February 16, 2017
Tenant Surveys: The Why, How, Where and When
If property management firms want to be competitive, they have to understand where they excel and where they need to improve. They should be able to accurately evaluate their performance and determine what residents think about life on their property.
That means one thing: Property management firms must actively welcome complaints.
At first glance, the idea of culling over complaints may not appeal. But grievances are more than just renter gripes; they can also serve as an early warning system that helps prevent service failures by allowing property managers to fix small problems before they become big ones.
So how can property managers invite constructive criticism from their residents?
Top Tips for Tenant Surveys
One of the best ways to gauge the pulse of your building portfolio is to create tenant surveys. Of course, not every resident is keen to complete a survey. But there are a few things you can do to help ensure a high response rate:
- Ensure anonymity. Some residents won’t want to offer up negative feedback if they have to sign their name to it. Make it easy for them to complete your survey anonymously.
- Offer an incentive. Sweeten the deal by providing participants with an incentive, like the chance to win a gift certificate for a local store or restaurant, a discount on rent or a new small appliance. (To maintain anonymity, provide survey participants with a code they can use to prove participation and be entered to win, without revealing their answers.)
- Keep it short. If the survey is too long, people are less likely to take the time to complete it. So keep it simple and don’t try to cover every issue at once. If you have a long list of issues to tackle in the survey (e.g. rent payment options, access to common areas) consider focusing on specific topics in different surveys, and send them out at separate times throughout the year (just not too frequently).
- Go digital. Today’s tenants are very familiar with the online world and do many of their transactions on mobile devices. Offer them a link to complete your survey online; not only is it more convenient for them, but it makes it easier for you to collect feedback and analyze the results.
Asking Good Questions
When it comes to choosing the questions for your survey, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind.
- Avoid “yes or no.” While answering “yes or no” questions is quick and easy for participants, the responses don’t offer enough insight into why tenants like or dislike any aspect of your property, and they don’t allow room for suggestions. Instead, use a rating scale (Very satisfied, satisfied, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, dissatisfied, very dissatisfied) and create the option to add comments if participants have more to say.
- Minimize open-ended questions. Open-ended questions can yield the most detail, but they take longer to complete; many respondents won’t take the time to offer in-depth feedback. If there are a few important topics you need covered this way, go for it, but be selective in your topics and specific with your questions.
- Ask at the right time. Surveys should be done on an annual basis, but also throughout your residents’ lifecycles. Offer surveys to new and renewing tenants, those who have recently ended their lease and those who recently had maintenance work completed. By focusing on these key milestones, you can glean important information, like why renters choose to live on or leave your property, what they think of the leasing process, or how responsive and effective your maintenance staff is.
Above all, it’s essential to ask questions that benefit your firm. So create a survey that is uniquely tailored to your property, tenants and management team.
Proactive outreach can keep tenants happy and help property managers and owners solve any issues before they become larger problems. But all that data is only as valuable as what you use it for.
With your tenant portal, you’ll have access to a simple tool that will enable you to reach multiple tenants at once, inviting them to complete your survey. The more people you can get to participate, the better your property management firm can spot trends and increase your bottom line.