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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

5 Steps To Handling An Angry Resident

1)      Listen!  There are several reasons why a resident might be angry, and the response you give will be highly dependent on what the issue is!  Here are a few examples:

  1. The resident has an issue with their apartment or other situation and has already notified management.  Either the problem was not fixed, or the resident wasn’t kept in the loop about the solution, so now they are upset that it has not been resolved.  (Maintenance problem, Noisy neighbor, somebody parking in reserved spot, etc)
  2. It is a new issue, but it is legitimately important and they attribute the problem to you.  (Maintenance tech ran over grandma with the golf cart, their apartment just got robbed, etc)
  3. The resident is a highly emotional person, meaning he/she is more likely to react quicker than waiting.

Body Language:  The way you listen is just as important as listening itself.  With your body language, you are conveying how important you feel the issue is, how bored you are, how you don’t want to have to deal with this right now, and a host of other negative connotations.  So you must know what type of message you are sending.  Even the small verbal cues, such as “uh huh” can be said in a positive or negative way that indicates you want to hear more, or “please, just shut up!” 

As you listen, see this moment as an opportunity!  An angry resident can turn into a loyal ambassador for your community, so see this as your challenge to make the issue right.  Having the right attitude will come through in your body language and verbal cues.  You may need to train this in the mirror, as it’s difficult to keep the right expression when someone is upset at you for something you don’t agree with!

Here are some quick listening tips:

  • Look at them while they talk to show you are paying attention
  • Do not answer the phone or take questions from an associate.
  • Do not interrupt them!  If you interrupt them, you create an argumentative situation that will make them want to talk more.  Instead, let them get it out of their system completely.  Eventually they will run out of things to say if you don’t respond.
  • Nod your head and open your eyes more than usual, which shows you are being attentive.  You are not agreeing with what they say, but rather showing you understand what they are saying.
  • Look concerned!  Often, they just want to feel like you give a $#@& about them and their issue!

2)      State back the issue, and ask clarifying questions.  You need to make sure that you are on the same page as the resident, but sometimes saying back the obvious can be annoying.  I like to use the phrase, “Just so I understand, you are having an issue with your _________.  You told us last week, but it wasn’t fixed.  Is that right?”

Body Language:  Raising your eyebrows often shows a disarming view.  Also, since the question itself can annoy people who want quick action, I sometimes partially raise both hands, as if to say, “Give me a second to completely understand, then I’ll work to fix the problem.”

3)      Action.  A lot of this simply is actually trying to solve a problem.  It is obvious when someone has seen a situation and has done everything in their power to resolve it in some way, and those that left a message on their manager’s desk and forgot about it.

  1. Solve.  Sometimes, with new situations, the issue can be resolved immediately by contacting a maintenance tech to go to the apartment, or other ways of dealing with the problem. 
  2. Gather Information.  Let’s say you have an overdue maintenance request.  Maybe there is a part on order, maybe the work was done but it didn’t get fixed all the way.  Whatever the case, researching the issue will tell you what needs to be done to rectify the problem.

4)      Provide Expectations.  If you have to wait for your manager to return to research more or solve the problem, then tell the resident that the manager will be back at X time and you will talk to him/her as soon as you can.  Plus, let them know by what time you will follow up.  For example, “I’ll call you after 4pm once I understand the issue more and we have a solution.”

At this point, stay serious but upbeat.  This should be a positive moment where you are taking the problem, putting it on your own shoulders, and will solve it!

5)      Follow Up!!  This element is just as important as the others!  First of all, you want to make sure that the resident knows the solution and make sure that it truly did resolve the situation.  Plus, it creates a mental affirmation that you were the solution to his or her problem!  Even if the solution can’t happen immediately due to ordered parts, for example, keeping your customer in the loop will save a lot of heartache. 

Let’s say the part is ordered for their guest bedroom toilet and will arrive next Friday.  If you let them know the exact situation, they will see it as an inconvenience, but they won’t have to worry because they have faith you will get it done.  But if you never told them, then “why is my toilet still not working?  You said you were going to fix it!  I’m telling everybody I know not to live in this dump!”

But what if there is no solution?  Sometimes residents get upset about something that cannot be fixed or not within the scope of what we do.  Generally, when it comes to situations like this, a manager or even regional manager is involved, and it’s time to resolve the situation without giving them what they are asking.  In this case, do not simply say, “We can’t do that.”  That is neither helpful nor empathetic.  Instead, brainstorm a few alternate options that could possibly work or meet in the middle ground.  Also, consider that their issue might be a “wake up call” to improve your service.  For example, if their car got broken into, maybe it means you need to re-assess your community’s access/visibility plan.

In the end, this is your biggest opportunity to create not just happy residents, but loyal FANS of your community!

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great blog Brent!

You're so right, the key to dealing with difficult situations is to LISTEN! Hear them out, make sure you understand what the real issue is. So often, we're quick to get defensive or interject, we get in our OWN way a lot of the time (when leasing too).

Thanks for sharing


  Tara Furiani
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Excellent read Brent!

I can't tell you how many times I have witnessed angry customers, whether they are residents or retail customers, complain about a particular issue and the manager or associate completely clueless as to how to handle the situation.

Your article gives very useful insight and direction for anyone who interacts daily with customers, especially angry ones.



  Rudy Soto
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Remember to empower that admin or listening will not be effective. The PM has to make sure that every member of that team can act effectively and has the training to handle the daily crises. Otherwise, that tenant or owner will have to repeat his/her anguish again. When that happens, things erupt. If you are the PM, be available for the definitive answer and be responsible for it. If staff is not able to help, the layers and multiple desks will frustrate the tenant or owner and you can lose a good customer over a lack of effective communications. When you say you will do something, you have to follow through.

  Mary P Clark
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This is pretty much my entire job description, so I have learned a lot about this topic. By the time I am brought to a property, there are usually so many fires burning I could be labeled a forest firefighter. The only thing I would add is this: if you can successfully get the person who is angry to stop, calm down, and provide them with a quiet area in which to pontificate, things generally will get resolved. Unfortunately for me, I am usually the one who has to say, "No, you cannot have a llama in your apartment" or a pit bull, or install a hot tub in the den. Always being able to find humor in situations is a good thing!
The one thing I find upsetting for me though, is having that Resident go over my head and then have Corporate overrule me and say, "Okay, if it is that important, you can put the hot tub in your den." (No kidding - this happened once.) Of course, that is a topic of another discussion ...

  Mindy Sharp
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Thanks everyone! @Mary you are completely right! Nothing is more frustrating than the point of contact having no authority to do anything. Then all it becomes is a really inefficient game of telephone.

@Mindy Can I agree with something 1000%? I'm not sure if that is possible, but I do! Nothing frustrates your staff than overruling a rule that corporate originally handed down. It's almost a betrayal of trust! They are doing their best to be consistent with corporate policies and completely feel undercut.

  Brent Williams
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It should almost read, back to basics! Everyone is so caught up in everything people forget about common courtesy and how they are perceived. It's a good reminder and motivator to put us all back in check. Thank You!

  Diana M

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