In today’s apartment marketplace, where rents and occupancy are at historically high levels, quality customer service is proving to be the differentiator.

Of the many consequences of contending with the pandemic, one of the most visible has been a groundswell in expressions of frustration. From air travel to dining to work and school, the list of grievances runs long, and rental housing residents are no different, from the perception that maintenance takes too long to coffee machines running dry.

One of the biggest complaints has been the difficulty of working from a small apartment, according to buzz at the National Multifamily Housing Council’s (NMHC) 2022 annual meeting, says attendee Mary Cook, founder of Chicago-based Mary Cook Associates (MCA), a commercial interior design firm. “Two years ago, 20 percent might have worked from home and now 45 percent do a few days each week,” Cook says. “They get upset if staff is making noise blowing leaves or cutting a lawn.”

Property managers have complaints and frustrations, too, facing a shrunken labor pool and disrupted supply chains. Despite the apartment industry experiencing historically strong occupancy levels, managers are not taking the high numbers for granted. If COVID-19 has brought home any message, it’s that situations change—fast.

Many are listening closely to residents, taking notes about leading causes of dismay and sources of joy, developing creative solutions to increase net referrals. The strategies that seem to make the biggest difference are good customer service and value. Some companies, like Chicago-based Optima Inc., a developer and property manager that created 2,135 units in Illinois and Arizona, has trademarked its Optimized Service, the equivalent of an in-home concierge, to make clear it prioritizes service.

As rent prices climb, quality service becomes more critical. The following are 10 ways to achieve it.


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