Do you have a feedback system in place in your community? A feedback system is a means through which you can determine what your residents are happy about and what needs improvement, and then do something about it. Without a feedback system, you will mostly hear from people who are angry about something and from those who are chronic complainers, but rarely will you hear from the majority of people, even if they have some concerns. They may talk to each other but you won’t know what they are saying. No news is not necessarily good news. Most people who are mildly dissatisfied will never tell you unless you ask.
Some multifamily executives and managers are hesitant to ask for feedback for fear that they will encourage their residents to think about problems. Encouraging feedback isn’t going to cause someone to think of what problems they are having, but it can get them to share their concerns with you so you can make things better. Let’s look at five ways you can effectively receive feedback from your residents.
1. Walk Around Your Community
You don’t need an expensive market research project to get meaningful feedback. Something as simple as walking around your community common areas and listening to what people are talking about will give you invaluable feedback. Stop and talk to them. Ask questions. Be friendly and make it clear that you are seeking suggestions for how to do better. Every organization or business can always do better – the bases keep moving as you improve. Always have a small pad and a pen in your pocket as you walk around so you can remember what you are hearing.
2. Use Social Networking
If you have not already done so, create a Facebook and a Twitter account. Invite your residents to visit it regularly. Watch what they are saying online to each other. This is like a mother driving her daughter and friends to school and sitting quietly in the driver’s seat listening to what the kids are saying. They learn much more about their child’s life than they can learn by asking them direct questions at home. You can occasionally ask for some feedback on the site, but for the most part, sit back and listen. Speak up if some statement really needs to be corrected or explained, but primarily listen. When you make a change based on what you have heard, be sure to advise them of the change and note that the suggestion came from them. Knowing that you are listening to them will encourage residents to communicate more often.
3. Use Email
Obtain your residents’ email addresses and, from time to time, send them an email notice of something you have improved or a message that would interest them. Ask for their suggestions about what they would like to see done. Then, carefully read their suggestions and respond back to them.
4. Take Periodic Surveys
When you are thinking about whether or not to take some action that would affect the residents or you want their opinion on some choice, take a short survey. This can be by email, a note under their door, a note on a bulletin board in a common area or through any other medium of communication you have. Once you have asked for their opinion, however, be sure to study the results and take appropriate action based on those results. There are a variety of tools you can use to survey easily. If you use products like Ellis Shops or research companies like Kingsley, J Turner or Satisfacts, they may have tools for you. There are also free products like surveymonkey.com that you can use.
5. Focus Groups
From time to time, invite several residents, some who have lived there a long time and some newer residents, to talk about what makes them happy in your community and what they would like to see beyond that.
A feedback system is not a one-shot endeavor, but rather an ongoing process that incorporates a variety of methods. You should be seeking feedback every day, not just when you do a formal survey. Get out of the office and mingle with residents. Seek constructive criticism and don’t be afraid. Both your residents and your employees can be a wonderful source of new ideas that keep things fresh and interesting in your community. Don’t take negative comments personally and never get defensive. Consider all suggestions. Accept those that you believe can work and reject those that are not feasible or are too expensive. Remember, residents’ satisfaction is not the result of your focusing on one big idea, but is the result of lots of small actions that make their life better. Listen to the ideas of your residents and employees and look for those small, inexpensive improvements you can make.