While the blocking and tackling of creating excellent customer relationships hasn’t changed in student housing-great customer service, authenticity in communications and exceeding expectations-the execution has for Generation Z.
“They expect speed and efficiency,” said James Whitley, vice president and COO for Landmark Properties, during a session at the 2016 NMHC Student Housing Conference and Exposition. “They’re accustomed to getting everything done quickly and easily. There is a high level of expectation for everything.”
Generation Z, those born in 1996 and earlier, is the first generation to not remember a time without technology. With these “digital natives,” social media plays a massive role, though one slightly different than previous generations.
“We’re finding that the social media they are using is temporary. They don’t want a legacy,” said Scott Wilson, an account executive at Jonah Systems.
While Facebook is still a big part of the mix, Snapchat serves this immediate need of communicating with close friends. And no matter the network, social media isn’t just a place for marketing, but for addressing customer service.
Marketers should be prepared to address maintenance problems, nuisance issues or any other complaint via social media as well as fixing the actual problem.
“They’re going to expect you to answer those channels. When you have something posted publicly, you have to address it publicly,” said Laura Shaikh, director of client services at Standing Dog Interactive.
Those communications also require authenticity that can only be delivered by their peers.
“A major challenge is authenticity in what you’re putting out there on social media. It’s a balance between how much authority do you give your student (employees) on-site with corporate oversight,” said Whitley.
Online leasing and posting maintenance requests on Twitter also leaves fewer touch points than before. Technology’s ubiquity means that the plumber may be the only staff person the student ever meets.
“My team is being more deliberate when they interface with the students. It makes those touch points more important,” said Whitley.
Operators are also delivering information differently. A brochure is now a mobile-friendly website. While someone may not read how to use the trash compactor, they’ll watch a 30 second video.
Despite generational shifts in technology, the core of operations still remains. “Customer service hasn’t changed, but how we provide it has. How we implement it. How we communicate,” said Wilson.