Can cell phone service be a factor in resident retention efforts?

As a culture, our reliance on our cell phones is almost inevitable. We don't just use them as a phone. Today's smartphones are critical for emailing on the go, keeping up with friends via social media, and even paying bills. To use these convenient features of your smartphone, a strong Internet connection is critical. But, with a lot of the service carriers still catching up with the trend, property managers are being left with quite a challenge.

Recently, we started a discussion to the members of LinkedIn's Property Managers group regarding resident retention. We asked: “How many of your residents cite bad cell phone service as a reason for leaving?" As it turns out, it is an issue that does come up. Here are some of the replies we got:

• "It can be a factor, but it has never been the only reason. Often, one provider will work and not the other." - Anne Friel

• "I have actually had people relocate to another apartment in the community in order to get reception for their cell phone. Parts of our property were kind of in a valley and some phones just would not work there." - Becky Currie

• "On all our resident surveys, we ask the question, "How likely are you to renew your lease?" If they do not select, "Very Likely," there is a pick list for them to choose reasons why not. 6.4% of residents selected "Cell phone reception poor" as one reason they were not very likely to renew their lease." - Jen Piccotti

• "A better question may be "how many people aren't leasing because of poor cell phone service" especially if your customer base is mainly the younger generations. I don't have numbers, but I worked with a lease up community where cell service was horrible, and I do believe it was at least part of the reason that many didn't lease." - Karen Kossow

In the discussion, others brought up the fact that potential residents are keeping cell service in mind as they take tours through a property. If cell service is so critical for the potential resident, it makes us wonder why it isn't more important for the property.

At Elauwit, we design custom systems for multi-dwelling units including apartment complexes. The services we offer would provide residents with a community wide wifi connection and the property managers piece of mind in dealing with customer service issues. No longer would the complaints be diverted to a "big box" carrier and instead a more personal connection would be developed through our techs, engineers and customer service team.

"By delivering a managed wifi network throughout the building, residents can roam the building while maintaining their data connection on their smartphone – a device that residents use more than their laptop or any other peripheral," said Elauwit Networks' chief technology officer, Taylor Jones. "Without wifi, these smartphones must rely on the carriers’ ability to deliver service, putting the owners ability to lease in the carriers hands."

It is obviously an additional cost, but if you're losing current residents and getting checked off of potential residents’ must-live lists, then it's a service that your property can’t afford to not have.

Many other companies are realizing the value of a reliable wifi connection to draw in new customers, too. The restaurant industry is probably the leader in the trend. Starbucks, McDonalds, Chick-fil-A, Ruby Tuesday, Panera Bread and Atlanta Bread Company are all examples of companies that offer free wifi services at most locations across the country. If they can find ROI within a single meal, imagine the potential for a main residence.

Let's continue the discussion... Have you considered bringing in a reliable wifi connection for your property's residents? What research are you doing to determine the added value or controlled loss this feature would bring to your community?