Enter your email address for weekly access to top multifamily blogs!

Multifamily Blogs

This is some blog description about this site

Softening the Edges: Listen, Be Kind, But Enforce Policy

Softening the Edges: Listen, Be Kind, But Enforce Policy

pexels-pixabay-208849 You got two ears, use 'em.

I recently saw a post in which a property manager said - I'm here to manage the asset; I'm not in customer service.  I have feelings about this statement.  I understand the principal behind it - we have a duty to the owner to manage the asset and make the best financial and practical decisions to increase the value of the property, and we face increasingly unreasonable demands from residents.  This PM was frustrated and pushing back at the resident. But to me, customer service is basic human kindness, and I try very hard to practice that whenever I can. If it is in your power to make someone happy, why would you not? Be freakin' nice. That is all there is to it. Do what you would want someone to do for you.

While I am a policy person, I am also a compromiser. I do see and hear tension and frustration at times in apartment community offices and in phone calls. I think one of the most valuable things I've learned is to not say "you can't" or "you need" to a customer.

Harsh: You can't move in without renter's insurance.

Softer: Are you able to provide me with your renter's insurance? We have to have that to move you in.

Harsh: You can't park your motorcycle in the parking lot.

Softer: We have a garage available for you to park your motorcycle in. Would you be interested in that?

Harsh: I can't waive your late fees.

Softer: While we are required to charge late fees, let's talk about what comes next and what we can do to help. We have some resources available for rent payments if you need them.

Harsh: You need to move your car out of the reserved spot.

Softer: This spot is reserved for someone else. Would you please move your car so they can park?

I have a very sympathetic ear (although I have a cynical soul- I've been doing this too long), and I believe that people believe what they are telling me in general terms. We all exaggerate to make our point and the story gets bigger each time it is told. They are telling you the way that the experience made them feel, not what actually happened and you should listen for those hurt feelings or pain points, and let yourself be empathetic.

Listening is the number one requirement in a good customer service process. Let them get it all out, crazy thoughts and all, and then ask them what they want. If it is in your power to do it, not unreasonable or unethical, then don't get caught on who is right or wrong, but make that person in front of you happy. What harm can it do?

Keys I've found to listening. Nothing deep, just a lot of practice with upset people:

  • Start by telling them that you are here to help and need to get as much information as possible to straighten out the situation. Lean forward toward them as they speak to you.
  • Focus on them-if they are in the office, sit down with them away from the hustle and bustle and focus on what they are telling you. Don't try to listen to them on the phone and type. They can tell if you are doing that to them and it makes them feel angrier.
  • Take notes- this was the key to my upset customer resolution when I was on site. Ask if you can take notes, and if they say yes, write down all the details they are sharing. It makes sure you get all the details, and it makes them feel like you are super engaged. If they don't allow you to take notes (which has never happened to me in 20 years) then pay careful attention to what they are saying.
  • Read it back, or repeat what they've told you-This makes sure you get all the facts. It also changes what they are saying sometimes. Many people have said wild and unreasonable things to me, and as I've wrote them down and repeated them back, they self-corrected to a more reasonable assessment. It sounds different when it's echoed back, gently and reasonably, but without sarcasm or judgement.
  • Ask questions- Sometimes people have told their story to others, and will get upset that they have to tell it again to you. Reiterate that you need this information to resolve the matter. Let them bluster. It's not fair that they have had to make the same complaint three times.
  • If they are wrong, show them kindly. Sometimes you have to pull out the lease and show them what they signed, but it should never be the end of the conversation. Think about what you can do- even though they are breaking the lease. Think about how you would feel if you didn't know about something and it surprised you at a very stressful time. Think about how to treat them gently.
  • Tell them you need to think- If it is a serious issue (as it sometimes is in property management, as we deal with people's homes), let them know you need to think or sleep on the decision. Even if you already have what you are going to do in mind, this time you take to contemplate them and their problem means a lot to the customer. Promise a follow up and deliver it.
  • Care about the customer.  At the end of this list and every customer service how-to-list is the customer. If you don't care about them, as customers and as fellow human beings, they will pick up on this and know that you don't genuinely want to help them. The best customer service agents have a heart for people and want to make people happy. You might not be able to waive or change rules or what, but you can be genuinely helpful to them in making sure they understand what is going on, any tips you can give for the future and anything you are going to do to improve in the future.
  • Don't let people walk all over you. It might seem like I would, but I'm fully prepared to tell a person no. I will have reasoning, should they want to listen, and I will share my thoughts with them. I will be kind and considerate. But I believe in treating people fairly and the rules we have make sure we do.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

It is truly all in how you deliver the message Donje! Great reminders and suggetions here!

  Lilah Poltz
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

  Lauren Niziol

Comment Below

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Recent Blogs