Referral Fees – Not Quite So Easy Breezy
Referral fees have been a staple in the multifamily industry for decades. The programs are typically basic – residents tell their friends and families about their apartment community and send us qualified applicants who go on to move in and become residents. We post signs reminding our residents of the promotion – Earn $200 – $500! for every move-in. What we fail to do is simplify the rules for earning the referral fee. The small print can turn a fairly straightforward program into a very complex one and quickly deflate the joyful chance to turn a friend into a neighbor and pocket some easy cash.
I cringe when I think of a manager arguing with a resident about the five steps required to claim the fee and – Oops! You missed step #3! Sorry, that’s our policy. But thank you anyway. Do you feel the same pit in your stomach as I do when considering that scenario?
Rents are well above record levels which can be stressful for residents, making the chance to earn some extra dollars appealing indeed. So, if the rent were let’s say $1800/month, then the value of that new customer is more than $21k for the first year. The referral fee is peanuts comparatively. Instead, we often stand our ground and turn the initial resident into a raving enemy. You might win the fight, but the war is over. A happy resident tells a few people. An unhappy one tells the world.
A colleague of mine shared this story about a recent customer experience from a different industry altogether.
“Recently, my adult daughter purchased a new bed and mattress from a smaller online company, and she loved it! She did her homework in advance and had zero regrets. A few months later, my adult son took notice of her two thumbs-up review and bought a mattress, frame, and the works from the same company.
Since I was also on the hunt for a new mattress, I jumped on board and bought one, too. I know the story sounds improbable, but mattress shopping is really stressful, and if you know someone who actually loves their new mattress and the overall buying experience, that creates a huge level of trust. I don’t know about you, but it is awkward to go into one of the many Mattress stores found in every strip mall and shop while a salesperson hovers over you, encouraging you to sit or lay down on several of the floor models. Talk about a position where you have zero power! Back to our story – none of us had seen or even sat on the product before buying it – we relied on the words of a trusted family member in addition to online reviews and website information.
After all our financial transactions were complete and new beds were on the way, I realized that no one had used the right referral link to earn the $50 bonus. Bummer. I had corresponded with Shannon from customer support over some pre-purchase questions which she quickly answered. I used that contact to reach out and share our story – the family who each bought into the Big Fig experience. I acknowledged the fact that we failed to use the referral link. My email ended with this question, “Is there anything you can do to reward this much family loyalty?”
The company wasn’t required to do anything. We clearly missed the requirements (which included using the special link AND waiting until the 120-day trial sleep period ended.) I had no expectations but thought it was worth a shot.
Instead of highlighting the rules and requirements of the referral policy, the company chose to make it more than right. She replied quickly, thanked us for our support, and sent each of us a $50 Visa gift card. If I have the math right, that’s one more than we would have earned under the program if we had followed the referral rules initially.
Hats off to Shannon the Customer Support person who works for a company that understands the imperative to exceed expectations at every opportunity. The $150 they spent on Visa gift cards is a tiny fraction of the thousands of dollars we paid for our mattresses. And it guarantees that each of us will share the word with our friends and colleagues. (Hi friends & colleagues! Check out Big Fig Mattress!)
A $50 gift card is nominal and pays back far more than it costs. What really stands out here is that Shannon didn’t need four levels of approval and forms to give away the gift cards. She was empowered to make decisions on the spot that ensured an exceptional customer experience.”
What are you doing to empower your front-line team members to resolve situations and build brand loyalty? Are you giving your Shannons the opportunity to be the hero?
Please share your stories with us. (Oh – and hit me up if you need a new mattress!)
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One Weird & Wonderful
I don’t spend much time in front of the television, but my friend encouraged me to watch the show Chopped. Four chefs competing for the prize, a mystery basket of ingredients, and the added constraint of an incredibly short clock. Oh, and three elite culinary judges to decide their fate. I felt stressed just watching it! (Maybe it’s not entirely different than some days in the life of a multifamily manager?) The thing that struck me most was just how each chef interpreted the ingredients and, using their unique experience and preferences, turned out dishes that bore little resemblance to their competitor’s plates.
There’s a metaphor there. Not to oversimplify (or complicate) things, but it feels a lot like life.
Lately, I’ve given some thought to this one weird wonderful life we each get on this earth. I use the term weird in the best possible way. We are all a little weird and that is part of what makes life and relationships interesting – just like an unexpected ingredient in a dish that surprises the taste buds. Okay – back to my analogy.
Although we start life with many of the same ingredients, every person has their own mystery basket of unique attributes and challenges. We are the chef in this scenario – we can choose how to craft a life that brings us fulfillment and enriches the lives of others by using the ingredients at our disposal.
When asked “What do you do?” people tend to define themselves by current or aspirational career goals. It’s rare for anyone to reply to that question with anything other than career or education. Maybe we should consider surprising with an answer that speaks to who we are as individual humans not in terms of career. It is good to be enthusiastic about your career, after all a significant percentage of your hours are spent at work. But life gets off kilter when work takes precedence over everything else.
It is up to us to find the balance.
When creating your one unique life, consider doing your prep work. Sit with your thoughts and meditate on some deep questions.
