Category: Training Trends

Cybersecurity Awareness in Multifamily


Cybersecurity Awareness may not be on our minds all the time, but it is definitely on the minds of the “bad guys.”  Cybersecurity is not something about which we can afford to be uninformed or complacent.

Why is Cybersecurity Awareness important to me?  All of the tools used to combat cybersecurity threats (firewalls, encryption, antivirus software, etc.) are not enough to overcome an individual employee who is not informed of and alerted to the threats. It is critical to understand the dangers:

  • There is an ever-increasing sophistication of cybersecurity threats.
  • Help protect yourself and your assets.
  • Downtime and recovery.
  • Company and public image.
  • 43% of cyber attacks affect small businesses – including PROPERTY MANAGEMENT!
  • You can have the best security in the world, but nothing will give you 100% protection.  In this case, your staff is the last line of defense.

What knowledge and skills are needed to be a “Human Firewall” for cybersecurity awareness?  A firewall is a network security device that monitors traffic to or from your network.  It allows or blocks traffic based on a defined set of security rules.  To be a “Human Firewall,” you need:

  • A stop-and-think mindset… and common sense.
  • Basic understanding of how cyber attacks take place.
  • To recognize the tell-tale signs of an attack, so you don’t get tricked.

Common Pitfalls – Malware, Phishing, and Social Engineering

  • Malware and ransomware are software intended to harm your computer and systems.
  • Social engineering is a social technique used to illicitly obtain information or money via email or phone.  This is the most common form of attack in 2022.
  • Cyber attacks are highly profitable.  These attacks are now an $8 billion industry.

One serious threat is web attack scareware.  They trick you into calling “Microsoft” and paying money to fix a fake issue.  They want remote access to your computer to “fix” the issue.  Web pages may look similar to real pages and want your login information, such as for Office365 or Facebook.  Checking any box on an online ad may trigger a deceptive report of malware on the computer.

Scareware can happen even if you have good security software installed.  It can originate from streaming podcast sites or web advertisements.  Be extra cautious!   Don’t click anything!  Ctrl-Alt-Delete is your friend!  Kill the task as soon as you suspect any problem.  If that isn’t possible, hold down the power button on your computer to power cycle your computer.  If scareware is still present after you reboot, call your IT support team. 

Ransomware is a $2 Billion a year industry.  It can install software that monitors and records your keystrokes.  It will encrypt your files and hold them hostage until you pay a fee in Bitcoin to have your files unencrypted.  The average cost to unencrypt files is $2,500.   Even backups can be encrypted, so it is a very serious event.  There are few firewalls or antivirus programs that protect against ransomware.  These criminals even have “friendly” tech support numbers to call to assist you in paying the ransom.

There can be physical cybersecurity threats as well.  Is someone looking too closely over your shoulder?  Make sure no one is “tailgating” you – going through a door behind you when they should be using their fob to get in.  Make sure you lock your computer screen as soon as you step away.  Always ask vendors for credentials and verify the purpose of their visit, especially if they are working on telecom, door access, or other amenities with technology.

Cellphones and mobile devices are vulnerable as well.  iPhones tend to be easier to secure, but that is no guarantee.  Use your own cell phone network rather than free Wi-Fi.  Keep your phone updated for the best protection.  Never “jailbreak” a phone, as that invites trouble. 

Property management companies are often phishing targets, and they need to know everything about cybersecurity awareness.  Hackers often learn the organizational structure of your company from your own website.  They study your vendors and processes, then use stolen information from the dark web to create realistic signatures and emails.

Common types of phishing seen by property management companies include:

  • Fake emails from executives or regional managers to property staff asking for “favors”’
  • Fake emails from your IT department saying your credentials are expired.
  • Fake invoices from vendors with suspicious attachments.
  • Fake documents are being sent from a property scanner.
  • Fake voice mail attachments.
  • Extortion emails.  These are rare but effective!

Be on the lookout for emails with fake sender domains.  An email from a Hotmail or similar email address should trigger extra caution.   Anything other than “.com” is cause for concern.  Strange country codes or domain names are a big red flag!  Bad grammar is also a dead giveaway of a dangerous email.  If you hover over a bad link, it will reveal the destination, which will not be the real company site.  If an email is portending to be from someone within your company, but it comes with an “External Email!” warning, that is a tell-tale sign.

