Residential Property Management isn’t an easy business. As property managers we don’t own the real estate we are the facilitators and managers of the real estate. It isn’t uncommon for property owners, tenants, and prospects to get upset with us. Can you take the heat? There is a skill to dealing with unhappy customers without taking it personally. It can be as easy as 1-2-3.
When people are upset most often, they just want to be heard. They want to vent and tell their side of the story. They feel they have been wronged. The best thing you can do is to listen. Try to understand their perspective by asking them to explain and then keep quiet. Let them talk. Don’t interrupt. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them but being able to empathize with them goes a long way. By truly listening you might even come up with a new process to prevent the situation from happening again. I had this happen with a tenant signing a lease in the office. I listened to him and made a process change to how we did lease signings. This not only improved our efficiency but helped new tenants feel less stressed and have a positive view of their move in experience with our company.
2. Be Proactive
Much of what we do in property management is repetitive. Nothing should really be a surprise so the more you can anticipate and be proactive the fewer complaints you will receive. Ask yourself, “how can I make this easier?” Maybe you have video tour showings, or use keyless showing software, or use electronic signatures for contracts, and leases. Maybe schedule annual check-in calls with owner clients to get ahead of possible changes with the property. Nothing like showing up at a rental and seeing a For Sale Sign in the yard and know nothing about it.
Maintenance is a large part of the residential property management business. Preventative maintenance goes a long way. Schedule with your vendors to perform annual maintenance ahead of time such as cleaning out problem plumbing lines, cleaning gutters, performing tune-ups on ACs, or inspecting sump pumps before the rainy season. Ask tenants to test their ovens a month before Thanksgiving, so repairs can be done before the holiday. These tasks should be part of any preventative maintenance program. This is just a sampling of maintenance items that can be handled proactively. Have a preventative maintenance plan and you will have happier clients and less complaints.
3. Be Accountable
I learned a long time ago that when something goes wrong be accountable and instead of putting the blame back on the customer own it (even if you didn’t cause the problem) and state how you are going to fix it or that you are going to investigate and get back to them. Then do it. Don’t hide from upset people. Face the complaint head on and offer solutions. People want to know that you tried to make something right and even if you can’t correct the problem share with them what you did and the outcome. Being accountable creates trust between you and the client. Once trust is established, they will stop micromanaging you. Take time to educate your clients and explain the reason behind decisions or processes.
It is never easy to deal with unhappy customers and clients but being straight with people and taking the time to listen to their concerns, complaints, or suggestions and being open to making changes to improve, streamline or better the customer experience will not only build trust but make you a better residential property manager. Don’t pass the buck, dodge the complaint, or point the finger at someone else instead take responsibility for what went wrong even if you weren’t the cause and state how you are going to research or solve their issue and that you will get back to them with your findings. People want to know that you care about their experience and value them as a customer. Solving problems can be as easy as 1-2-3 when you listen, be proactive, and accountable. Enjoy this warm summer knowing you can take the heat and are cool and collected.