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Improving tenant satisfaction with tenant councils

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Today, the direct correlation between tenant satisfaction and tenant renewal is stronger than ever, and to most property managers that's nothing new. But today's dynamic and competitive real estate market requires new tools and strategies for assuring that tenants receive upgraded amenities, efficient communication and special attention from property management companies to drive lease renewals.

To stay ahead in today's market, property management teams have to reconsider the role of the tenant, and one innovative way to do this is through a "tenant council."

Tenant councils go by many different names, from tenant associations to town hall meetings, roundtables or even as just regular tenant meetings.

Regardless of name, these tenant councils are a new strategy to give tenants a sense of ownership and to improve performance by service providers and property managers, directly correlating to tenant satisfaction and increased renewal rates.

A research study by Kingsley Associates found that tenants who had frequent, meaningful interactions with their property manager were much more pleased that those who did not.

A regular tenant council meeting can ensure that tenants feel that property management staff are really listening to their concerns and addressing them in a timely manner.

Christina Marin, a property manager with CarrAmerica at 707 Broadway, conducts monthly tenant roundtables at her building. Building owners, tenant contacts and property management staff attend the hour-long meetings.

Marin began the program at her building after conducting similar meetings when she was with another company, and estimates that about 75 percent of building tenants actively attend each meeting.

"When we started the meetings in February of 2005, our tenants were extremely receptive," Marin said. "Effective communication with tenants definitely has a huge impact on tenant renewal, and these meetings are a way to hear their input."

Marin said the tenant roundtables cover a range of issues, from building operations, engineering issues as well as janitorial, security, parking and landscaping services.

Tenants can also offer suggestions based on group discussion, and property management staff then reviews the suggestions for possible implementation.

"A great example of how a tenant roundtable directly influenced property management is through the installation of our building's gym," Marin said. "From a tenant roundtable, we received a comment about putting a gym into the building and the discussion was very positive. The comment came up before budget season, and we decided it was a worthwhile investment."

In October 2006, a gym was installed on-site at the property and Marin estimates that about 60 percent of tenants regularly use the facility.

"Tenants have expectations for their property management team, and they want to know that their needs are being taken care of," Marin said. "These meetings do just that, and the gym is a testament to the value and importance of tenant input."

In order for tenant meetings to work effectively, they must be well organized. Set the stage to ensure positive communication.

To ensure the meetings are run effectively and efficiently, and truly allow tenants to voice their opinions, property managers must set guidelines and expectations for each meeting. Tips to ensure tenant councils run smoothly include:

¥ Set an agenda ahead of time so that all parties know what will be discussed.

¥ Make sure tenants know the purpose of tenant council meetings. Frame them as problem solving opportunities rather than a forum for complaints.

¥ Make sure that progress is made from meeting to meeting to ensure the meetings are useful.

¥ Encourage everyone to participate. These meetings are a great way for tenants to meet building and maintenance staff and vendors as well.

¥ Send a follow-up notice after each meeting so that tenants know the status of any building issues and what you are doing to correct them.

For more information on tenant councils, visit www.boma.org. BOMA also offers an audio seminar, "Tenant Councils: A New Tool to Improve Tenant Satisfaction," that can be found in BOMA's online store.

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