The Latest Threats and Trends for Cybersecurity Awareness in 2002

  • Adobe Sign Scam:  This is where legitimate systems other than Office365 are used to distribute phishing emails.  The attacker gets access to the address book of the company and also gets access to Adobe Sign.  It creates a document that looks like a DocuSign asking for a signature to receive an ACH payment.  It includes a link to view the document, redirecting to a fake Office365 login page, where they steal your credentials.
  • Text Message Scam:  The attacker obtains a database of users at a property management company which includes their cell phone numbers.  They then create fake texts from the CEO or management asking for favors.  These databases are widely available on the web and can be purchased through the dark web or through legitimate data mining companies specializing in the multifamily industry.  The attacker can learn the organizational structure from the company website or from a mailing list.  Report these messages as junk and don’t reply.  Use a template to send announcements to your staff.   

What can you do to improve your cybersecurity?

  • Think before you click! 
  • Use passwords and password managers like Lass Pass.
  • Use two-factor authentication.
  • Separate business and personal emails and passwords.
  • Utilize security software.
  • Keep your OS and programs updated.
  • Use encryption.
  • Be the human firewall!
  • Call your IT or CTS anytime you have doubts.

Password Security Tips:  Passwords offer some protection, but they are not foolproof.  Keep your passwords private.  Don’t write them down.  Use a password of at least 12 characters, including a combination of letters, numbers, and unusual symbols.  Don’t use dictionary words.  A strong password should look random.  Long phrases or sentences following these rules work, too, such as Th1$IS@n3Xample!  Change your password regularly – every 30, 60, or 90 days.

Passwords are like underwear!  Never share them with others!  Don’t leave them out for everyone to see!  Change them regularly!

Cybersecurity threats are rising, but you are not defenseless against them.  Be alert and vigilant.  Don’t ever get careless about threats.  Listen to your own instinct and act on any doubts. 

Cybersecurity Awareness

Travis Street

President | CEO

CTS Multifamily IT Solutions


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

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Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With almost 40 years of experience and a commitment to increasing industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and reduce corporate liability risks and employee turnover.

3 Best Practices for Better Maintenance Efficiency – Service Matters!


Few issues frustrate residents more than needing to make a maintenance request. How quickly and efficiently those requests are handled can be the difference between a satisfied resident and a very unhappy one. It can be easy for office teams to consider service requests to be primarily the responsibility of the maintenance team but working together to get those requests handled leads to significant gains for everyone. Knowing the process steps in advance sets the stage for success and, ultimately, for happier residents. Give these 3 best practices for better maintenance efficiency a try.

  1. Understand and Utilize the Diagnostic Tree

The diagnostic tree is a step-by-step set of instructions on looking at and repairing a problem. A diagnostic tree is a set of yes and no questions related to the problem but can be expanded to include the office staff as part of the service request process. Office leadership and maintenance leadership must work together to create work orders. Asking clear questions of the resident to gain details on the problem more often results in a “first visit fix.” That results in cost savings, fewer return trips, and improved maintenance efficiency.

The steps in the diagnostic tree are:

  • Listen – listen to the resident to understand what the problem is and when it started.
  • Observe – What does the problem sound like? What does it look like? What does it smell like?
  • Access and Test – Take a look!
  • Research – If the problem happens AGAIN, what was done the first time?
  • Document – Be specific on future actions taken for similar problems to improve maintenance efficiency. Make sure someone who reviews those notes in the future will know what was done and what the result was.  

2. Seize the Power of Early and Correct Diagnosis

Train to diagnose and repair issues. When teams are properly and thoroughly trained, the problem can be diagnosed quickly and correctly, resulting in cost savings from better maintenance efficiency and happier residents. Onsite leadership needs to be visibly excited about training on service issues and emphasize the importance of partnership with maintenance leadership for better maintenance efficiency.

One of the top issues influencing resident survey feedback is not just if the problem was fixed by maintenance but how fast it was fixed. Misdiagnosis results in delays and callbacks and detracts from maintenance efficiency. Finding ways to minimize callbacks results in cost savings, happier residents, and less stress on the office staff.

Utilizing past experiences with maintenance requests, you can determine if this same problem was resolved and leverage that experience for early and correct diagnosis and expedited resolution! It may be possible to simply answer the resident’s question based on past experience if there has been good communication between onsite teams and especially within the maintenance team.

3. Achieve Better Maintenance Efficiency Through Improved Maintenance Training

The best way to get employees excited about training is to BE excited about training. Show your team that you believe in the benefits of training!

