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Customer service still the key

19 February 2013 Reporter

Stop checking emails and pick up the phone to provide good customer service, writes Jellis Craig CEO Nick Dowling

 

Without a doubt, recent technological advances have enhanced the day-to-day running of property management departments, delivering both streamlined and consistent processes to landlords and tenants.

What is worrying though, is that many in the industry believe these technologies are the ideal replacement for more traditional forms of communication, such as phone calls and face-to-face communication.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Jellis Craig understands that for many landlords their rental property is possibly the largest investment in their portfolio. In turn, our property managers greatly respect the importance of their role in looking after this investment.

Clear communication is vital when dealing with landlords and tenants. Sending an email to a client may be considered an excellent time saver, but there are times when emails fail to communicate tone and can come across as either abrupt or careless. This leads to a misunderstanding, whereby property managers can then find themselves in drawn-out email conversation to seek resolution. What began as a time saver ends up wasting time and negatively impacting the relationship.

As a rule, if more than three emails have been sent back and forth, we train our staff to pick up the phone and have a real conversation. It is remarkable how fast any confusion or conflict can be resolved via a simple phone call.

Dealing with such a wide variety of clients, it is crucial to find out everyone’s preferred form of communication.

Our property managers ask this of each client, whilst at the same time managing expectations by educating them on estimated response times and customer service standards.

Given that ‘instant’ communications are commonplace these days, it is necessary to establish clear response guidelines. If this isn’t outlined at the start of the relationship, clients may think that a property manager, who hasn’t responded to an email or text within the hour, has failed to deliver what they regard as adequate customer service.

To satisfy our client’s need for fast and accurate information, our property managers have embraced a whole range of technologies.

Our prospective tenants lodge their applications electronically, which eliminates double handling, ensuring a quick turnaround time and convenience for all parties. On our website we also offer a substantial amount of up-to-date tenancy legislation, FAQs and property investment articles to keep our clients abreast of the latest information.

The adoption of technology is, of course, also crucial. However, when it comes to property management this is more in relation to office efficiency than direct customer service. You should ensure your business has the staff and the courage to adopt the technology, especially when it comes to workflow, document storage and banking.

A recent addition to our property management toolbox is a specially developed iPad application, used to complete routine property inspections. Focused on providing consistent and thorough reporting, this system offers immense time saving benefits to our staff, freeing them up to be more available to their clients.

Knowing that customer service is the key to business success, Jellis Craig has a dedicated leasing department.

This team manages the many tasks involved in property leasing, allowing our property management staff to focus on the client’s needs as well as maintenance, inspections and proactive management.

My advice to business owners who want to grow their business is this: customer service and effective communication is the key. The next time you start composing an email to a client, consider that a quick chat may be a more effective use of your time. Your client will most certainly appreciate your personal touch and high level of care, and in turn, they will refer their friends and family.

NICK DOWLING is the chief executive officer at real estate group Jellis Craig. The group manages in excess of 5,000 properties in inner suburban Melbourne

Customer service still the key
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