Property management in the Perth market can be competitive. There are a lot of people out there and all of them talk in their advertising about how committed they are to customer service. So, what is it that separates the best property managers from the mediocre ones?
Blogger: Jarrad Mahon, director, Investors Edge Real Estate
Actually following through on your promises!
Advertising can lie, but your reputation is something that is earned, positive or negative. If you follow through on your promise to deliver world class customer service, your phones will ring off the hook with referrals. Not only that, but you will keep all the clients that you have.
Bad customer service is like an unseen cancer that causes many agencies to fall apart from the inside by losing more clients than they are gaining each month. If you make promises but are “too busy” to keep or remember them, you will quickly be one of “those” property managers who have to spend a lot of money on advertising just to break even.
Having happy clients is like a snowball that builds over time; in the beginning, it can seem like you are putting a lot of effort in without getting anything back. Over time, the trust builds with each client and before you know it, referrals are your main source of new business.
Here are a few tips on getting customer service right, keeping clients and increasing word of mouth referrals.
Your client is a person, not a number or object
You want to connect with every client personally and professionally. While many confuse a “strictly business” approach with “professionalism,” the fact is that your clients can get that kind of “professionalism” anywhere from any property manager. Get to know your clients as human beings—take notes if you need to. Make sure you recognise your clients and address them by name when they walk into your office.
Setting and exceeding expectations
We have a very thorough sign up process where we let landlords know exactly what our responsibilities will be and how we will carry them out, as well as what we expect of their tenants and of them as the landlord.
When it comes to day to day management, you must let your clients know exactly what you are going to do for them. If you are sorting out maintenance on a property, establish a time frame to get back to them and diarise it to ensure you don't drop the ball. If an owner or tenant has to call you to find out what is going on, then you have not been proactive enough with keeping them updated.
To take your service from meeting expectations to exceeding them, you need to design into your service some “pleasant surprises”. We do this through owner and tenant “thank you” gift baskets, a personalised “welcome” from our Directors and “all is well” phone calls. See what other ideas your team has by having a brainstorming session.
Follow through on everything
This is the most important thing you can do to develop a reputation for sterling customer service. If you tell a client you are going to do something, then do it in a timely fashion. When you get a phone call, return it ASAP. Let your clients know that you care enough about them to respond to them immediately.
Relentlessly seek customer feedback
As human beings, we tend to want our business transactions to go as smoothly as possible. If a client seems happy, that is good enough for many. But it shouldn’t be good enough for you if you want to continue to improve. It is imperative to ask your clients for feedback on a regular basis.
We do this in a couple of different formats. We survey clients at key points: when they have just placed a tenant and then every 6 months. We have also trained our managers to check in on how they are going in general conversation. Clients love getting any issues off their chest—just listening and acknowledging will let you see that their tension is diffused.
If we ever come up a little bit short, we use it as a learning opportunity by asking clients what we could have done better. A better way to phrase this may be, “How could we handle it better next time?” Even when you think you did a great job, always ask if there’s anything else you can do or could have done for them. The answer may surprise you and will give you the ideas to make you a better property manager.
Jarrad Mahon is the Director of Investors Edge Real Estate, a firm that provides sales and management services for investment properties in Perth. For more information, call 1300 472 427 or visit their website: http://www.investorsedge.com.au/.