Going Virtual: Taking 2020 as a Lesson Learned

When Covid-19 hit, P.B. Bell shifted how we did things as quickly as possible to keep our employees, residents and prospects safe. This meant pivoting to offer new tour options including virtual and self-guided tours. It also meant closing our leasing offices to the public and offering flexible work environments to our team members. We had to adjust how we did things while making sure to still provide the same level of high-quality service. 

There was certainly some trial and error along the way as we and others in the industry piloted technologies and processes, and then adjusted as necessary, to find what worked best. Here are our key lessons learned from going virtual in 2020:

Adapting Quickly to Virtual 

Although virtual and self-guided tours were already growing in popularity within the apartment industry, there was not yet an expectation from a majority of renters that warranted such a dynamic shift so quickly, that was, until Covid-19 hit. It was then that multifamily leaders had to quickly adapt to integrate these new services in order to maintain occupancy and keep up with the competition. It has been important to keep safety at the forefront of everything we’ve done, and to try our best to maintain a seamless process for our renters while our teams juggled many new procedures, leasing tools, and just having to become proficient and open to new ways of doing their job while in the midst of a pandemic.

When many leasing offices closed, virtual and self-guided tours were the best option for P.B. Bell in order to allow prospective residents to view our apartment communities from a distance so that they could feel both comfortable and confident choosing their next home with us. A key lesson the P.B. Bell team learned from implementing virtual and self-guided tours was that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to it. Each community has its own unique needs, opportunities, and budget, so it’s important to evaluate options carefully, be willing to pivot in case one solution isn’t working as well as expected, and most importantly, be clear, concise and available for training and feedback when it comes to rolling out new things.

At P.B. Bell, our team has found a ton of success by utilizing Matterport Tours and Realnyc, just to name a few. Both of these tools have been instrumental to our ability to maintain high occupancy percentages over the last year. Some of our teams with smaller budgets for new technology found that filming their own videos, posting them on YouTube, and sharing with prospects that way was very useful as well. 

These immersive experiences allow prospective residents to feel good about the decision they’re making on where to live, and we’ve realized that many people prefer it over traditional tours so these new tour options will be around long term. 

Being Readily Available 

As our community’s offices were closed, our onsite team members were not having that face-to-face interaction with residents and prospective residents that we were accustomed to. Due to this, a key lesson we quickly learned is that we needed to communicate more frequently with our residents than we were used to. People were home more often and needed us to be there to support them now more than ever before. Sometimes that meant just reaching out to check in and make sure everyone was doing okay even if we didn’t have any sort of big update. 

We also realized that it’s easy to lose touch with the people who live in our communities, so we made it a priority to continue with monthly resident events to keep that connection alive which in turn maintained high resident retention. Check out some of our virtual and socially distanced resident events that have been successful for us. 

Another lesson that we’ve learned is that people don’t want perfect, they just want transparency. Both residents and prospects just want to know that they can trust us to be there for them when they need us. Residents want to be kept in the loop on what’s happening at their communities and they want to know the steps we’re taking to keep people safe. Prospects want to see the community they’re choosing to live at whether it be virtual or self-guided and they want us to be responsive and helpful by answering all of their questions. Most people understand that we’re doing the best we can, so as long as we show up for people and show that we care, that’s what’s important, and that’s what people want more than anything else.

There was a lot of uncertainty in 2020, and we’re not out of the woods yet, but things are looking up. Overall, we can take 2020 as a lesson learned in how important it is to quickly adapt, communicate, and remain transparent. Our teams pivoted to going virtual and while there were some learning curves along the way as we worked through things together, we were able to continue to provide quality service to our residents and prospective residents thanks to our adaptability. 

Are you interested in hiring a qualified and flexible property management team? Be sure to look at our services and give us a call at (480) 951-2222.