PrintWithMe Interview: How ZRS Management is Creating a Sense of Community During COVID-19
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Kenny Nguyen, a Marketing Associate at ZRS Management, shines a light on the company’s dedication to its people-first approach amid uncertainties and the success that follows.
In the midst of a global pandemic, where information and events can change dramatically day-to-day, it can be anxiety-inducing to attempt to predict the future of the multifamily industry.
However, to ZRS Management, a company honored as one of the Top Workplaces by Multifamily Leadership for four years in a row, the only tangible and unfailing solution appears to be more fundamental and closer to heart. Though it may not always be obvious the solution is to treat each other with kindness and compassion.
Today, the world is changing rapidly. There is less space for micro-management but an increased need for trusting leadership. To help demystify this, our team at PrintWithMe virtually interviewed Kenny Nguyen this week, a Marketing Associate at ZRS Management, to learn about the guiding principles the company has put in place to attend to the needs of their employees, renters, and prospects.
Prioritize the Human Element
While the financial repercussions of the outbreak dominated the news front with overwhelming concerns over rent collections, Nguyen said that their properties are seeing more renewals and more leases being signed in the past weeks.
He attributed the success to the ZRS leasing team’s emphasis on being as human as possible when it comes to virtually walking through the leasing process with prospects with patience and compassion.
“We never really know who our prospective renters might be,” said Nguyen. “So, offering that sense of human touch is really important.”
Instead of relying solely on software and technologies to give tours to prospects, a majority of their leasing consultants are encouraged to take an active role in giving virtual tours via video conferencing.
During each virtual tour, consultants show clients the details of the properties, amenities, and the actual apartment homes, down to the specific details like kitchen finishings. This kind of human interaction is incomparable to simply clicking through a simulated tour, where no questions can be answered.
He also shared a unique story about a leasing consultant’s dedication to helping a couple whose husband is based in Oklahoma and wife in Puerto Rico. The consultant had to navigate through time differences and utilize the proper tools so that they could all view the property together. The consultant handled all questions and concerns flawlessly and was able to successfully encourage the couple to lease an apartment.
Listening to Feedback is Just As Important
Listening is a trait that Nguyen emphasized throughout the interview. “We’re always actively listening,” Nguyen explained when asked what training and support the company is providing to their on-site teams to handle unforeseen scenarios.
“We are always paying attention to what’s going on around us in our landscape and trying to create an ecosystem of communication that is responsive and quicker to implement changes than we used to,” said Nguyen.
He also told us that, since the outbreak, ZRS has been conducting daily updates and weekly briefings with its executives for feedback which had successfully built rapport among the staff.
“This kind of exchange and communication are going to continue running well past COVID-19,” said Nguyen as he spoke about how the regular meetings and teamwork had contributed to the success and the effectiveness of many marketing campaigns since.
It is inherently difficult to foresee a global crisis like what we’re experiencing now. Luckily, for ZRS, the commitment to strong values and building a team of sensible and creative people is at the core of the company.
“We select candidates that have empathy and a sense of urgency for others. These are foundational skills of any ZRS team member, company-wide,” said Nguyen. “In addition, we believe in having great ‘soft skills.’ From their first day and thorough their career, a ZRS associate is taught soft skills such as building rapport and actively listening to expertly handle any situation,” said Nguyen.
Collaboration is Part of the Ecosystem
Nguyen said that the marketing team at ZRS is aware that every property and every on-site team has their own unique needs. Instead of trying to absorb and relay all the information they could possibly gather, they have stepped up as the facilitator of ideas.
Nguyen said that he is fascinated by the exchange and support he had witnessed among teams. Through an internal communication platform called the “Idea Exchange”, employees from leasing consultants to property managers are encouraged to cultivate creative ideas, share their unique experiences, and voice their concerns.
“We think when the staff is encouraged to collaborate, it helps them connect easier, discuss ideas, and then go from there,” said Nguyen.
Other than encouraging an organic exchange of ideas, Nguyen said that ZRS is also very intentional when it comes to distributing information and knowledge to their leasing consultants. Led by Vice President of Marketing Jeremy Brown, the marketing team began hosting a weekly virtual leasing class for their leasing teams with an objective to discuss topical issues and to provide relevant training and tools.
“The class has become so popular that we’ve had literally hundreds of people tune in on a weekly basis,” Nguyen said with surprising enthusiasm. “So much so that we actually had to set a cap in terms of how many people could attend because it would freeze up the Zoom call itself.”
The company has also reinforced their “Open Door Policy” for employees to always feel encouraged to reach out whenever they need to, and look out for each other–whether it is about their job or anything concerning their personal well-being.
Trusting Employees' Expertise to Create and Connect
A pressing topic Nguyen and his team had observed prompted them to rethink the importance of ownership over ideas and creativity: How can we create a sense of community when we are not physically present with the residents?
To tie it back to the emphasis on creating a genuine human connection with everyone, ZRS is impressed by the creative ideas and over-the-top community-building efforts that came from individuals from each property who know their residents best.
“The resident ideas that our teams have come up with are outstanding,” Nguyen said as he applauded the on-site teams for the thoughtful and wide-ranged initiatives they’ve implemented, from virtual events such as cooking challenges to pool-side concerts and sending personalized, uplifting videos to residents. He also said that he was surprised at the popularity of virtual bingo, and how some properties created ceremonies for recent high school and college graduates.
Some property managers had gone above and beyond to send customized gifts to celebrate significant milestones with their residents who are welcoming a newborn or adopting a new pet.
“In a time like now, it is so important to create a sense of bond, that the apartments aren’t just a place where you live; it is a community made of people and local organizations you want to spend time with,” Nguyen said.
Although their reopening strategy remains fluid due to the unclear circumstances of the pandemic itself, the health and well-being of their employees and their renters are the priority.
Nguyen said that ZRS is doing everything they can, such as keeping up with state guidelines, communicating directly with transparency, and providing all the resources and protective equipment education their staff may need. However, they always stay true to their people-first philosophy and he reassured that ZRS is overly passionate for their employee’s well-being.
Special thank you to Kenny Nguyen for sharing his insights from ZRS on the multifamily industry during COVID-19.
To learn more about ZRS, visit them online at www.zrsmanagement.com.