by Demetrios Barnes
Even before the coronavirus, self-guided tours were beginning to emerge as a major factor in apartment operations and leasing.
Now, as the industry continues to navigate the effects of the pandemic, self-guided tours are firmly in the multifamily mainstream.
Much has been made about the positive impact these tours have on prospects – and for good reason. More and more of today’s prospective renters want to visit a community without being led around by an associate (and, in the present moment, social-distancing mandates may not give them much of a choice in the matter). In fact, according to a recent RENTCafe survey of 3,500 renters, 83% of the respondents said they would take a self-guided tour if it was available at an apartment community.
But the benefits of self-guided tours extend well beyond allowing prospects to visit a community in their preferred manner (as critical as that obviously is). These tours also help onsite associates perform their jobs better. Below are three examples of how self-guided tours do just that.
1) They help associates take better care of current residents. Without having to spend so much of their workday touring prospective residents, team members can devote more time to the needs of those who already live at the community.
Associates have more bandwidth to plan great resident events, make sure maintenance requests are completed in a satisfactory manner and handle any other resident issues that may come up. Signing new residents is important, but so is retaining current ones. Self-guided tours can help a community’s staff provide the kind of customer service that drives high renewal rates.
2) They give associates more time for prospect follow-up and relationship building. Tours can play a major role in a prospect’s decision-making process, but they are still just one point along the buyer’s journey. Leasing associates who don’t have to lead every visiting prospect on a tour are better positioned to develop rapport with leads in the other stages of the demand funnel, and they will have more energy to effectively sell a property when following up with prospective residents. In addition, some self-guided tour solutions provide a prospect with an “apply now” link as soon as the tour ends, reducing the amount of follow-up associates have to do and giving them more bandwidth for other important tasks.
3) They pave the way for team members to provide better experiences to prospects on associate-led tours. No one wants to feel rushed. But if the only way a visitor can tour a community is through an associate-led tour, a team member may have to fit a huge number of tours into their day.
It’s unfortunate, but this can understandably lead associates to complete tours too quickly, not giving prospects the time they would like to explore a community’s homes and common areas.
An experience like this can compel a prospective renter to take her home search elsewhere. By contrast, with a significant portion of leads opting for self-guided tours, team members have the time to slow down and provide the kind of comprehensive, comfortable tour that visitors really appreciate.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that self-guided tours are here to stay. The benefits for prospects and for associates are just too significant for them to fade away.