Property owners and managers recognize that providing excellent customer service is essential to their success, but many fail to fully commit to creating the necessary strong tenant relationships. A component of a property manager’s compensation is often tied to factors like unit vacancy rates, timely payments, and tenant satisfaction, all of which are linked to the overall customer experience. Consequently, it is vital that managers implement strategies for tracking, measuring, and coordinating services to boost value for their occupants.
Best-in-Class property management companies leverage detailed tenant service programs that include coordinated communications along with scheduled maintenance and service activities measured against set performance targets for service delivery and satisfaction. This paper aims to share some of those best practices to help you find out whether you measure up, and also outlines some specific steps that will take your performance to the next level.
Boost retention with added value
The decision to renew a lease involves several factors, but with all other decision criteria being equal, it can often come down to just one important question: Is the property management team providing value that is unique, demonstrable, and even quantifiable?
One of the first steps to creating an effective customer service strategy is to analyze an individual property’s strengths and weaknesses. What features and amenities does it offer that other buildings can’t provide? Conversely, what does it lack? Knowing the answer to these questions will help property managers understand how to market their buildings and augment their ability to attract and retain tenants.
Create value through a better service delivery program
Customer service provides building managers the opportunity to deliver enhanced value to tenants. It is the one thing fully under their control. A well-trained and managed building staff is able to compensate for weaknesses of the building or location by delivering memorably exceptional service. The actions and services of employees are a key differentiator for a commercial property management firm.
Technology is making it easier to implement a service delivery program and measure the performance of staff by providing building managers with tools to automate the collection of information related to service request-response and completion times, related expenses, and more. By implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) and correlating data from buildings across their portfolio, property managers will have visibility to guide management decisions. Additionally, advances in mobile technology have given property managers access to accurate, real-time information based on the ability of field staff to complete work and enter data “in the moment.” Property managers can generate reports from field data across staff, buildings, and regions to assess the relative health of properties and strength of staff, discover the root cause of issues, and use this information to inform discussions with tenants and ensure continued satisfaction.
The Service Responsiveness Survey conducted as part of the Building Engines’ 2012 Benchmark Report found that responsiveness is an important factor in tenant satisfaction. More than half (57 percent) of building managers stated that rapid response times and prompt completion of tenant service requests are a factor in retaining building occupants. Establishing specific targets for services ensures that tenants and maintenance staff have the same expectations.
Collect feedback about customer expectations
Soliciting regular feedback is an essential part of maintaining an effective working relationship with occupants, and technology can help streamline this process. Online and mobile tools and file-sharing platforms make it possible to send surveys to tenants, asking them to assess a just-completed job or grade overall performance over a set time period. The information can be used to adjust service practices to deliver better value to occupants, repair damaged relationships, or align services to help companies achieve long-term goals. Without regular feedback, key service factors can be missed.
Develop an open dialogue with tenants
One-on-one communication also plays an essential role in improving customer service by enabling both parties to convey complex thoughts quickly and get everyone moving forward together. Even with the efficiency of email, mobile devices, and other electronic communication, 69 percent of people still prefer sharing information face to face, according to a TrackVia survey.
“It’s clear that tools like email and instant messaging help, but don’t replace personal collaboration,” said Charles Var, Vice President of Marketing for TrackVia. “Context also matters as people’s preference for communication appears to change based on what they’re doing.”
By combining technology with personal interactions, building managers can gain a deeper understanding of customer expectations and design service plans that are relevant to tenants. Use your property management system to schedule and document these customer interactions.
Additionally, when tenants are actively engaged, they see the direct benefits of working with property managers and are more likely to have a stronger positive feeling about the property. Managers looking to improve customer retention should focus on delivering meaningful and relevant services to boost engagement among building occupants.
Engage workers to lift customer satisfaction
One of the largest factors in customer satisfaction is the ability of staff members to provide solutions to problems. Employees need access to information about repairs, work orders, construction, and other projects going on around a building, and they should be encouraged to provide progress reports to tenants. A study by Aon Hewitt found a direct correlation between employee engagement and revenue growth: For every percentage increase of engaged workers, revenue also rose by 0.6 percent.
A simple way to boost engagement among employees involves removing the obstacles that prevent them from doing their jobs effectively. Technology is making it easier to automate documentation and workflow, which can boost productivity in any organization. Mobile tools that include access to maintenance instructions, floor plans, and “how-to” videos can increase the staff’s ability to resolve problems on the first visit. By streamlining procedures, project managers can increase employee satisfaction, thereby contributing to more meaningful interactions with tenants.
Preventive maintenance is essential to maintaining control of expenses and can boost the efficiency of employees. When staff members are empowered to resolve problems as they see fit, steps can be taken to minimize the impact of aging or damaged equipment and infrastructures. As they become more proactive, building managers need to ensure they are appropriately investing their time and resources.
Data management is helping property managers determine the best course of action. By collecting and analyzing data related to repairs, utility consumption, labor hours, replacement costs, and other factors in real-time, building managers can calculate the return on investment for various projects and make more informed decisions about how to proceed. Through data management, building managers can extend the life of the equipment, minimize the impact of repairs on tenants, and reduce overall expenses.
Business objectives change based on market conditions and building managers need to adjust their strategies to retain tenants over the long term. Data management tools enable property managers to measure their success in various areas. When new policies are put into place, the results need to be carefully analyzed to determine where improvements can be made. With continual testing, evaluating, and adjusting customer service strategies, building managers will be able to maintain low turnover levels, contributing to a steady revenue stream.
By combining data management and personal interactions, property managers are able to provide better service and gain a deeper understanding of customer needs and expectations. The insights gained through analyzing the status and correlation between customer satisfaction, retention rates, lifetime customer value, and other factors enable property managers to determine the effectiveness of their efforts. Taking the time to regularly review relationships with occupants and make adjustments accordingly is a key part of continually exceeding customer expectations.