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The D.I.R.T. on How We're Setting Up Maintenance Teams to Fail

It's no secret our maintenance teams are one of the key reasons residents renew their lease. Repairs (especially those that were not completed) are one of the most common topics on ratings and review sites. We can tell our maintenance teams to work smarter and faster until we're blue in the face, but that's not going to change things. Before real improvement can take place, we have to stop setting up our maintenance teams to fail!

Wait! We're What?

Maintenance teams rely on the information that is provided in the work order system. The majority of those maintenance requests are input by front office staff. However, very few property management companies include "Maintenance Request 101" in their onboarding process. The result? Office staff learns how to take a maintenance request by listening to their co-workers (who also have received no specific training) take maintenance requests. Obviously, most communities are managing alright, but more often than we'd like to believe, these are the types of notes maintenance teams are reading. "Blinds broken." Which means.... ?


Do they need a new slat, a new pull string, and entirely new set of blinds? Vague, general service requests often result in incomplete work, callbacks, or time-wasting trips back and forth to the maintenance shop, which gives residents the impression that the maintenance techs are not the rock stars we know they are! It's time we all learn how to get the D.I.R.T. 

D - Details

Your maintenance team is a great source for what details are most important to them for the most common service requests. The more specific information they have on where the problem is, what about that appliance or fixture is not working properly, if it's making any noises, what attempts the resident may have made to resolve the issue, the better educated the maintenance tech will be as they make decisions on what parts, tools and materials they may need to bring.

I - Immediate Input

The clock starts ticking the moment a resident submits their request, whether via a resident portal or to a team members. The faster the request is input in the work order system and the maintenance team is notified, the more quickly they can get it on their priority list.

R - Relay 

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, repairs are delayed. Keep in close communication with the maintenance team on progress on all maintenance requests and relay any information regarding delays to the resident as quickly as possible. Residents are willing to cut us a break as long as they are kept in the loop, so if a part needs to be ordered, you are short-staffed, or a specialized vendor needs to be scheduled, just let the resident know. 

T - Tutor Time

Office staff gains more confidence and maintenance teams are burdened with fewer time-wasting requests when the entire team is educated on some basics. There are many common service requests that just need a little trouble-shooting to empower the resident to resolve the issue on their own. Maintenance can teach the office staff some basic tips on resetting electrical outlets, garbage disposals, or asking specific question on power outages (they flipped the switch that powers that one outlet). By teaching office staff on how to walk residents through some of these minor issues, the residents gain more confidence in the management team, the office team gains a new set of skills, and the maintenance team gains more time to address the more complex issues they have on their plate!

By getting the D.I.R.T., your maintenance teams will be able to complete more maintenance requests, more quickly, which gives your residents something great to talk about!

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

<p>Thanks for the article. Some great points! At Sterling, we spent a portion of last year putting together a work order/service request laminated "question" sheet for our leasing and admin property teams to use when answering calls or walk-ins, regarding service requests. It is basically a cheat sheet that helps narrow down the exact issue. The sheet was categorized into common service request issues and then broken/drilled down into three questions under each category that if answered, would better identify the issue at hand to ultimately satisfy our residents, help our teams be more efficient and ultimately save money!</p>

  Guest (Erik Pettit)
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

What a great tool, Erik! Thanks for sharing it here!

  Jen Piccotti
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Hi Erik! Would you be willing to share your "question" sheet ? private message me at [email protected]

  Mary B Lorenz
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This is great, Jen!

  Rommel Anacan
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Thanks Rommel!

  Jen Piccotti
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Love, love, love this....using the resident's description of the problem is often much more accurate than the office quarterback diagnosis, which sends maintenance off with the wrong parts..and sometimes the assessment, couldn't find the problem..frustrating for both resident and maintenance!

  Lori Hammond
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I agree, Lori. The clearer the information, and the better questions the office can ask, the less frustration for everyone!

  Jen Piccotti
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Love the acronym, D.I.R.T...my favorite was "R", it's really about communication! Without "effective" communication, everything is more difficult! Great post, I plan to share!

  Becky Currie
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We can never have enough acronyms, right Becky? And thanks for wanting to share!

  Jen Piccotti
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This is so true. A lot of times front office staff wait to put in work order. The put them on stick notes to entry in later, most of the time they just get lost. Then when the work does not get done the front office blames the maintenance staff.

  Jacqueline Gipson
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Hi Erik,
This is a fantastic idea!! Would you be willing to share your question sheet?
My email is [email protected]

  Denise Grasela

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