CONTRIBUTORSElite AgentEPM: Customer Service

Hannah Gill: Breaking down barriers to set tenants up for success

Australia is an incredibly multicultural and diverse society, which is one of the reasons it’s such a great place to live!

In our roles in the real estate industry, we are fortunate to meet people from different backgrounds and walks of life and following my article on the power of language a couple of months back, it got me thinking about the impact and benefit interactions with our clients can have – not only for them, but also for us. 

Just this week, I onboarded a new tenant from Morocco.

She landed in Australia last week, starting in a diplomatic role.

Everything to do with renting a property was new to her.

Can you imagine arriving in a new country and trying to navigate our rental market, on top of starting a new job and trying to fit into a community, while also understanding our culture and language (respectfully, us Aussies say some weird stuff)?

It would be quite scary and even overwhelming.

But that creates an opportunity for us to genuinely help others through breaking down barriers and taking the time to educate and empower our clients (and prospective clients).

Here are my top four tips to achieve this:

  1. Be kind and patient

It sounds like a no brainer, but I know we get busy and sometimes having to repeat a question or answer can be frustrating. We’re racing from points A to D rather than ensuring we appropriately cover B and C.

By taking the time to thoroughly respond to any questions without frustration or dismissiveness, we naturally build trust and mutual respect with clients.

Last week, I missed a call from a prospective client.

When I called back I said, “Hi, it’s Hannah from the Property Collective, sorry I missed you”.

He said, “Hi Hannah” and then launched into a discussion in a language I was unfamiliar with.

It took us four attempts of me trying to explain that I was sorry, but I didn’t understand what he was saying and him, in broken English, asking me to speak in Punjabi instead. 

It was a long and drawn out conversation and one I think both of us understood about 50 per cent of, but the gist was he’d assumed, as my surname is Gill, that I was bilingual and wanted me to sell his property.

By being patient, I was able to understand what he needed and connect him with the right people to help.

  1. Use simple language and avoid slang 

Think about the language you commonly use, whether it’s slang terms or even industry-specific abbreviations.

Most tenants are not going to understand a statement like: “We need you to sign the TA and complete the ICR”. 

Simplify your language for your audience.

While it is longer, this would be far more helpful: “This is your tenancy agreement and it outlines the terms you and the owner are agreeing to…. This is the inventory and condition report and it’s a really important document for both you and the owner. We will use it as a reference when you vacate, and here’s how you complete it…”

See the difference?

  1. Seek to understand

If someone is doing something for the first time, they don’t know what they don’t know.

They will make assumptions and fill in the gaps based on the information they do have, which is formed through their own experiences, background and biases. 

By asking open-ended questions we can help identify gaps in their knowledge and help them understand processes more thoroughly, which ultimately creates good outcomes for everyone involved. 

As equally important is listening. If we ask questions, we need to listen for the answer.

Don’t assume a different tone, volume or language pattern is a client been rude to you.

By delivering points 1 and 2, you’ll find if you reframe a conversation, it’s not a negative or rude discussion at all. 

Plus, you never know what interesting and amazing things you can learn from your clients – you just need to be open to hearing it! 

  1. Educate and empower

Don’t assume people know. If we don’t take the time to educate someone on a topic or process we’d like followed, how can we expect them to succeed?

When we work with a new client, we are responsible for setting them up for success. 

This can start from the leasing phase and how to complete a tenancy application.

It saves us time in the long run if they have done it correctly the first time, rather than having to chase missing documents or information – this is especially relevant when clients are arriving from overseas and may not have the typical 100 points of ID or references. 

This is an approach you should not only take at onboarding (tenancy agreement, inventory and condition report) but throughout the rental journey, including rent payments, reporting maintenance and preparing for a routine inspection.

Adding fact sheets or resources to your communications will help empower your clients, as they know what to expect from you and what is expected of them.

So there you have it, four simple ways to help build meaningful relationships and break down barriers to get great outcomes with our clients. 

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Hannah Gill

Hannah Gill is the Director of The Property Collective, REIACT President and one half of Gill & Hooper