01 May

Turn Those Qs into FAQs

Ever call or visit a business, ask a basic question, and receive an answer of “I do not know?” To make matters worse, there is not even an offer of “I will find out”, or “Let me ask a supervisor.” It is rather scary and it is also profound. In business we work so hard to build our companies, market our properties, or create features and services, all to find out nobody in our own company has a clue!

While visiting a business recently, I asked a simple question pertaining to a geographic location. Of course, the woman on duty had no clue. She did not know what highway exit she was located at, nor could she tell me east, west, north, or south! That is a huge pet peeve to me. How can you permit your employees to be that completely oblivious of their surroundings? It is unconscionable, but so very common.

Well there is a solution! The solution is so basic that it is hard to believe it is not done more often. Create an on-going FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for your team. Every single company, and property you manage, should have a FAQ. Employees should have this at their desk or on their desktop. Digital or paper, laminated or in a plastic sleeve, does not matter! No matter what, there needs to be an at-a-glance tool so the most basic of customer questions can be answered. Let me be perfectly clear here, it is not the employee’s job to know this! It is your job as the property manager, leasing director, management company owner, or brokerage company owner to make sure they know!

For instance, if the FAQ is for a building, the top question should be directions (from the north, south, east, and west). The directions should include the address of the property, an easy to explain set of instructions on how to enter your property, and where to park! And for goodness sake, do not ignore public transportation. If someone calls your property and asks what bus to take, you had better know. Think about how insane it would be for someone to call your company, to ask about renting your property, but then not be able to tell them how to get there! Believe me it happens to the best of us, but with an FAQ as a standard across all desks and desktops it does not matter because everyone will be equipped with the knowledge and power to assist a customer!

Consider the most basic questions like:

  • How do I get to the property?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • When was this building built?
  • How tall is the building? (feet and stories)
  • How big is the property? (acres and square feet)
  • Is there a post office nearby?
  • Where is the nearest hospital?

If your staff does not have this information at the ready, at the worst it could be the difference between a life or death situation! Everyone should know how to get to the nearest hospital or storm shelter, etc. Sometimes we are so busy with the stuff that comes up day after day and is asked over and over that we forget to learn other important information about our company and properties.

Capturing this knowledge and turning it into an FAQ can make a tremendous tool for marketing as well as day to day assistance when your customers or clients call!

“More content available at All Things Property Management by Buildium, industry leaders in Online Property Management Software.”

Originally Published at Buildium Blog here.

13 Dec

Do You Really Please Your Customers?

In the history of property ownership and property management, as far back as the Stone Age (maybe not that far back), we have always called our customers “tenants” and for some reason it just stuck like glue. We can try to shake the term, but no matter how we spin it, turn it, or twist it the relationship comes back full circle to calling them “tenants” and not customers. It is rather maddening to say the least. Even though I preach this and believe it, I catch myself using the term because nobody understands who I am speaking about when I say “customer!”

What drives me batty is that when you consider all of the blood, sweat, and tears we put into marketing, promotions, “tenant” retention, newsletters, “tenant” parties, and “tenant” appreciation, why do we not refer to our “tenants” as customers? It just does not make logical sense.

If you go to Disney World, the tourists are called “guests” NOT “tourists”! Disney had a good idea and they pushed that idea so hard that it is ingrained in everybody, including the “guests!” If you have ever been to Disney World or Disney Land you know what I mean. The point is Disney believed that each person who entered “the property” was a guest and NOT a tourist or even a customer. Disney wants everyone to feel special and privileged, just like a guest.

So back to my original point, why in our industry of property management, do we not refer to our valuable tenants as customers? I think we need to understand this concept; even if we are stuck on the word “tenant” the meaning still needs to be customer. As an industry, let us all put the word “customer” back on the table. First of all, let’s start with who our customer is, as that may be the core of our problem. The conflict now arises in your mind because you are all thinking, “Wait a minute Linda, the owner of the property is my customer too!” Yes, that is correct and that is a fact for us as property managers. Without our property owner, we have no job! So, our property owners are customers as well. Now there is a pull and tug for some of us. It may also cause a debate. Which customer do you please or better yet which customer is more important?

The answer is quite simple. You do what makes both customers happy! Yes, it is actually achievable. Okay, so there are exceptions to everything, but for the most part, if your customers are happy, your other customers are happy too!

How? Well for instance, every single time a customer (tenant) moves in, your customer (property owner) is happy. Now, the job is to keep that customer (tenant) happy so they do not move out. Again, that is keeping your customer (property owner) happy. What is the point of doing all of the work to keep a customer (spending money on improvements, marketing, and signs), and then they move out of your property because of something you control? So what does this boil down to? Customer service, of course! Customer service is the core of it all. You can twist it, turn it, tweak it and maneuver it, but no matter what you say or do, good customer service will always win! Is it easy? Absolutely not! Nobody said our jobs were easy. Remember, if it were easy, they would not need us. (Read Circle of (A Property’s) Life).

However, no matter the difficulty, your job must be done to the best of your ability; with the talent and the cards you have been dealt. You owe that to your customer (property owner), and by contract you are legally obligated to deliver those services. The same holds true for the other customer (tenant) because they too have signed a contract (lease). Funny how there are so many parallels to these business relationships.

For example, if you manage a building that was built in 1904 you cannot expect it to perform like a building that was built in 2012! So if you think your building is old or tired and needs upgrading, you are probably correct. However, it should still be impeccably clean, painted, safe, and in good repair. No it is not high-tech or state of the art, but those occupying the property and those who own the property expect you to do the best you can with what you have! In other words, if you know who your customer is at all times, you can deliver what the customer needs and cater to what is there, not what is not there.

Now that you understand these simple points you need to go back and think of ways to deliver the excellence. Every single day we need to ask ourselves and our team, “What have we done for our customers (tenants and owners) today?” Make this a question your entire team thinks about. What is it that you can do around your property that would actually please your customers? For a property owner customer it may be timely information, accurate reports, 100% occupancy, community awards, maximization of real estate value, and return calls, etc. For the tenant customer it might be clean common areas, friendly staff, responsive maintenance technicians, follow up, etc. In any case, no matter what type of property it is and no matter its age, there is always room for improvement. Just keep the focus on customer service every single day, and you will naturally begin to deliver the excellence all of your customers expect!

“More content available at All Things Property Management by Buildium, industry leaders in Online Property Management Software.”