Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., the apartment industry has been closely monitoring its effects on leasing behavior. One unfortunate trend we are seeing right now is the rise of call abandonment. This trend means apartment communities are missing valuable leads and, as a result, operators may need to revamp their leasing processes.
Answer Rates Have Materially Shifted
First, let’s dig into some data. For analysis purposes, let’s compare the leasing call volume data of Anyone Home customers from February 25 to March 14 against March 15 to March 25. The analysis below looked at calls made to apartment community customers that don’t use our contact center; the calls met the following criteria:
•Only leasing calls to multifamily properties
•First-time callers only; any repeat or follow-up calls from prospects were excluded
Since March 15, leasing call answer rates dropped by nearly half, presumably because apartment communities have scaled back their onsite staffs in the wake of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions. What does this decline mean? If a community isn’t using a contact center to answer calls missed by the onsite team, those calls are being abandoned by the prospect. In the analysis above, the difference between a 65% and 33% leasing call answer rate means the properties are now losing an additional one-third of all leads, whereas prior to the outbreak, those leads were receiving some immediate level of engagement. To make matters worse, we did not see any material change to the number of prospects leaving voicemails, meaning they are simply hanging up and moving on to the next property that can engage.
An Unexpected Twist to Contact Center Call Volume
While total lead volume is down substantially for all rental segments, prospects are still calling for information about apartments. For example, calls to our contact center have increased 33% since the outbreak. This increase is directly correlated to the data listed above; properties are not answering their calls which results in an increase in calls handled by our contact center. This shows that, to a significant degree, prospects generally are still interested in leasing apartments.
What’s the Solution?
In short, apartment operators need to rethink the leasing process. In the past, demand was high and fundamentals were strong enough that you may have been able to simply over-advertise to make up for any missed calls. However, what may have previously worked for your properties is no longer sustainable today.
Here are a few suggestions to better adapt to this situation:
•Measure follow-up. Do you have a playbook that sets the expectations for follow-up? If so, how do you track that? You can make up for lost leads with a great sales process.
•Engage long-tail leads. One-third of all prospects are seeking to move more than 30 days out. We often see these leads squandered since leasing agents have trouble managing future activities. Centralize a couple of team members to work these leads and you will capture a ton of leases that most other companies ignore.
•Consider utilizing a contact center. There are several in the industry – find one that best suits your needs. You will move from 67% of your calls being missed to 0%.
Despite local and state-wide orders to stay inside or even shelter in place, there is still substantial interest in the rental housing market. If you can start adjusting your sales and marketing strategies today, a healthier leasing season will be just around the corner.