How to Continue Operating Your Apartment Community During Coronavirus Pandemic
>> Looking for resident notices to keep your community informed? Scroll down.
Right now, people are feeling a sense of uncertainty at the very least. Others are in full-blown panic-mode as they have learned that their livelihoods are gone overnight, or jobs paused until further notice.
Parents are worried about what they’ll do for their children, many of whom will be out of school for days, weeks, or maybe months.
Others are worried for elderly or immunocompromised family members who may be struggling to care for themselves or who live far away from friends and family.
Many are worried about all of the above.
It’s a lot for anyone to handle.
As operators of apartment communities we impact so many lives. After all, we are talking about people’s homes. This is our opportunity to step up.
While we don’t want to panic, it would be foolish not to prepare.
This article will address some practical measures that can be taken now to prepare for further restrictions that may limit our normal operations. Not all will apply to your situation. Take what serves you and leave the rest.
Establish lines of communication at your community now
In the days or weeks to come, there may be some mandatory restrictions preventing us from physically working at our communities. Now is the time to establish how we will communicate with both our residents and our team.
During times of crisis, there is no such thing as over-communication. People are anxious and idle, both of which can lead to a lot of frustrating requests that our onsite teams will have to field. While a lot of these frustrations can’t be eliminated, many can be avoided or reduced by what you do this week.
Before we dive into the channels of communication, let’s just throw something out there.
A lot of people are going to be rude, entitled, and demanding.
You can spend time and energy being appalled, angry, hurt, or disappointed. Or you can just expect it and decide now that you will let empathy guide all of your communication regardless of the response.
This doesn’t mean you will be a pushover or a people-pleaser, this means you are going to keep your cool. No one knows how they’ll respond under crisis when its thrust upon them.
That is why it is so essential to decide NOW how you will respond.
Just think - after this passes, you’ll have some interesting stories to share.
Ok, now let’s get to our options for communication channels.
Resident Communication Channels
PRO: People are used to communicating this way. It’s fast and effective.
CON: People are flooded with emails right now regarding COVID. It will be easy for your emails to get lost in the shuffle.
TIP: Use a consistent subject line to let residents know that emails are from your community. Example: [Sprout Apartments: Community Updates 3/18]
PRO: If residents are already used to using this, they will automatically go here for updates.
CON: No con if this is already set-up.
TIP: Keep notices up-to-date so people don’t stop checking the portal.
Social Media Channels
PRO: For diversion, many people will be turning to social media. This is an opportunity for you to be part of the online conversation. You can also post videos which feel a lot more personal when you can’t have face-to-face interaction.
CON: Conversations can quickly turn negative, and threads can spiral out of control with varying opinions on how things should be done.
TIP: Consider setting up a Facebook Group where you can approve comments or respond privately.
Chat Feature on Website
PRO: Residents and prospects may already be going to your website to see how to reach out. Having a quick response will lower phone calls or office visits and increase capacity for your team.
CON: People expect a quick response time with chat. Make sure it is turned off if you are overwhelmed with requests or if you step away from your computer to go to the bathroom or get a snack…(which by the way...totally allowed!).
TIP: Reach out to your web provider. This can be an easy added means of communication.
Physical Notices & Bandit Signs Throughout Your Community
PRO: For now, people will still be walking around the community. This will be one more way to make sure they see your information.
CON: Someone has to physically post these.
Post pertinent notices in common areas: Mail center, laundry center, fitness center, elevators, leasing office door.
Let residents know where to look for more information or how to contact someone.
PRO: It’s an easy way to reach your residents on their cell phone, which many will be glued to.
CON: Many communities don’t have this setup.
TIP: If you have a third-party service, providing text message updates can be effective in relaying time-sensitive information.
PRO: People are used to calling in.
CON: If staff is limited, calls can quickly become overwhelming, and you may be responding to repetitive questions.
TIP: Set up a voicemail that answers some of your FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) or directs them somewhere on your website/portal that answers them. That way if you can’t get to everyone personally, they can still get answers to the most common questions.