Since I started working in property management, I have often wondered about the best approach to maintain healthy relationships with renters, and today I would like to talk about what helped me set, nurture, and develop wholesome connections to them.
I’ve certainly made a fair share of mistakes at the onset of my relationships with tenants. As a person I am rather shy but also very friendly. No, don’t ask me to explain it, I just can’t, but I can absolutely assure you that it is so. My personal experiences have also made me a compassionate person… maybe to the extreme? Who knows!
Why do I tell you all this? Well, because my modus operandi was to genuinely try to keep everyone happy. That led me to overpromise and to be vague when responding to requests. I did not know at the time how issues would play out. I felt that I would not be able to give tenants the exact result they desired. In a nutshell, I did not only want to help everyone live in paradise, I also wanted to avoid conflicts as much as possible.
This is, however, not the best policy to build healthy relationships in general, and it is definitely not a sustainable policy in property management.
Needless to say, my “give-of-yourself-to-exhaustion-and-never-set-limits-trying-to-avoid-tensions” approach generated exactly what I didn’t want: discomfort, frustration and disagreements, instead of the results I so much hoped for.
As I was navigating these customer service waters I realized that I was not offering the customer support inherent to our company’s mission and vision despite my honest-to-goodness desire to do so. To correct that flaw, and also a bit prompted by the “very gentle and subtle” commands of my boss “to get my *#%& together” I started researching my own personal processes, my actions, my thought process, and started experimenting to see what would bring the best results to all parties.
And here are some of the things I learned and started applying…
The tenant/property manager interconnection is definitely one in which each party is as important as the other. As with any relationship, it needs to be based on real empathy, trust, mutual respect, collaboration, honesty, and it also demands healthy boundaries. I realized that everyone may not be happy all of the time with the rules, decisions, and outcomes that arise… and that is perfectly all right. I found that if I was truly empathetic and respectful when delivering news – good or bad – the desired outcomes of both parties could be satisfied.
During the process of continuously improving my property management customer service, I discovered a mindset that released me from fear-based constraints and allowed me to design a healthy conversation leading to happier tenants. Here are some of the things that I did to achieve this:
- My intent at the beginning of every conversation was to establish a good relationship with great communication. I was focused on being compassionate, professional, responsive, and unbiased.
- I was transparent. Without a doubt, being straightforward is the only way to go, and I have seen how much tenants appreciate it.
- Be empathetic, responsible, and proactive. Respond promptly to calls and emails. If I do not have the answer to a question or a problem is presented, I was clear that I would provide an update or an answer/solution by a specific time and date.
- Document everything. This will save so much time, frustration, and misunderstanding in the future.
- Always treat maintenance requests as urgent when communicating directly with tenants. Acting promptly and efficiently will resonate with tenants that you want to help resolve an issue that is very important to them.
- Enforce rules without going overboard. Always be fair when discussing issues. Be respectful and express appreciation.
- Be proactive with move-ins, move-outs, and lease renewals.
The best way to manage customer service is with clear checklists and workflows (aka “repeatable processes”). When tenants can expect that a certain request will result in a response within a certain time frame, they become much more reasonable. The only way to establish this expectation is with a process that is run the same way every time. Processes also provide the potential to automate communication, time management, workflow, and results.
Property management can be very convoluted, with dozens of moving parts all happening simultaneously. I have found that the only way to operate in this tumultuous industry is with clear repeatable processes. When we built this foundation into our property management firm, I was liberated from the chaos of the day-to-day issues tied to operating the company, and allowed to step up my customer service game substantially. If you are challenged to do this yourself, I highly recommend that you find a property management consulting firm to help you get started!