: Chat buttons won’t actually appear on your website unless someone is available to answer.
Contact At Once! technology is presence-aware, meaning that your chat buttons appear on your website only when users are active and available. Be sure you and your team are online, and when you are, don’t disappoint prospective renters by ignoring incoming requests. This can create a negative perception of your property.
Download the free iPhone/iPad App from the iTunes App Store.
Did you know: The number of chat inquiries your property receives is directly tied to your team’s online availability? By nature, leasing agents are often called away from their desks. The mobile chat app from Contact At Once! can help you and your team remain online and available to prospective residents. With chat in general, and mobile chat in particular, its easy to multitask, so you can be out to lunch, at the mall or even showing a unit to one prospective renter while setting an appointment with another.
Get trained and know exactly how to respond.
While some agents treat chat requests like phone inquiries, others find it challenging to respond to prospective renters on chat. For help with this, Contact At Once! offers free online video tutorials and live training webinars to educate users on the best ways to respond. The training offers best practices and tips for ways to optimize results from chat.
Consider adding a personal photo to your chat drop-in.
By displaying a personal photo the prospect knows they’ll be talking to a real person, not a machine. The use of real photos (instead of models or stock photography) has proven to increase the number of inquiries properties receive by as much as 50%! If for some reason you’re not comfortable uploading your own photo, try using a team photo or a photo of the property.
Consider allowing your current residents to chat with you.
Chat can help you interact with residents more regularly and improve relations. Also, accepting maintenance requests over chat can help improve service and response times. Chat transcripts provide written record of maintenance requests (versus hearsay from phone calls and in-person conversations).
Add chat links and buttons to your emails (For Deluxe subscribers only).
For Contact At Once! Deluxe subscribers, adding chat to your emails can make them more interactive and increase the number of responses you receive from eNewsletters. To do this, simply contact Contact At Once! Support and request your personalized link. Then, add the link provided to the email or place a linked image (such as a chat button) in the email and embed the link code behind it.
By Aaron Hassen
In a digital world of algorithms and online marketing, there are often misconceptions about what truly captures a prospective renter’s attention – which avenues help your property interact with and engage more renters. Studies continue to indicate that the content of your pages is not necessarily what drives conversions. Still, website content continues to remain the focus for many marketers: what the copy says, the keywords used, the links and images on the pages, etc. Often overlooked is the very thing that can impact conversions the most: Engagement.
In order to engage with more prospective renters, properties must realize that impressive graphics and an engaging layout are only useful in garnering interest and establishing legitimacy; they do little to drive interactions.
On most apartment websites, there are typically two primary ways to engage: call the number or fill out the form. From the renters perspective, neither is ideal. Email takes too long and a phone call means the loss of anonymity and control of their personal information. Unless your apartment website content is exceptional, most visitors will stop in, glean what they can, then move on without ever contacting your leasing office.
A Third Option
What if there was a third option to engage? A way to connect immediately and directly with a live person who could answer their questions? Instant chat is the missing link. It’s interactive and it’s discreet. It addresses the concerns of renters while creating more opportunities for leasing agents to set appointments.
“We know that our customers want to contact us in a way that is most convenient to them. They want to text and chat online. That is what our customers want. That is why we decided to [use chat].” – Dean Boswell, Director of Marketing at Tribridge Residential
If your vacancy rates depend on the ability of your leasing agents to set appointments and build trust and rapport with prospective renters, than engaging renters on their terms, when their interest is highest, is essential. The content on your website may be the bait. But, the ability to connect with renters and engage them in a way they are most comfortable with, is the hook that will help your property reel in more prospects.
By Aaron Hassen
Are you and your team ready to increase your live chat proficiency? Our FREE online tutorials can help turn novice handlers into expert responders. With our helpful tutorials, your properties can begin converting more renter interest into leasing appointments.
Here are the 5 FREE online video training courses now available. Click on any of the links below to begin the tutorial:
Understanding the benefits and proper application of live chat.
How chat works best with phone calls, how to answer customers questions
and what things to avoid.
Includes how to handle pricing questions, tips for keeping the conversation going, monitoring chat sessions, and making the best use of shortcuts.
Reviewing Chat Transcripts
Proven chat techniques and how to analyze transcripts to improve results.
Ways to increase chat activity to your store and what to look for when reviewing chat performance reports.
How About Live Training?
Looking for a more hands-on approach? Lead Chat Trainer, Jill Skurtovich, hosts FREE weekly live training webinars. During the webinars, Jill covers essential chat topics, how-to’s, and takes your questions. For more information and to sign-up, click here, then select one of the available dates listed on the bottom-left side of the page.
For support questions and more information on all of our training opportunities, visit the Contact At Once! Support and Training page: http://www.contactatonce.com/support-training
By Aaron Hassen
It used to be that in order to ask questions about a property, prospective renters would either have to call or visit the property during office hours. Basically prospects were required to adapt to the availability of property staff, and arrange their schedules to accommodate them. That’s just the way it was – but not anymore.
In today’s world, consumers are conditioned to expect instant answers. For better or worse, we’ve all grown accustomed to immediate search results on Google and text conversations on our smartphones. People today grow frustrated waiting hours or days for a response from a form they filled out online, or a voicemail they had to leave for the leasing office.
This reality is especially true when considering a place to live. Many factors often influence that decision-making process including price, space, amenities, neighbors and other factors. According to Google, each of these factors are said to come with their own “moment of truth.” Google calls a consumer’s first psychological fork in the road the “Zero Moment of Truth” or ZMOT. ZMOT is the idea that before the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) – when a prospect first experiences the product in person – there is precursory moment which helps to determine whether or not they’ll take action in favor of one option or another.
