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.