The Path to Higher Profitability is Paved
One area of business improvement that’s hard to put profit numbers on is tenant service quality. It’s typically ignored, yet tenant relations do foretell the path your tenants will take – complaining, incidents, impass, eviction, and finally, the courts.
Unhappy, or not fully satisfied tenants don’t renew leases. This post is about more than turnover costs though. We’re defining a new, proactive management style which pre-empts tenant incidents. Cutting costs here can be transformative for your property management business.
Let’s take a unique look at how to make customer service a profit center, how to use it to gather important tenant intelligence, and get your creative ideas cooking. A Proactive tenant services plan starts with a paved path, as opposed to stopping and fixing the damage of a pot-holed road (or a leaky roof).
Reducing Turnover and More
You could lose tenants through a death of a thousand customer service cuts. Or, you can ensure each customer service transaction makes them more confident that living in your rental unit is the best thing that ever happened to them. You won’t have to convince them to stay.
As this graphic on the right from Turnkey Property Investment’s The Economics of Client Retention shows, just keeping your tenants generates a solid amount of revenue. Definitely read their post for insight.
Reducing tenant turnover should be a priority in your tenant service strategy. But to really excel, we need to turn our model upside down. We start with total tenant satisfaction and zero issues and keep it that way.
Responding and Dispatching
Property management companies often speak of a friendly, hands-on approach to serving tenants. They refer to fast access to professional repair technicians, but is fixing broken things fast sufficient to claim customer service excellence?
Our post on keeping tenants happy touched on the issue of comfort, convenience, and desired amenities. Most renters want an enjoyable lifestyle — a comfortable, safe living environment secure in the knowledge that things work as expected and help is near.
Tone of voice, listening, questions, and empathy are important soft skills for property management staff, whether via phone or digital communications. Yet all of this is called reactive management.
Even responding with incentives and concessions for jaded tenants is reactive management.
The Act of Fixing Implies Broken
When the tenant’s refrigerator stops, a water pipe breaks, or the furnace or A/C goes down, or nasty bugs appear in their apartment, tenants want help soon. If your relationship and company brand is based on reactive tasks, it looks like you’re just trying to make things better. The act of fixing implies “broken.”
I know your response. It’s cheaper to fix things as they break down, but you’re allowing antagonism with your tenants. Better to predict the breakdowns and plan maintenance beforehand.
This way, the tenant experiences no friction in the first place. You save on costly repairs and the tenant thinks you are on top of things and care about them. The tenant becomes a better long term profit center and open to paying higher rent.
Top Tenant Complaints and Issues
- property management
- property management staff
- maintenance issues
- repairs taking too long and no advisement on them
- deposit refunds
- noise complaints and bad neighbors
- insects and cleanliness
- can’t reach landlord
- rent prices
It seems complaints are constant and perhaps not solvable, so your strategy of management is the only thing you have control over.
Your Software Can Help You
Proactive or pre-emptorary style service can really elevate your property management brand. It pays to take a moment and consider that customer service excellence is something beyond reactive hard or soft skills (which recruiters might look for when hiring).
It’s a strategy of predicting issues and having a system to prevent them and solve them fluidly in a way tenants prefer. Your system would use your building operations reports and your reports from your property management software.
And by listening to what your tenants are saying via your software, you’re able to head problems off before they start. Your software offers tenant accounts or a portal, and maintenance tickets, and possibly surveys where you can gather a lot of information about how tenants feel. Their attitudes and intent can be seen.
“Customer service begins with the relationship you create with tenants”
When tenants are happy they’re open to higher rent, extra services, and they reduce demands on you.
Property Management Services are a Process
Good Tenant Service is:
- knowing how to communicate to tenants when you need to enforce rules and deal with incidents is wise. This way you resolve without confrontation and escalation. Good tenants usually behave well and obey the rules, but they will push the limits at times.
- knowing that a repair or resolved incident could be a cue to improve something else that tenants will like
- creating an open, transparent, non-judgemental relationship from the start, helps to ensure the tenant pays on time and reports damage before big trouble starts.
- showing empathy and sympathy via digital devices can help ease tenant stress during incidents.
- creating a great initial impression with tenants before lease signing and during onboarding. That initial respect and positivity tends to carry on for a long time.
- training your contractors to communicate with tenants and keep messages clear and professional.
- anticipating complaints and incidents and knowing how you’ll handle them – a personalized service process.
- conducting surveys or using property management software to collect feedback on tenant’s issues and ideal expectations.
- always communicating time of repairs and when tenant satisfaction will happen.
- analyzing how a customer service relationship broke down with tenants
How Does Your Property Management Software Fit In?
Your property rental software with its customer service components helps automate the customer service process to save your time and build tenant satisfaction. The software helps syncronize, communicate, and resolve things together. And it helps pre-empt problems so they don’t even happen.
There’s a lot of blog posts on the web about “handling tenant complaints” which tells you that too many managers aren’t doing things the right way.
Tenants might want to resolve things themselves or not have to phone or visit your office. In the absence of face to face communication, the sofware can still personalize the experience, and allow expression of caring, respect, support and confidence.
Good Communication = Re-leases
It’s a process of communication really, and a simple software interface or portal lets the get more detailed responses from everyone involved. The tenant’s impression is you respect them and that you’re very professional. That creates confidence that renting your unit was a wise choice.
Human nature: You might say that when conflict/turbulence in rentals happens, tenants ponder “should I stay or should I leave.”
Your rental property management software’s reporting functions help you see issue details, patterns, and tenant reactions. Then you can prepare your resolutions and how to speak with them.
⦁ online tenant handbooks or help files
⦁ sms texting for tenants
⦁ transparency and accessibility online
⦁ online tenant account for viewing leases, payment and security deposits
⦁ online payment
⦁ real-time discussion and communications portal for tenants
⦁ streamline maintenance requests
Premium Customer service is more than your response to the tenant. It’s the whole process of how you make them feel comfortable. The software simplifies and aids tenants and its convenience and information makes them think better of you and your development.
What’s the final word on dollar value? This is where your property management software comes in. It’s the one way you can track the value of everything you do and every dollar you spend.
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