As the year draws to a close, we spoke to our BTR (build to rent) Industry Advisor and Operations & Commercial Director at PLATFORM_, Kevin Watson, to get his insights on how BTR operators can enhance the resident journey in 2021 and beyond.
Resident journey remains key
There are three parts to the resident journey, and they start long before the resident actually moves in. The first touchpoint comes when a prospective resident makes an inquiry, either via email or over the phone. That is your chance to give them a feel for the building. The day they move in is another opportunity to showcase what BTR really offers; little touches like ensuring lift access, reserving a parking space and providing a comprehensive welcome pack are all ways to set you apart. And of course when they move out, being swift with the deposit return and doing your best to facilitate their house move are the best ways to make the whole experience a smooth one.
Residents can be your best marketing channel
When it comes to attracting new residents, word of mouth is by far the most successful approach, which is why it’s so important to offer a positive experience when your residents move in and out. You can broaden your reach and appeal by using social media, but resident experience is what makes the sale.
Security fosters resident loyalty
Focusing on security, particularly in these uncertain times, makes for an extremely attractive package. Being able to reassure your residents that their properties are not going to be sold from under them and offering them 3-year tenancies rather than a standard 12-month contract foster security and loyalty.
Connect with residents using events
You can’t overestimate the importance of regular interaction and communication. BTR utilises a lot of technology, and this can be a positive thing, especially in the repairs and maintenance arena, but having a physical presence on-site is reassuring. Kevin Watson also stresses the importance of communicating all manner of different information to residents, be it routine on-site maintenance or social events. Social media and the presence of a resident services manager simplify this process.
Build online resident communities, too
Constant communication builds a community, which is one of the biggest assets BTR has. Kevin Watson points to data from the US, which demonstrates people are more likely to remain in a property if they have friends around them. Setting up a Facebook community and a Whatsapp group is a no-brainer, as it knits people together. Communal spaces like residents’ lounges, gyms, pools and screening rooms all generate a sense of belonging.
Embracing feedback can help you improve
Don't be afraid to ask residents to give you feedback - Kevin runs an annual survey and encourages residents to rate staff and leave reviews regularly. While this sounds brutal, it’s actually the best way to ensure that you give residents what they want and change what they don’t.
Flexibility is our best policy
The ongoing pandemic is actually providing an opportunity for BTR because it’s making people value and appreciate the additional services that it offers (particularly in our new culture of remote working) as well as the professional management that BTR provides. It’s a sector that’s been quick to adapt to restrictions on capacity and spaces, offering online events and allowing individual groups to book and use communal spaces like cinemas and gyms. “Nobody knows what the future holds, but by focusing on flexibility and innovation, BTR should be well-placed to capitalise on it,” said Kevin.
In June 2020, Kevin Watson was joined by an expert panel on our webinar, Unlocking Build to Rent to discuss how the industry is remaining resilient amidst an ongoing pandemic. The recording can be reviewed anytime, anywhere.