How is Tech Changing Your Customer Interaction Experience?

There’s an interesting piece making the social media rounds right now. It’s about a Craigslist post by the management of a New York City restaurant who were trying to determine why their service was so much slower in 2014 than it was in 2004 despite a simplified menu and increased staff. They were able to find security tapes from 2004 and compare them to their current security recordings and here’s part of what they found:

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant. 

In the end the restaurant’s management found that in 2004 the average customer was with them for 1 hour and 5 minutes. In 2014 that time had increased to 1 hour and 55 minutes, an increase of about 77%. No wonder they were seeing slower service times and an increase in complaints about slow service.

In the apartment industry we spend a lot of time talking about how technology has changed many aspects of the business – the impact of mobile on the leasing process, how to respond to online reviews, etc. – but we haven’t talked a lot about how these new technologies are changing how we interact with customers on a daily basis. I’d love to hear from you about changes you’ve noticed in your daily interaction with your customers and prospects, and how that’s impacted how you do business. Feel free to email me with any stories or observations you have about the changes you’ve seen as a result of the boom in mobile tech.

July 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

Rent a Family?

Want to give your model that “lived in” feel? You might borrow this idea from some realtors in Florida:

When the Mueller family sits for dinner, the leftover broccoli and crepes are already wrapped in plastic, the kitchen is beyond spotless, and the rest of the home is so tucked-away tidy it looks like they just moved in. In a way, they have: Every inch of furnishing, every little trinket and votive candle, sits precisely as designers placed it five months ago. That would make them the most perfect suburban ideal, except for one catch: This isn’t actually their home. Bob and Dareda Mueller and their three grown sons are, instead, part of an “elite group” of middle-class nomads who have agreed to an outlandish deal. They can live cheaply in this for-sale luxury home if it looks as if they never lived here at all.

The home must remain meticulously cleaned and preserved: the temperature precisely pleasant, the mirrors crystalline clear. If a prospective buyer wants to see the home, they must quickly disappear. And when the home sells, they must be gone for good, off to the next perfect place.

That they do everything an owner would do — sleeping, making memories, learning the home’s quirks and secrets — imbues an otherwise-empty home with an unmistakable energy, say executives with Showhomes Tampa, the home-staging firm that moves them in. It also helps the homes sell faster, and for more money.

July 11, 2014 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Do Seniors Prefer Downtown?

An interesting item from the 7/9/14 Plots & Ploys segment of the Wall Street Journal’s Property Report:

Will seniors want to live in a bustling downtown rather than the far-flung suburbs? A Colorado senior-housing developer and owner is betting on it.

Balfour Senior Living intends to finish construction later this year of a 205-unit senior facility in downtown Denver. Costing an estimated $77 million, the Balfour at Riverfront Park complex sits on the edge of Denver’s Commons Park and just blocks from the metro area’s redeveloped, $488 million Union Station mass-transit center.

Michael Schonbrun, chief executive of closely held Balfour, believes seniors will prefer the proximity to downtown amenities. Balfour’s other complexes, like most across the U.S., are in suburban locations.

“For people who like to be independent and to walk to a large variety of cultural, dining and sports venues, a location in the center of a vibrant downtown is hard to beat,” Mr. Schonbrun said.

July 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Saying Yes to the Dress – and the Tutu – for a Good Cause

I want to take this opportunity to thank two of our member companies for allowing me and our Food Drive Committee Chair, Dale Holder of Apartment Finder, to embarrass ourselves in exchange for significant donations to Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC.

Today Dale and I will be at the main entrance to Robinhood Court Apartments and Villas at 4 p.m. wearing “prom dresses” in exchange for a $550 donation to Second Harvest, plus $5 for everyone who stops in to visit while we’re there. In my case the only dress that would fit is something that a typical high school girl’s grandmother might wear to church on Sunday so we’ll call it a prom-ish dress, but Dale is sure to be bedazzling.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Blue Ridge Companies and their Burke Ridge Crossing community for donating $250 to Second Harvest last month in exchange for me wearing a tutu, a tiara and high heels, having their corporate slogan painted on my back and then jumping into the Burke Ridge Crossing pool.

Jon Cold Water Challenge

Many of our member companies are very active in our food drive and do an amazing job raising funds, food and awareness for Second Harvest, but I just wanted to take a quick second to thank these companies for so enthusiastically throwing me and Dale under the proverbial bus for a great cause:)

If you’d like to get involved in our food drive, or would like to make a donation online, you can find out everything you need to know at our food drive website at

July 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Writing a New Chapter for a Distressed Property

The Ashley Creek Apartments in Greensboro had a long history of problems until new ownership stepped in, spent significant dollars to renovate, and brought in PTAA-member Burkely Communities to manage the successful transition to what is now known as Pinecroft Place. Fox 8 has the story:

July 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment

WSJ: Rents Rise .8%, Household Income Stays Put

The Wall Street Journal reports that apartment rents continued to rise nationwide, but when adjusted for inflation household incomes are what they were in 1990:

The average monthly rent for an apartment rose to $1,099 in the second quarter, up 0.8% from the first quarter, according to data to be released Wednesday by real-estate research firm Reis Inc. REIS +0.18% That was the 18th consecutive quarter of rent increases. For the 12-month period ended in June, rents rose 3.4%.

Effective rents—which tend to be lower than asking rents—were up in all 79 U.S. metro areas tracked in the Reis report. West Coast cities that have been the model of recovery continued to top the list of highest rent growth for the quarter and over the past 12 months…

But household incomes have stagnated, resulting in a financial squeeze for a growing number of renters. Median household income was $50,017 in 2012, below 2007′s peak level of $55,627, after adjusting for inflation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Later in the article they point out that vacancy rates stabilized, which might indicate that supply is catching up with demand, but at least one economist thinks that housing affordability will be an issue for years to come:

But Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, says affordability problems will likely remain, especially for lower-income households. “There’s going to be a very severe housing-shortage problem,” he said. “People are going to be in very difficult situations. This is a problem that’s going to be increasingly severe over the next few years.”

July 2, 2014 at 6:55 pm Leave a comment

Lomax Pursuing Project in Greensboro

According to this article in the Triad Business Journal, Lomax Properties submitted a request for rezoning in Greensboro that could result in an apartment community with up to 288 units:

Through an entity named North Elm Associates LLC, Lomax Properties requested to rezone 9.37 acres at 4108, 4110, 4112 and 4114 Bell Orchard Drive and 3619 N. Elm St. to a planned unit development. The PUD designation allows for a maximum of 288 apartments with a six-foot tall opaque fence between the apartments and adjacent property, and the rezoning request was approved on June 9, said Mike Kirkman with the city’s planning department…

The next step is to lay out development specifications — square footages, parking, building heights, etc. — through a unified development plan, Kirkman said. That plan will then be reviewed by the city’s Technical Review Committee and must again be approved by the city’s Planning Board. Woods said that zoning finalization would likely happen in the next 30 to 45 days and construction would start soon after.

July 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm Leave a comment

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