- Who are you? For three short words, this is a HUGE question. Who are you in relation to your many roles and responsibilities? Personal relationships? Your attributes? Your foundation? Your core.
- What do you believe? This dives into personal beliefs around matters of faith or spirituality. In worldview. In connectivity to others in your life. And in consideration for the humans who share this planet and all its resources with you.
- What do you hope for? Growth? Relationships? Ambition? Travel? Restoration? Health? Experiences? What is your deep longing?
- How do you want to be remembered? When your one weird wonderful life in this world is done, what do you want those left behind to remember about you? What stories will they tell?
One final question – What are you going to do about it?
Gather ’round everyone and share your weird and wonderful life stories with us.
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The Year of Yes
Shonda Rhimes is well known for her slate of highly acclaimed Shondaland television series. She is a hit maker of the highest caliber producing around 70 hours or television a year. In 2015, Shonda surprised fans with her book Year of Yes where she forced herself to say Yes to everything that scared her for a year. Public speaking? Yes. What about acting? Yes. She talked about her experiences and the important lessons learned in this Ted Talk. The very act of doing the thing that scared her undid the fear. Shonda expanded the practice to saying yes to the requests of her family. When her small children wanted to play? Yes. To throw an impromptu kitchen dance party? Yes. She credits Yes with changing her life. There is a genuine benefit in the intentional practice of pushing past fears and excuses to find your own place of yes.
The Upside of the Opposite
We are a nation of people who love the word yes. Entire photo albums are filled with the Yes! moments of our lives. But – there is as much to be gained from the word No. Recognizing when to use the word no is empowering. It lets others know what to expect from you. For those in our industry who built careers on saying yes to all the difficult assignments, working all the extra hours, and taking it home when finally leaving the office, no feels like a negative thing, almost like a dirty word – something taboo. NO can feed the fear that it reflects badly on you.
The Honesty of Boundaries
I encourage you to re-examine the story you may be telling yourself about the word no. Saying yes when the real answer is no – is a lie. And you are the person that is telling it and doing harm to yourself in the process. The martyrdom of taking work home with you and laboring until late at night only to begin again before the starting bell of the next day only serves to perpetuate the problem. It disguises the true cost of doing business and contributes to personal burnout, which can be the hardest place to come back from. Telling yourself that you don’t have a choice is probably another lie. There are almost always choices. The other choices can feel scary, but as Shonda said, doing the thing that scares you undoes the fear. I shared a vlog on this topic last week with some tips on saying no.
Saying no sets reasonable expectations. It creates and supports appropriate boundaries. The answer might be “No, I can’t do that today, but I can fit it in later this week.” which provides the person making the request with the power to either accept your revised timeline or to find another resource to do the work. It isn’t magic but it does have the power to change your life and to reorder your priorities. No gives back time in your life – time to spend with loved ones and to pursue the things that bring you joy.
Yes is important. It can expand your experiences and each bit of personal growth builds on the last. It forges new relationships and enriches the ones you already have. But, yes is at its very best when it is balanced with the judicious no.
A glance at the news this week is quickly overwhelming. For the first time ever, federal officials declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, a water reservoir located on the Colorado River. The Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan with a population of about five million people. The US reported more than 900,000 COVID-19 cases last week, bringing the US total to more than 36.8 million cases and 622,058 deaths. Haiti was hit by 7.2-magnitude earthquake with more than 1400 deaths thus far. Wildfires ravage California and Utah as thousands are forced to evacuate. In the face of so many major events, what is a well-intentioned person to do?
It is easy to feel helpless with so many catastrophic events piled one on top of the other, breathtaking in their speed and enormity. The innate desire to alleviate human suffering is part of our humanity. Decision paralysis often occurs in the face of too many options. We can begin to feel that our small contributions aren’t likely to make any impact on such monumental problems. There are some steps we can take to manage feelings about these events and to help us prioritize when and where to give our time and resources.
The first is simple and difficult – regulate your consumption of media. In the not so distant past, the timing of major news was controlled by the television schedule. Today it is up to the individual to create real boundaries about when, how, and in what ways to consume news. Continuously checking your device for updates throughout the day doesn’t materially change the catastrophic event, but it fuels your feelings in a way that can cause more harm than good.
Making financial contributions is one way to influence better outcomes for people in need. Every social media thread is populated with requests to donate to countless charities from small community events to large international relief funds. Some are personal calls to help support a cause close to home while others are far-ranging but equally compelling. Some needs are immediate others are long-term. Where does a big-hearted human start? Check in with charity recommenders such as GiveWell or Charity Navigator to learn more about each organization, what percentage of your contribution goes to direct relief vs administrative overhead, etc. Decide on your priorities for charitable giving and choose organizations that align with them. Maybe consider giving money directly to those in need when you feel compelled to do so.
What does all this have to do with the world of Multifamily Collective? People are at the heart of what we do. Our team members, our residents, and our leaders each carry around their own strong feelings related to the many needs around us. It is easy to succumb to it all, but a little perspective and distraction goes a long way.
With all the heaviness around the world, I feel especially struck by an old favorite of mine: The Guest House by Rumi.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
My final encouragement today is that you give generously to others and also to yourselves that you may have some fuel yet left in your tank to give another day.