What does it take to create a sense of community within a multifamily operator’s sphere of influence? Do employees and residents respond, and does it positively impact the bottom line?
Rick Graf, President and CEO of Pinnacle, was kind enough to share his thoughts on this topic recently. It was an insightful conversation, highlighting how a few basic but powerful values, well executed, can have a profound and lasting effect.
“As a company, our culture of collaboration plays a key role in creating community,” said Graf, “allowing us to gain greater perspective and to collaborate with our employees, our residents and our suppliers.” Graf’s vision is to give constituents a voice and encourage input, because, “frankly, they often come up with ideas that are better – and that resonates with our clients.”
How does this culture translate to a feeling of community with residents? According to Graf, Pinnacle utilizes the same approach at the site level. “Take community events, for example. We may come up with something we think is a great idea, but it may not be what the residents really want to do.” Pinnacle employs CARES teams (usually two people who are residents of the community, in cooperation with the Apartment Life organization); these teams are someone the residents know as “one of them,” and work collaboratively with residents and the management team to collaborate on a variety of topics community relations topics. “This has been a true differentiator for us, and we see it in our improved retention rates and satisfaction scores,” said Graf.
Graf also sees technology assisting in enhancing the overall resident experience. “Technology is really the next generation in how we’ll communicate,” he pointed out. “We currently utilize text messaging to provide alerts and notifications, as well as kiosks in our high-rise buildings.” Graf feels it is important to ensure the residents receive timely and valid information about the things that impact them, and feels further implementation of technology will continue to enhance the resident experience, “from the time they see us online, to move-in, to move-out – their experience can be positive or neutral or negative, and we of course want it to be as positive as possible.”
Asked how suppliers help play a role in creating community, Graf responded “We like doing business with people who are like-minded, who share our strategies and values, and who are involved in the greater communities in which we live and operate.” Community and charitable events are important in the Pinnacle world, so much so that the company spent over 4000 man-hours and $300,000 during 2016 toward charitable works. “We like to see our suppliers right there with us in some capacity.”
But is all of this quantifiable in some way? According to Graf, absolutely. “It’s tricky, because there are so many factors that impact retention. Even with that in mind, we’ve seen between 5-10% in additional retention for our communities, which equals estimated value creation of approximately over a million dollars on a typical asset that deploys Cares Teams.” Not only quantifiable, but also quite impactful.
Finally, it’s clear that Pinnacle Living’s values also play a role in creating stronger, more connected communities with a mantra to “do the right thing, be kind, and be humble.” Graf and his team are passionate about executing on this mantra, and it extends to residents. “Doing the right thing means acting with integrity, compassion and empathy,” said Graf, adding that “there are often gray areas; a resident may be late with rent because of a child’s illness or some other terrible circumstance. We do our homework, of course, to make sure we are hearing the truth, but at the end of the day we want to be human and work with people. We don’t always get it right, of course, like making someone drive across town to pay a $5 late fee – we probably should have waived that. In terms of “being nice to people”, we want our people to know that talking, smiling, having a positive interaction with our customers. The humility aspect of our business is having a “servants heart” mentality toward our residents. ” The goal is to create such a positive experience that residents will choose to stay at renewal.
Pinnacle is one of the nation’s largest multifamily management companies with a portfolio of over 165,000 units and 4,000 team members, with a philosophy to exceed customer expectations and positively impact the lives of people.
Rick’s thoughts really resonated with us here at Mobile Doorman, where our goal is to help multifamily operators extend the sense of community by making it easier for residents to communicate with management and each other. We’re all about making the resident experience smooth and seamless!