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In Response: How to Get a Tenant-Centric Staff

In Response: How to Get a Tenant-Centric Staff

A topic I like to write about on a regular basis is tenants. What do they like? What do they not like? What trends are they adopting? How can we get more of them in the door of property offices? And, in so doing, I seem to get a lot of feedback on the topic as well. This is especially true when I bring up the importance of having a well-trained and personable office staff, a bit of detail many owners simply do not value, while their tenants definitely do.

In fact, in response to a recent blog post on the subject, in which I noted the criticality of having a customer-centric (i.e., tenant-centric) office, the following was posted in part in the comment section:

 

 When I was shopping comps I rarely EVER saw a Manager or if I did the Manager was talking to someone else (usually not a resident) and ignored me completely. I have yet to have a leasing professional take the time to introduce me to any staff member…

And while this person isn’t a tenant of the properties she’s addressing, I hear this type of complaint of apartment office staff all the time—from tenants, maintenance crews, contractors, and even visitors interested in a lease. Greg Cohen is with Impact Management in Queens; and in a recent interview, he said that one of the biggest complains he hears about today’s property managers is their lack of concern over returning phone calls.

The article he was quoted in goes on to explain the myriad responsibilities a property manager possesses, to include managing the back office and all the employees, putting in for the maintenance orders, handling all the applicants as well as tenant requests, in addition to a whole lot of other things that make them the ideal multi-tasker; however, they lose sight of what’s most important: “they must be adept at answering questions and dealing with people.”

So, the question comes down to this: How can I ensure my property has the best representation? To help, here are a few suggestions:

  • Be selective and do your research when choosing a company. When you’re in the selection process for the management company that will represent your property, perform due diligence. Look at references, pop by unannounced, take a look at the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any complaints, and visit other properties they manage. You can tell a lot by looking at other properties managed by the same company.
  • Train, train, and then train some more. If you have the money, this is the time when you can bring in a third-party customer service expert to help you design a program to demonstrate the importance of customer/tenant-centric attitudes on the property. But even without a formal training course, you can require all staff members to fulfill training sessions, either conducted by you, or with the help of a service like Apartment University. The key in any instance is to emphasize what customer service is, that the tenant is the customer, and that the result of bad customer service is vacancy.
  • Set a good example. The staff in any work situation looks to the leader. If you’re not a good example of this principle, the staff will not take it seriously. Set the example of how others should be and they will follow.
  • Tie performance to pay. Just as is customary with almost any job, tying performance to pay is a good way to ensure results.
  • Be consistent and follow-up. Of course, you must be consistent, enforcing the same message on a regular basis; and using multiple communication methods helps ensures employees with a variety of learning styles will get the message (e.g., email, presentation, face-to-face, etc.).
  • Secret shop them. It’s customary for restaurants to secret shop their own staff by having a discreet, paid consumer come in and sample the service. Management then uses the experience to improve where needed. This is the same principle that can be used in apartments. Simply pay a secret shopper to visit the office and report on the experience to management afterward.

As Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Take what you learn and use it to grow.

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Great post! People are truly the heart of this industry----any industry really----and I do believe that companies need to pay more attention to developing their people to be able to interact and connect with people. The perfect product, at the perfect price can be undone by an hugely imperfect person...but the perfect person (and I use perfect loosely) can often overcome poor product and price.

  Rommel Anacan

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