COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of our lives, and for many this change has provoked a priority shift and attitude change. In order to stay competitive, businesses must adapt to these changes and support their residents through these uncertain times.
As Spike's Community Manager, I've pulled together five simple things PRS operators, property managers, asset managers,developers and home builders should consider when putting together a resident engagement plan. These actions will boost engagement levels and ultimately help you nurture content, loyal residents who want to occupy your spaces for longer.
1. Think beyond traditional face-to-face events.
Six months ago events were likely a large part of your resident engagement strategy. Even with restrictions lifting, residents and staff will be cautious of mass gatherings. Despite restrictions we've seen some fantastic innovation with community engagement initiatives, proving it's still possible to rally together as a community, even from a safe social distance. Moda Living for example hosted a pizza night for their residents, which was launched through their Resident App, My Moda. Moda partnered with a local Italian restaurant to deliver a pizza to each resident who'd signed up to be involved, as a treat from Moda. This small act of kindness supported their local community and made residents feel less alone and supported, in the midst of lockdown.
2. Establish open lines of communication between your staff and residents.
Your staff play a very important role in nurturing your residential community, even if you don't have on-site staff all the time. Resident's need to feel comfortable in approaching staff about problems and/or worries, and feel issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently. After all, happy people make happy spaces and feelings of dissatisfaction can be very disruptive.
Some of our client's have chosen to set up 'I'm happy' and 'I'm not happy' forums in their Resident Apps, where residents can post issues or praise accordingly. Although this might sound risky it gives operators the right to reply to any complaints, and keeps the problem contained. Moreover, it offers residents complete transparency which then translates into trust and loyalty.
3. Empower residents to socialise outside of organised activities.
Although organised activities and initiatives are important, there will be residents who prefer to socialise with neighbours on their own terms and in their own time, so it's important to give your resident's choice in how they interact. Since the start of lockdown in March we've seen an incredible 700% rise in social interactions across our Resident Apps. These interactions include comments, likes and messages on social forums and clubs, and a lot of these digital interactions are now transforming into face-to-face social interactions and friendships. What is even more encouraging is residents are now creating these forums themselves, creating micro-communities. We've seen everything from charity bake-sale forums to Poker clubs being created.
4. Listen to your residents.
Finally, many make the mistake of assuming they know what their residents want from their community, and create a strategy around these assumptions, only to find their efforts wasted. Invest in really getting to know your residents and then act accordingly. This can be done in a number of ways; Fizzy Living for example created a service where residents can reach out to their buildings managers to book an hour slot to discuss their life living at a Fizzy development. Building managers then come away with actionable insights to implement moving forward and residents feel heard. Another simple way to do this is by tracking and analysing data from your Resident App, identifying popular subjects, events, discussions and pain-points.
5. Plan, Track, Analyse, Plan
Despite the ever-changing landscape it's still important to plan ahead when it comes to resident engagement. Our in-house Community Engagement Team put together a monthly engagement plan with our clients to map out key activities for the month ahead. The teams then meet at the end of the month to analyse data, spot trends and make changes accordingly. This approach is instrumental in the success of our Apps and allows our client's so stay one step ahead.
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