9 ISSUE 3, 2021 Woodland Hills, California. “Learning how to shine remotely was a challenge.” Scott Ferguson, senior vice president of operations for Waterton, based in Chicago, agrees about the remote shift. “When leasing shifted to a virtual environment, we saw a dip in total tours and gross closing percentages, which we attributed to the loss of personal interaction and engagement,” he says. To engage customers, leasing agents should make sure they communicate proactively by their preferred methods, whether customers prefer email, phone calls or even video chat. Apartment companies also have made sure leasing agents understood their own value. “We had to make sure that on-site associates knew that this was not replacing them,” says Michael Manfred, vice president of marketing at The NRP Group, working in the firm’s Cleveland offices. 3. Pay Attention Leasing agents also have had to work hard to make up for insights they miss when they don’t meet prospective renters in person. “A leasing specialist can learn a lot from a customer’s nonverbal cues,” says Waterton’s Ferguson. However, video calls with prospects can provide a different kind of insight. “We are able to see the environment our prospect is currently living in and in many cases, this has allowed us to paint a better picture of what they are looking for,” says CGI+’s Furman. Bensix Anderson, MFE multifamilyexecutive.com . 4. Be Flexible With Potential Renters Property managers also have learned not to take it personally when customers missed virtual appointments. “In a virtual world, it has become easier than ever to simply not show up for an appointment,” says Ferguson. Waterton reengaged these customers both with automated emails and personal outreach. “That improved the appointment attendance rate and provided the customer with flexibility to reschedule to meet their needs,” he says. 5. Create Strong Partnerships with Tech Providers Owners and managers adapted to set up self-guided tours at tens of thousands of vacant apartments during the peak of the pandemic. “It’s amazing how quickly and relatively seamlessly property managers could shift,” says John Helm, founder and current partner with RET Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Park City, Utah, focused on proptech. Strong partnerships with technology companies made it possible. “A strong partnership with a self-guided tour vendor is key,” says NRP’s Manfred. “Having a strong partnership in place allowed for a quick and painless transition and prevented our site team’s day-to-day activities from being changed drastically.” To engage customers, leasing agents should make sure they communicate proactively by their preferred methods, whether customers prefer email, phone calls or even video chat.