Building Genuine Connections with Customers is Good For Business

Experience ARIUM program drives loyalty through genuine personal connections.

By Noah Echols, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Experience

Several years ago, I was attending a conference on Toronto. I booked my hotel room online, well in advance, through the conference’s partner hotel and assumed everything was set. I arrived at the hotel the evening before the start of the conference to find out that the room I booked and paid for was given away to a guest who arrived before me, and I was subsequently downgraded. It was late, so I didn’t push the issue in the moment; but I sent an email to the hotel expressing my frustration. The next morning, I received a response from the hotel apologizing for the situation and letting me know that my room would be upgraded beyond what I previously paid for. But they didn’t stop with just making the experience right. When I moved to my new room, waiting for me was a custom dessert that was fashioned into the shape of a kayak, along with a hand-written note. The staff had searched my social media accounts to find one of my hobbies and created a gift for me that they knew would resonate. I was so impressed that years later I continue to tell the story and I have recommended that hotel at least a dozen times.

As providers of one of the most essential services, housing, especially in a multifamily setting, it is our job to provide comfortable, secure, and thriving communities where people from all walks of life can connect. But, beyond that, we have a responsibility to provide an experience for those who literally live with us day in and day out that removes barriers from their lives so that they are free to live the lives they want. Similar to my interaction with the conference hotel, we must know our residents individually and cater the experience we provide them to their individual needs.

Several years ago, we rebranded our consumer-facing brand, ARIUM, as an outward expression of our commitment to resident experience. We launched our Carefree Living program that offers our residents peace of mind alongside our Experience ARIUM program. In it’s first iteration, Experience ARIUM was a monthly effort to surprise and delight residents at every property. Our on-site teams were tasked with finding residents and providing them a personalized gift that would make a difference in their day. In its first full year, we gave away 4,320 gifts to residents that facilitated impactful one-on-one interactions. As a result of that commitment to our residents, we saw a dramatically positive impact to our renewal rates and a shockingly low delinquency rate during the economic downturn.

Coming out of the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, we updated the program based on what we learned in 2020. The program now challenges our on-site team to contact each of their residents, one-on-one, every single month, just to check in. During the pandemic, we learned that just the act of reaching out, not about a maintenance issue or rent payment, but just to personally connect, really resonated with our residents. It showed that we care, but it also had a significant business impact. It allowed us to collect insights from our customers about areas where we are doing well, and areas that offer room for improvement. While automated reports on resident satisfaction have value, they are limited by their inability to engage those who never respond. No, through these conversations, our teams have the ability to identify those residents who are deserving of recognition or additional help. They surprise and delight that resident, and our corporate office goes a step further select one resident from the full portfolio each month to celebrate.

While we believe that personal connections are simply just needed in the world today, there is a measurable business benefit to this program. Research shows that a staggering 94% of customers who receive surprise-and-delight moments have a favorable view of the brand, and 34% of those customers said that it made them willing to spend more money with the brand. These focused interactions create loyalty that shows up in higher rates of on-time rent payments, higher renewal rates, higher Google ratings, lower cost per lease, and ultimately, higher NOI. Through the implementation of this program, we serve two important needs: to drive satisfaction through a commitment to unmatched service that is driven by a genuine desire to connect, and to drive business outcomes that make our properties more valuable.