As the coronavirus pandemic pressed down, customer service at BtR communities soared.
Build To Rent (BtR) has had a speedy and strong evolution from its single-family rental roots, and this momentum has led to a revolution in rental housing in more areas than one. Private equity firms are acquiring huge portfolios, successful and profitable BtR projects are attracting more investors, lending institutions are confidently funding BtR loans, and consumers are opting for a rental property versus a mortgaged home.
However, it’s more than lack of savings and daunting debt that is driving this latter trend of consumers choosing to delay buying and instead jump feet first into renting. They are pining for more space, craving a sense of community, looking for luxury, and prioritizing convenience and customer service among the most important features that steer their decisions.
Customer service, in particular, was forced to be reimagined during the pandemic as the entire world masked up, maintained six feet of distance with every human interaction, and businesses scrambled for new ways to help their customers. BtR operators quickly had to pivot to create a safe space for existing and future residents by providing virtual tours, restructuring rental rates, and offering additional amenities across the renter’s entire experience — from leasing to move in and beyond.
And, while this abrupt change may have led many to believe that customer service in the BtR community would decline during a pandemic, the latest data published in the UKAA and Grace Hill Kingsley Surveys Resident Sentiment Survey Report reveals the opposite.
The UKAA and Grace Hill partnered to conduct a survey to measure and assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on renters’ experience and future decision-making regarding renting in the UK. The survey results, which comprised over 1,000 residents living primarily in Greater London, revealed a variety of insights related to the pandemic: how it impacted renters financially, the satisfaction level of residents of BtR communities versus with a private landlord, the percentage of renters who plan to move within the next six months, property manager perception during the pandemic, and how management firms should continue to adapt.
The key findings around the satisfaction level of residents at BtR communities compared to those renting from a private landlord were particularly insightful and ultimately revealed that BtR respondents were more satisfied with the management’s response to the pandemic. More specifically, 68% of respondents indicated good or excellent satisfaction with their management teams’ general service during COVID-19, while 73% of residents at BtR communities indicated good or excellent satisfaction in this area. In addition, 63% of those renting from a private landlord stated the same. Even more interesting is the data that illustrates the general service rating area — spanning communication, actions, cleaning and sanitation, efforts to support residents, and efforts to create a sense of community — had the largest statistical difference between residents at BtR communities and those renting from a private landlord.
Additionally, residents at BtR communities also were more likely to recommend their community at a 9 or 10 on the Net Promoter Scale®*, with 37% of BtR residents falling in this group compared to 34% renting from a private landlord.
2020 was a year of tumultuous change, and as we slowly exit from the peak of the pandemic, we anticipate the demand for BtR communities to continue to grow. Top-notch customer service will also strongly impact where consumers rent and whether they stay or move. As the BtR industry continues to evolve, strong relationships will be key to achieving sustainable growth. After all, creating great living experiences is paramount in property management, and that means putting residents and resident experiences first. The data clearly reveals that residents are most impacted by the quality of service provided — even during a pandemic — so it will be imperative for BtR communities to continue providing customer service that soars.
*Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.
Written by Helena Kelly, Marketing Consultant for Grace Hill