Insight from Einstein: What Have Residents Historically Been Talking About?

Feb 13, 2024 by Turner Batdorf

As I mentioned in the introductory blog we published last month, the primary goal of this publication is to give you takeaways about what residents are discussing in online reviews. Down the road, we will get into very specific takeaways like recent trends, how students compare to conventional residents, what the best properties do well, and so on. But… we first need to lay some groundwork. This month’s blog is going to give you an insight into which of the 22 categories appear the most frequently.

For this analysis, we looked at 2 million reviews from over the years (2003 - 2023) and calculated how frequently each category appeared. Below you can see the charts that lay out how often each of the 22 categories appears. We broke it into 3 different analyses: how often each category appears across all reviews, how often each category gets mentioned negatively (as a complaint) in 1- and 2-star reviews, and how often each category gets mentioned positively (as a compliment) in 4- and 5-star reviews.

Customer Service is King at 66%

As you can see, the category that appears the most often is Customer Service at 66%. This means that two-thirds of every review has a thought on how well the staff is taking care of the residents at the property (how helpful they are, what their attitudes and relationships are like, how well they enforce the rules, etc.). Contrarily, you can compare that to a category like Landscaping & Grounds, which has only been mentioned in a little over 5% of all reviews. This reflects how much more residents equate their overall satisfaction to the quality of their relationships with the staff than to how well kept the grounds are.

Einstein Blog 2 Charts pg 1

What strikes me is that the things getting mentioned most often are the core principles of what you guys are doing every day- the pillars of the multifamily industry. Outside of Customer Service, residents most frequently discuss Maintenance Service (how well the work order was completed) at 23%, their Amenities (22%), the Condition of the Unit (20%), and Communication (how responsive and accurate the onsite team is) at 16%. Simply put, the foundations of the apartment industry are essential when we think about driving resident satisfaction.

Diving Deeper- Complaints vs Compliments

Our analysis goes beyond that if we dive into the complaints (negative mentions) that are driving low scoring reviews and the compliments (positive mentions) that are driving high scoring reviews. What should initially stand out is how the number of categories that lead to a negative review far exceeds the number of categories that lead to a positive one. It makes sense as residents do not typically go out of their way to tell you great job for not having dog poop or roaches everywhere.

Einstein Blog 2 Charts pg 2-2

Communication is Complained About in 32% of Negative Reviews

Let’s get into the nitty gritty. If we look closely at the negative, we can see that a few categories drastically rise in their relevance. While Customer Service and Maintenance performance are obviously going to still be relevant, Communication appears as the 2nd most frequent complaint (about one-third of 1- and 2-star reviews). This means that when we are not responsive to our residents and prospects, it typically drives them to publicly discuss their dissatisfaction (a review).

Financial Clarity Matters

A similar trend is seen with the relevance of Financial, which should really be thought of as financial clarity- how clear the charges/fees/bills/payment processes are (it does not include comments like “my rent is too much”). Just like with the Communication takeaway, a lack of financial clarity is a precursor to negative feedback. Financial is mentioned negatively in 28% of 1- and 2-star reviews, again highlighting the importance of transparency for our onsite teams. Last, but not least, I would call out the importance of performing well in Security (mentioned negatively in 20% of 1- and 2-star reviews) to avoid negative feedback. Topics like safety and security are often looked at as “hush hush,” but the reality is that we need to perform well in these categories to keep our resident satisfaction and online reputation high.

Can’t Escape Customer Service

On the positive side of the equation, it really is Customer Service above all else. Almost 7 out of every 10 positive reviews compliment Customer Service. That’s insane! The relationships and personal connections your teams have with the residents are ultimately what drives positive feedback. However, there are other important touchpoints. It is critical to know how important functioning/available Amenities (mentioned positively in 23% of 4- and 5-star reviews) and great Maintenance Service (mentioned positively in 20% of 4- and 5-star reviews) are in making residents happy.

Wrapping Up

I know I threw a lot at you in this first analysis, but this article provides a frame of reference for the trending studies and deep dive analyses we will do in the coming months. Ultimately, your takeaway should be that the core principles of our business, especially our onsite team interactions with residents, are the main drivers of resident satisfaction. It is fair to assume that most of your residents care about it to a large extent, so, in my opinion, looking for onsite shortcuts that make the relationships less personable is, at best, a risky approach to take.

Remember: these were lifetime numbers spanning over the course of 20 years and literally millions of residents. In March, we will get more granular and compare 2023’s numbers to the lifetime numbers we covered today. This will allow us to see how residents’ needs and expectations have evolved over the years, putting a spotlight on what matters to them vs. what we see historically.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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