Edgewood and Vantage Management Take Innovative Approach to Leasing with Rentgrata Implementation
Challenge: New Approach Needed to Elevate Reputation Management and Impact Conversion
Edgewood and Vantage Management have been trendsetters in the way they have embraced the ever-increasing role reputation management plays in successful lead conversion and brand management. However, over the past eight years, the company’s leadership team noted a decrease in overall trust in online ratings and reviews.
“We definitely recognize the significance of reputation management, responding to ratings and reviews, and optimizing and navigating those written conversations online,” said Wendy Simpson, vice president of marketing for Edgewood and Vantage Management. “Our prospective and current residents can read those comments at any time they wish, so it’s important to remain customer focused by answering questions and concerns, and being as transparent and timely as possible. We also reply and thank everyone for posting their experience – the great ones and the not-so-great ones. That said, over the last few years trust in ratings and reviews has degraded. Some high-profile companies have used reviewers to improve their star ratings, and I think that’s on the minds of a lot of customers. We weren’t sure that static comments and responses, sometimes from more than a year ago, were enough anymore to support our online presence.”
Edgewood and Vantage were seeking a means to provide prospects with a more reliable resident perspective when the coronavirus pandemic struck. While that objective never wavered, the companies quickly identified the parallel need to personalize the prospect experience once the leasing process started to lean more heavily on virtual tours.
A solution was needed to simultaneously address both concerns, boost conversion rates and keep the companies on the cutting edge of innovation as it relates to the customer experience.
Solution: Rentgrata Connects Prospects with Current Residents
In early April, Edgewood and Vantage launched a pilot program at five Washington, D.C. area communities with Rentgrata. Rentgrata’s messaging platform appears as a website widget and allows prospects to contact current residents directly to ask questions about life at the community.
Simpson said Rentgrata’s platform provides prospects with unique insights into the resident experience.
“Once I got a grasp of their solution, I couldn’t get them on the phone fast enough,” Simpson said of Rentgrata. “For a prospective resident to be able to speak with a resident at one of our communities, what better way for them to get a feeling for what it’s like to live there? It lets them get their questions answered, positive or negative, and go beyond the ratings and reviews. To me, it’s reputation management on steroids.”
Resident referrals carry a lot of weight with prospects, though they typically come from family members or friends. The difference with Rentgrata is that it allows prospects to chat with someone whose resident profile is similar to their own. That’s where the true benefit exists for prospects, Simpson said.
“That ability to filter and find a resident who has similar interests and who is living and breathing in that experience is just phenomenal,” Simpson said. “Whether a prospect wants to know what the community is like for a family, a pet owner, or someone who is in the same two-bedroom floor plan they’re considering, they can have a conversation with someone who can speak from experience.”
Simpson said the hope is that prospective residents will feel more enlightened, more informed and more confident that they’re making the right choice to move in. Ultimately, Edgewood and Vantage also want the Rentgrata portal to move leads down the pipeline and convert them into a long-term lease.
Zach Sloan, co-founder at Rentgrata, said Edgewood and Vantage positioned itself as an industry leader through the early adoption of this technology.
“They see where Rentgrata’s value proposition is, and it is a little bit ahead of the curve, especially when you consider that these are peer-to-peer conversations,” Sloan said. “These aren’t preset answers, and it isn’t using website information to give you automated prompts. This is a resident who wants to talk about their experience. Edgewood and Vantage looked at it and said, ‘This is the direction that we see the industry going.’”
Results: Increased Conversions, Resident Buy-in
The Rentgrata pilot couldn’t have launched at a more opportune time, Simpson said, given the almost simultaneous arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The timing couldn’t be better to have a tool like this. It’s been an invaluable resource for some of those prospective residents who haven’t been able to physically tour with us,” Simpson said. “We’ve been relying so heavily on virtual tours, text conversations and doing things remotely. So, for the prospective resident to be able to speak with someone else at the community is incredibly beneficial and helps them make a quicker and informed decision.”
The conversion results have been impressive.
The pilot properties saw 120 Rentgrata conversations during that initial 75-day period. A total of 22 applications were submitted using Rentgrata, for a conversion rate of 18.3%. Simpson said that the conversions attributed to Rentgrata, in combination with existing digital marketing efforts, resulted in more than $528,000 in business during the pilot that might not have been secured otherwise.
Terez Lambert, online marketing manager for Edgewood and Vantage, noted that the person-to-person conversations between prospects and current residents has helped to address some of the prior reputation management concerns, as well.
“It’s always great to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, rather than seeing something online where you don’t know who the person is or whether the message may have been massaged,” Lambert said. “These are verified residents and you’re speaking to them on your own platform.”
Through these conversations, community managers get a glimpse of the most often discussed topics on Rentgrata.
“Conversations are categorized in the Rentgrata dashboard under keywords, so you can see what the majority of people are talking about,” Lambert said. “The building manager gets some insights, so we can be a little more proactive about addressing those things and help with resident retention.”
Simpson said the opportunity to serve as a resident ambassador, which includes a bonus for successful referrals, may also bolster renewal rates.
“We saw a lot of upside from the current resident perspective, as well. Those residents who serve as ambassadors may have a little more affirmation and buy-in into their own communities. That could potentially affect a positive lease renewal down the road,” Simpson said. “Residents who are participating in this might have more of a propensity to renew their leases because they’ve been able to help people, make some new friends and have a supplemental source of income.”
Sloan said that he is impressed with Edgewood and Vantage’s ability to identify the big-picture benefits of a platform like Rentgrata.
“I applaud Edgewood and Vantage for being one of the first in their area to use Rentgrata. They believe in piloting a product and seeing how it can help,” Sloan said. “From Rentgrata’s perspective, it’s great to partner with companies like Edgewood and Vantage who are willing to pilot products like ours, evaluate the results and see if it can become a staple in their marketing strategy.”