Happy clients: How to take them from ewww to oooh!

I remember lying in bed one night, when I realised I hadn’t completed a routine inspection at a particular property in ages.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been inside that house, and I was stressed.

Was it six months? Nine months? Longer?

Like any typical rent roll owner, I got up, logged into my inspection software to find out.

And yes, sure enough, I hadn’t completed a routine inspection of this property in eight months!

I had promised six-monthly inspections to this landlord, and I couldn’t believe that I’d missed this one.

I felt sick to my stomach, and I knew that I had to tell the landlord.

So the next morning, I rang Jack (my landlord) to tell him what I’d done (or hadn’t done).

I was prepared to hear the disappointment in his voice.

He wasn’t one to get angry, but I knew he’d be honest with me that he was disappointed.

I explained that the inspection had been overlooked, I apologised for the mistake, and I told him that I wouldn’t be charging him any management fees this month.

And of course, I booked the inspection immediately.

Jack’s response was remarkable, and it taught me a lesson.

He accepted my apology, acknowledged that mistakes do happen and thanked me for rectifying the mistake.

He also went on to refer his friends to my agency.

He hadn’t referred anyone to me before I made this mistake, but after the mistake, he was a raving fan!

In our industry, mistakes are inevitable.

We’re human, after all.

Whether it’s a miscommunication with a tenant, a maintenance issue that spirals out of control, or an overlooked detail in a lease agreement, things will go wrong.

What I’ve realised is, it’s how you handle those mistakes can turn clients into your biggest fans.

It’s not about trying to make mistakes, but rather recognising that they happen and getting good at fixing them.

This approach can transform a potentially negative experience into an opportunity to create raving fans who are more likely to refer to you, leave glowing reviews, and post about their positive experiences on social media.

We manage people’s homes.

Their biggest investments or the places where they live their lives.

With so much at stake, we must acknowledge that mistakes will happen because we’re all human.

The key is to focus on how you can turn things around.

When errors are handled well, they can actually strengthen client relationships and build trust.

When I think about my mistake with this routine inspection, it turned into an opportunity to create excellent customer service.

The same principle applies to us, in property management, in any area of interacting with our clients.

By addressing mistakes promptly and effectively, you can turn dissatisfied clients into loyal supporters.

I believe that there are five steps to taking unhappy clients from “ewwww” to “oooooh!”

1. Acknowledge the mistake

The first step is to acknowledge the mistake.

Denying it or shifting blame will only frustrate your client more.

Remember, a true apology for making a mistake involves acknowledging that you made a mistake.

Please don’t say, “I’m sorry you feel that way”.

You’ll just make your client more frustrated if you use that line.

2. Be quick

The quicker you address the issue, the better – even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to fix it yet.

You don’t have to know what solution you’re going to offer at this stage, you just need to assure the client that you are going to find a solution.

If you don’t have an immediate solution at this stage, ask the client for a fixed period of time in which you’ll come back to them with a proposed solution.

Be specific about when you’ll circle back to them (I’m talking dates and times here).

3. Solution time

Once you’ve had time to decide on a solution, provide a clear plan to resolve the issue.

This could involve fixing a maintenance problem, renegotiating terms, or simply ensuring better communication moving forward.

Make sure the solution is both practical and something your client is okay with.

4. Surprise and delight

Just like I did by offering a free management period to my landlord, adding something extra can make a big difference.

This could be a handwritten note of apology, a bunch of flowers, or even a partial refund of your fee.

These gestures show that you are committed to making things right.

5. Follow up

After resolving the issue, follow up later to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome.

This step reinforces your commitment to their satisfaction and can help rebuild trust.

Mistakes provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate your dedication to your clients.

In fact, it’s when we make mistakes that we often have this chance to surprise and delight them in a way they would never have expected.

When you handle them well, these situations can highlight your problem-solving skills, customer service excellence, and genuine care for your clients.

Something they may not have experienced, if it wasn’t for your mistake.

This advice isn’t just for you as the owner of the rent roll though.

It’s for your whole team.

Encouraging a culture where team members feel empowered to address and rectify mistakes will make life easier for you.

For me, I’ve always given my team a “fix your stuff-ups budget”.

This means, if they make a mistake, and they can turn it around within a certain budget, they have my approval to spend some money to fix their mistake.

When I owned a retail business, this meant offering a free product, when we made a mistake.

When I owned my rent roll, this meant giving a month of management fees free, when we were late delivering a routine inspection report.

And in my current business, it means a full money back guarantee on our services.

By giving your team autonomy when fixing their mistakes, and even celebrating successes in handling those errors, you can motivate your team to strive for excellence, and never feel afraid of coming to you to tell you they’ve stuffed up.

Ultimately, it’s the way we handle mistakes that defines our relationships with clients.

Let’s be honest, it’s the way we handle mistakes with anyone that defines our relationships.

By addressing issues head-on and turning them into positive experiences, you can build long-lasting relationships based on trust.

Clients who see that you care about their concerns will be more likely to refer you, leave positive reviews, and remain loyal.

In property management, our ability to recover from mistakes can set us apart from the competition.

After all, we only lose a management when we make a mistake, or gain a management when our competitor makes a mistake.

So, next time something goes wrong, remember that it’s an opportunity in disguise.

Handle it with grace, and you might just turn a dissatisfied client into a raving fan.

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Ellen Bathgate

Ellen Bathgate is the founder of Rent Roll Starter, and helps rent roll owners to start and grow their own rent rolls using affordable growth strategies. For more information visit