A Facebook conversation caught my eye yesterday. There was a quickly developing chain of comments on the back of one friend’s status. The status was regarding her extreme disappointment with her property manager and asking around for an opinion as to whether she should self-manage.
Blogger: Hermione Gardiner
People that I didn’t even know were owners of investment property were suddenly coming out of the woodwork to express their disappointment with their property managers too.
The conversation revealed complaints of lack of customer service, no response or communication, comments around not seeing value in having a property manager (to put it nicely) and comments around it being better to manage their properties themselves.
After 10 years working in property management, these kind of comments really disappoint and concern me. The fact that we are not seen to be the professionals we should be seen as, that people do not see value in what we do, and that there is a notion that property managers are “useless” means that something is not working.
We know how tough and demanding property management can be. We know the flack PMs can cop whilst working long and hard to navigate the complexities between keeping landlords, tenants, and contractors happy, whilst acting within office procedures and the legislation of your state. And we know how hard it can be to get back to everyone in a timely manner.
We are further challenged now than ever before as we are now expected to be experts in so many areas and wear many different ‘hats’ for our now well-educated 'Google generation' of landlords and tenants. Unfortunately now, even 20 years' property management experience sadly doesn’t mean we have all of the skills to deal with the expectations those educated clients of 2014 have of us.
In saying all of this, research shows that this notion of 'useless' being perceived from the outside often comes down to a basic lack of communication.
There is no doubt that ever-mounting inbox can become overwhelming. Top that with the clients phoning to see if you got the email that is sitting in your inbox and it can start to feel like there is a big monkey sitting on your shoulders.
What we need are additional techniques, skills and systems to overcome these challenges, and to fulfil our roles. Ongoing training and continual learning (for both property managers and their managers) is going to be the only way to deal with this.
There are a few (seemingly simple) communication techniques that you can use to better deal with these clients and mirror the level of customer service that they are expecting:
- Set expectations from the start of the relationship (such as your expected response times to phone/email/texts). Also seek out their preferred method of communication. It's no use waiting on a response to emails if they are a phone person.
- Set expectations on the whole property management process from the start - i.e. how often routines take place, what is an urgent vs non-urgent issue, how does the invoicing and statement process work
- Readjusting expectations if external factors mean you cannot deliver a result
- Have an auto response on your email account that thanks the client for their email, and gives them an expected response time. Also indicate response time on your voicemail (and of course deliver on that expectation)
- Update your client – even update them before they ask for an update, even update them if there is no update
Of course, all of these tips will only work if you do what you say you will, when you say you will do it. If you are prone to forget, diarise call backs in your outlook calendar at the end of the conversation. Utilise modern technology to assist with 'to do' lists and managing your time.
Having your time more efficiently managed, (i.e. using blocking techniques) will make sticking to your own communication program easier. If you are unsure of how to implement and manage any of this, seek additional training.
If we start to use tips like these, and ensure we are constantly training and developing ourselves, perhaps we can start to change the notion of property managers being “invaluable” to being worth every cent of management fees. And that next time someone asks if they should self-manage – that the responses might look a lot different.