Here are some tips and tricks for best practices in handling service requests:

  • Have verified sources for good information. Bad information is costly. 
  • Have a method for relocating the information if the problem happens again. 
  • Take notes. It never hurts to write something down. Take notes on what was effective as well as unsuccessful.
  • Starting the entire process again for recurring problems is costly and causes time delays. 
  • Utilize technology to communicate in modern ways. Gone are the days of filing away pieces of paper that can’t be quickly and efficiently accessed. Being able to put precise notes in a work order on the job in real-time and have that information trackable, readable, and manageable by leadership is extremely important.
  • There is a financial cost to training, but if you can save a couple of calls to an outside vendor each year, you can afford training to ensure better maintenance efficiency. It is an investment that much more than pays for itself, not only in real cost savings but in resident satisfaction.
  • Understand that resolution of maintenance issues affects resident renewals. Good training is worth the investment.

Happier residents mean less stress for office and maintenance teams. Having a good spirit of cooperation between office and maintenance teams is key. Knowing the steps to handle a maintenance request, following those steps, and documenting the action taken leads to better maintenance efficiency and satisfaction for everyone.

Contributed by:

Krista Washbourne
Krista Washbourne
Craig Bartholomew
Elizabeth Hansen

Interplay Learning


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Click here to access additional Leasing Training Resources


Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With almost 40 years of experience and a commitment to increasing industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and reduce corporate liability risks and employee turnover.

Personal Customer Service in an App-Reliant World


There’s No App for THAT!


“In The Year 2525” was a hit 1969 song by the duo Zager and Evans.  The song predicts a future world that is doomed by overdependence on technology and the dehumanization of man.  The concept seemed implausible in 1969 when technology was almost nonexistent compared to today. But given the absence of technology we were more often providing personal customer service due to necessity if nothing else. So how do you provide personal customer service in an app-reliant world?

In 1969, rents were posted manually, fax machines had not been invented, and advertising was in print or on the radio. Today we have computers on our desks, held in our hands, and in our homes.  Social media drives our marketing.  Technology is a good thing!  But it also brings both challenges and opportunities.  We all have favorite apps we can’t imagine living without.  Who can imagine a world without Door Dash, Amazon, Google Maps, Pandora, Teams, Uber, Venmo, and more?

Yet, how are those apps or our multifamily apps providing personal customer service?  There is almost no personal connection with an individual to take care of a problem or provide a service to them nowadays.  Tip for you: We can never achieve or obtain enough technology to fully replace a personal relationship with our customers.

So, how can we utilize technology while providing personal customer service? The basics of property management have not changed.  The vehicles by which we want to communicate are different today, but people are still looking for a personal connection.  We always need to look at the needs of our customers.  People still are looking for a very personal space to call HOME. Check out these 4 ways of providing personal customer service in today’s app-reliant world.

  • Overcome generational gaps. Communicating with different generations is a unique challenge.  Each generation has preferences in the methods of communication and marketing that feel comfortable to them.  Communication styles will need to adapt over time and depending on the customer. Find the best ways to communicate with each customer while ensuring consistency in the message itself.
  • Watch your language.  Phrases and expressions that were familiar once may be no longer, and as time progresses there are all new terms that are universal to our customers and within our industry. We must express caution when using industry lingo that we understand easily but our customers don’t.
  • Maintain that critical “personal touch”.  It is possible to utilize technology while maintaining the personal touch in the lifecycle of the resident.  When used properly, telephone, texting, and email can all be used to create a personal connection.  Texting has become a professional way to communicate but it must be clear in its message and not use abbreviations or terms that are not familiar to every prospect. 
  • Honor your customers’ preferred method(s) of communication. How the customer first reached out to us may dictate the method of technology we utilize for continued communication.  Ask your customer, “What is the best way to communicate with you?”  Social media can be used to further a sense of community with residents but in most cases is not the best and primary approach.

The song “In the Year 2025” portrays that if we someday rely solely on technology, there is no need for man.  In reality, there is no more personal industry than multifamily, as we help people find and secure their ideal home.  They are looking for a haven in which to escape from the stresses of the world, relax, raise their children, and enjoy their personal lives.  There is no way to remove providing personal customer service from that dynamic.  Technology should supplement what we do, not replace what we do.

Contributed by:

Jerry Norman
Jerry Norman – Director of Multifamily Marketing Pedcor Management | Pedcor Homes


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Click here to access additional Leasing Training Resources


Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With almost 40 years of experience and a commitment to increasing industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and reduce corporate liability risks and employee turnover.