How to provide exceptional customer service
Customer service is a term we hear a lot. I often here more stories of poor customer service, rather than great customer service. If you are in any type of business it is important to realize that an angry customer is much more likely to be vocal than a happy one.
When you are managing properties, it is really important to focus on great customer service. It can help with tenant retention, and job satisfaction for the property manager and owner.
Learning about customer service is critical for every property manager. The tenants that rent from you are an extremely important component to the rental business. They provide the revenue to the income property.
There are three main components to providing great customer service in the rental business:
Communication: Communication is extremely important to your success. The most important step in communication is listening.
Be ready to listen (get away from phones, papers on your desk, people walking around, any other distractions).
Be an active listener (pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal language, observe the body language).
Active listening requires the listener to be engaged (make eye contact, ignore everything else, ask questions, make sure you understand)
When you are dealing with a tenant you need to make them feel important. Maintaining eye contact can help keep you focused and shows them they have your full attention. Pay attention to body language. Is it opened or closed, friendly or aggressive.
You can also ask open ended questions such as “Can you tell me more about the situation?”.
Show appreciation for the concern. You can say something like “thank you for bringing this to my attention?” If you do not know if a problem exists, you cannot solve it. It is better to know about a problem and have an opportunity to solve it, rather than not knowing and the tenant leaves.
It is also a great idea to take notes. That way you can write down action items, it will ensure you have a full understanding of the problem.
When the tenant has completed talking, give them a summary of what they just told you. You can start this part of the conversation with something like “just to make sure I am clear, can we review?” or something like that. When you have completed your summary ask “is there anything else?”. Make sure to address all the concerns. This is especially important if the tenant is angry. If you use the above technique it will help you deal with a confrontational tenant.
Attitude is everything, if you dish out a great attitude, it will come back to you.
If you are involved in customer service, you should already have a great attitude. Having a positive attitude is the base for excellent communication and customer service.
Make sure to pay attention to your attitude, we can all recall situations where a person with a poor attitude made a negative situation or experience even worse. Answer the following questions: Do you maintain eye contact when speaking to people? Do you greet tenants with your head up and a big smile (both on the phone and in person)? Do you take responsibility for your mistakes and apologize? Do you let out a big sigh when someone asks you to do something? and Do you enjoy saying “no”?
When you demonstrate a positive attitude, it is amazing how it will impact everyone you come in contact with. It may not solve your problems, however, if you have a difficult tenant situation, it can be a lot easier to deal with. When you are dealing with an angry tenant, remember the poor attitude they are exhibiting might be based on a poor experience in the past.
Make sure to view negative experiences as learning experiences. Look for the good in everyone. Do not take the situation personally.
Relationships: It is important to form a great relationship with your tenants. You do not want to be super nice before they move in, and then as soon as they move in, you do not bother with them anymore.
It is important to realize that great tenants have choices. The cost of turnover in our rental business averages $1000 in paint and decorating, and if we hire a placement specialist, it can cost an additional half to full months rent.
We strive to avoid tenant turnover by providing exceptional service to our existing tenants. If you build strong relationships with your tenants you will have less tenant turnover and low maintenance happy tenants.
In our experience tenants want to do business with property managers who are actively involved, will fix problems quickly, and who genuinely care about the property and tenants.
Here are some tips on creating rapport:
Show interest in tenants: Ask lots of questions, that can lead to finding some common ground.
Be friendly: It always amazes me how a smile can reduce the level of tension in a difficult situation. You need to be a “heads up” person. Always greet your tenants with a smile and a hello. Make sure all your staff and contractors are “heads up” people as well. Make eye contact, and just like your mother told you, use your manners.
Be an active listener: Listening is a physical activity, take notes, watch body language, repeat back what you heard, to make sure you understand.
Come to a resolution: I know what you are thinking, sometimes you need to agree to disagree. That can be ok, in some cases, but make sure you have done everything you can to resolve the issue. I have learned over the years, that there is no victory award for being right. In fact in the rental business it can cost you money, especially if the tenant moves out.
Michael P Currie