What is great customer service in property management?

Jillian Rodriguez
Jillian Rodriguez | 10 min. read

Published on March 15, 2019

When was the last time you created an incredible customer experience? We’ve been talking a lot lately about the importance of strong relationships with residents and owners in property management.

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There’s mounting evidence that putting your time, money, and resources into customer service is key to growing a sustainable business in this competitive industry. In fact, getting customer service right can actually help you generate more revenue without adding more doors. That all sounds great on paper, but what are some practical steps property managers can put into action to take their customer service from good to great?

In other industries, customer service is a no-brainer. Take the restaurant industry, where the customer is always right. And in corporate customer service, it’s all about problem solving. But in property management, customer service can be difficult to wrap your head around. Is the customer always right? What’s the best way to respond to resident complaints? And how do you protect the property and keep residents happy at the same time? The relationships between property managers, residents, and owners are more important than ever, and it’s worth your time to understand what makes them successful.

What is great customer service in property management? Here’s your practical guide to getting started.

Make Positive First Impressions

Customer service begins even before your first in-person interaction with prospective residents. Think about the initial moment that a customer encounters an extension of your business. Is it a review on Google My Business? Is it a rental listing on Zillow or Trulia? Then afterwards how does that digital awareness move to the next step of an in-person interaction?

A seamless showing experience will help continue to make a great first impression and attract high-quality residents. You know the drill: it’s all about providing personalized, tech-enabled customer service. Put your property management software to good use by leveraging tools to make scheduling showings faster and more accurate. For example, some platforms allow you to sync your calendar with a showings coordinator so that prospective residents can schedule a showing online without the usual back and forth of email or text communication.

Once the appointment is booked, be timely and attentive. All of the good manners that Mom taught you apply in business, too: show up early, use your magic words, and be a good listener. When you’re training employees, make sure they understand what makes for a great customer interaction.

Give employees permission to put the customer first and give prospective residents and owners their undivided attention. That means they’re showing genuine interest in the prospect, asking the right questions, and keeping their cell phones on silent. When it’s time for residents to sign the lease, make sure the application and screening processes are completely streamlined, too—use online eLease tools to manage applications and share status updates every step of the way.

Buildium resident site

Maintenance requests and rent payments are only some of the items that you can streamline with Buildium’s new resident site.

Resolve Resident Complaints

Great relationships don’t happen overnight. It takes time and skill to build strong business relationships, and the most successful property managers also use soft skills, like empathy and communication, to navigate tricky situations. When complaints roll in, how you respond is just as important as the actions you take. How quickly did you get back to the resident? Did you use positive language, or were you defensive? What can you do to prevent the same situation from happening again?

You already know it’s important to respond to all resident complaints, but great customer service in property management is about being proactive. You know the ins and outs of your business better than anyone—sit down and make a list of the most common resident concerns. From parking problems to noisy neighbors, how can you proactively address those concerns before they become a problem? What systems can you create around the concern to address it as quickly as possible? For those situations you can’t anticipate, use them as a teaching moment to be more prepared in the future.

Responsiveness shows respect and courtesy: two pillars of great customer service. One of the reasons why customer service matters is that it shows residents and owners that you care about them. When emails and requests go unanswered, your customers might feel like an afterthought. Even if you don’t have the information they need right away, let them know you’ve received their message and when they can expect to hear from you next.

We know what you’re thinking: you have tons of residents, and they send requests at all hours of the night. You need your sleep too, so set up a friendly automated response for after-hours messages with your business hours and who they can contact for urgent matters. If your inbox is buried with maintenance requests, it might be time to invest in property management software with a resident site. With a site, residents can submit maintenance requests with photos and get status updates from you and the repair person. Maintenance request tracking helps you stay on top of service and keeps residents in the loop on what to expect and when.

Communicate Transparently with Rental Owners

What matters most to your rental owners? In short, they just want you to treat them like a human—a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to client relationships just won’t work anymore. You can build strong relationships with owners by focusing on transparent, personalized communication that gives them the information they need for what they care about most. Can your owners view financial transactions and important documents whenever they need them? Do they have access to up-to-date details about their properties?

Owner portals can help facilitate clear, consistent communication with owners, without taking up too much of your time. Sustainable owner relationships are built on trust and transparency, so it’s important to stay in touch with each and every client. Be proactive and make information available to owners before they even ask for it. Plus, a healthy dose of operational transparency gives owners a window into how hard you’re working to maximize profits and value for them, which helps strengthen the relationship.

How property managers are attracting and retaining renters.

Conduct Resident Surveys

We get it: feedback is scary. From online reviews run rampant to disgruntled residents, property managers often deal with the not-so-pretty side of feedback. But when you ask for feedback before there’s a problem, you can take back control of the feedback loop.

One of the qualities of excellent customer service is constant attention, and asking for residents’ opinions and feedback shows you genuinely care. Use online tools like SurveyMonkey or post a bulletin on your resident site to solicit their feedback. Not getting much participation? You might not be asking the right questions. Try using a feedback mechanism like the ‘start, stop, continue’ technique to find out what you should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing. Creating a consistent feedback loop will keep you dialed into your residents’ needs and help you identify issues before they become a problem.

Smart thermostat.

Investing in technology upgrades should always be looked at through the lens to improve the resident experience.

Make Cost-Effective Upgrades

Chances are that your resident survey brought up at least a few upgrades that your residents want to see. Listening to their feedback and making a few strategic upgrades is one of your best lines of defense against high turnover and vacancies. Whether it’s investing in technology to boost efficiency or making resident-requested cosmetic upgrades, small changes can have a big impact.

Remember that your current residents and owners are a major source for quality referrals. Delighting your current customers with the upgrades they want could lead to landing new business down the line. People talk about their living experience all the time with their friends, families, and colleagues—what are they saying about you? When you create great customer experiences, you’ll generate positive word-of-mouth that could bring in new business.

Manage Maintenance and Construction

There’s no way around it: maintenance and construction projects are always an inconvenience. You can’t do much about that, but there’s plenty you can do to communicate with residents to help it go as smoothly as possible. For planned projects, share announcements and updates through bulletins on your resident site. Let residents know when and where the projects are taking place and how it will impact them. Will utilities be shut off? Will certain areas of the building be off-limits? When do you expect the project to wrap up?

Communication is key to a successful maintenance project. Give residents the information they need to navigate the situation, like estimated timelines and contact information for key players involved in the project. If you let communication lapse and residents are caught off guard, that’s when they’ll start to feel like you don’t care. When residents don’t feel like a priority, it erodes the relationship and makes them less likely to stay put.

The industry is evolving, and strong relationships are the new gold standard for achieving sustainable growth. Remember: property management is all about creating great living experiences, and that means putting people first. With the right relationships and tools in place, you’ve got all you need to build a thriving business. After all, residents are most impacted by the quality of your service—and therefore your most important clients.

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Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian Rodriguez is a freelance writer out of Detroit, Michigan. Jillian writes about everything from entrepreneurship to real estate to chocolate, and she loves every minute of it. Beyond writing, Jillian is an avid reader, a public radio junkie, and active in early childhood development. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing & Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

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