In general terms, a ZMOT impetus could be a display ad that causes a shopper to pull into a convenience store and purchase a soft drink. Typically though, when the goal represents a much larger investment, such as renting a new apartment, there tends to be a few more impressions between the ZMOT and the FMOT – the moment the prospect actually walks through the door. Every stop along the shopping path is an important one in shaping a consumer’s perception and actions. Every Moment of Truth for a prospective renter can represent a “go” or “no go” moment for the properties being considered.
As an example, if a prospective renter perceives that the property’s proximity to their job isn’t favorable, or read that a school nearby has a less-than-stellar reputation, they may be inclined to reject that property out of hand. This is a crucial moment where live chat can play an important role for properties. Instead of making a snap judgement based upon limited information, renters often reach out by chat, out of convenience, and ask questions in real time. When this happens, the property is given an opportunity to respond and overcome the objections. Perhaps the leasing agent knows of a shortcut the renter could take to work, or has positive news to share about the school in question. Access to the property during Every Moment of Truth can translate into more FMOT appointments for the property.
Contact At Once! apartment chat packages at the Premium and Deluxe levels allow properties to place chat not only on the property website, but also on ApartmentFinder.com, Apartments.com, Craigslist and Facebook. When someone is searching online and has a question, your team can be there to answer it and capitalize on the opportunity.
Click here to chat with a Contact At Once! sales representative and learn more about being Present at Every Moment of Truth.
By Aaron Hassen
As prospective renters begin to search for a new apartment, the vast majority begin that search online. Depending on how they search, they may land on your property’s website, a Craigslist posting of yours, or even a listing you’ve placed on one of the third-party apartment listing sites, like Apartments.com.
With all the of the website traffic you’re generating, it’s the trust and rapport you are able to build with online prospects that often makes the difference between lost opportunities and appointments.
Live apartment chat affords properties the opportunity to reach out to site visitors via a photo-enhanced greeting card, which is designed to literally “drop-in” from the top of the screen. By featuring a photo of your online rental staff, and an invitation to “Click here to ask questions”, you’ve now offered the site visitor a very clear way to engage with your staff, and to get instant answers to their questions.
It’s true that rental business can be lost if a prospect drives to your property only to find that the rental office is closed. And it isn’t unusual for a prospect to need to secure a new lease in a short period of time, whether to be closer to a new job, or due to an existing lease expiring. No matter the reason, if the prospect needs housing immediately, a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign means that they must move on to the next suitable property on their list.
The same holds true online. If a prospective renter is looking to make a move in short order, they’ll want rapid access to information important to their move. This is why having live chat available to prospects is so compelling. Rather than presenting the prospect with a lead form, which could take hours or days to respond to, live chat offers instant answers and access to a real person in real-time.
This is Huge!
By simply making yourself available and answering some initial questions online, you’re actually building essential rapport and trust. Do that, and see how the prospect remains engaged with you and your team instead of with a competitor’s. See how they ask to set up an appointment for a tour of your property. And, of course, see how they then sign a lease and become a member of your community. Just try replicating that with a website lead form – there’s no comparison.
In essence, apartment chat extends the presence of your rental staff from a physical presence in the office to a virtual presence online. But just as in the office, success online also relies upon a friendly greeting, knowledge of the facility and surroundings, and the ability to ask the right questions and provide accurate and timely information. Establish rapport and trust with prospects and good business will follow – online and offline.
By Aaron Hassen
1. Be More Likeable With Chat
Tips include being polite by adhering to a give and take approach, request the propect’s first name and use it when asking qualifying questions, steer clear of sarcasm, and many more.
2. Apartment Chat After Hours
More successful chats = more leasing appointments = less vacancies. Data shows that prospective renters continue to reach out to properties beyond normal office hours. Enabling mobile chat on smartphones helps to increase availability and responsiveness.
3. Get Trained
Free live training webinars are being offered to help you and your team become more proficient at setting appointments using chat.
By Aaron Hassen
WARNING: The following article is not for clock punchers.
It’s a simple equation really:
More successful chats = more leasing appointments = less vacancies
Adding chat to your smartphone will allow you to answer chats beyond typical office hours. “You’re not suggesting property managers and leasing agents take their work home with them?” you might say. Well yes, that is what we’re suggesting here. Don’t worry though, it’s not as intrusive as you think. Just keep reading.
The following heatmap was produced by analyzing the hours during the week when prospects use Contact At Once! to request a chat conversation.
Notice the volume peaks between 8AM and 7PM Monday through Saturday and continues at moderate levels from 8PM to 11PM. Remember that chat icons only appear to prospects when a property representative is online and available to respond. With mobile chat on your smartphone, you can become more available to prospective renters both, during and after hours. Using the mobile chat app from Contact At Once!, you can remain active while at lunch, out at the mall, watching TV at home or sitting on the bleachers during a ball game. A few extra moments of your free time each day can help you maintain a steady stream of leasing appointments throughout the week.
If you’re currently a Contact At Once! user, whether through Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com or have chat on your property website, visit the iTunes App Store and download the free Contact At Once! mobile chat app for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. If you don’t have one of these devices you can contact the Contact At Once! Support team and have them set you up with the Mobile Desktop Extension (MDE) instead.
Finally, it’s important to note that with the Contact At Once! mobile app you can decide when to answer a chat and when not to. The point here is that the more you make yourself available to prospects, the more leasing appointments you’re likely to set.
To download the mobile app from iTunes, you can scan the QR code above with your smartphone or visit: http://itunes.apple.com/app/contactatonce/id390887924