EPMEPM: First Person

Problem Personalities: Debbie Palmer

For most, handling difficult tenants or landlords is part of the job. However, changing the way we communicate can turn a dispute into a win-win situation. Debbie Palmer explains.

Across the nation we are collectively known as property managers – but we should be more aptly known as people managers or relationship managers. Properties don’t complain, get angry or fail to follow through on requests, but tenants and landlords sometimes do.

Managing difficult clients is all about understanding relationships, and people’s emotions and behaviours. More often than not, an angry outburst is not a personal attack on your ability as property manager but stems from the tenant or landlord’s own fear, concern or frustration.

As property managers we need to understand the needs of our clients. Landlords want their property cared for and feel like they are receiving a maximum return on their investment, with all their needs, worries and concerns taken care of. Tenants want to feel respected, that we care and act promptly on their requests.

Get that right and we will have fewer difficult tenants and landlords.

Dealing with difficult clients is about defusing the situation, putting yourself in their shoes, moderating your voice, learning the art of truly listening, having empathy, caring about them, reassuring them that the matter is important and that you are going to work towards a solution to ensure all parties are happy.

One of my favourite books is Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. It may not sound like a business learning book, but it really helped me in managing relationships on all levels, whether it be personal or professional.

The majority of landlords and tenants consider property managers rude, and as an industry we need to turn this around.

Managing a personal relationship is no different from managing business relationships. It is all about managing the needs and wants of the people we connect with to achieve the desired outcome of making the other party feel valued and important.

Often when we are faced with a difficult client it is not about us, or what we have done or not done, but how they are feeling at the time. Don’t take it personally, but learn ways of turning the situation around.

Following are a few scripts and phrases to use when dealing with a difficult tenant or landlord:

  1. ‘Thank you for drawing this to my attention’ or ‘I apologise that you have had to raise this matter with me’
  2. ‘I would feel the same’ or ‘I would be annoyed as well’
  3. ‘I understand your concerns’
  4. ‘I will look into the matter as a priority and get back to you’ or ‘I will resolve this for you and let you know’
  5. ‘This is an important matter’ or ‘I will make this a priority to take action and resolve the matter’

Turning a difficult tenant or landlord’s perception around is about CARE – ‘Clients Are Really Everything’ – or the hospitality rule ‘Clients are always right’. Yes, they may not be right, but the win/win is to make them feel you care.

The majority of landlords and tenants consider property managers rude, and as an industry, we need to turn this around. Caring about your clients is the simplest tip to define your agency from your competitors.

If you have effectively communicated with the tenant or landlord and they are still being difficult, you could use the following close statements:

6. ‘What would you like me to do?’ or ‘What can I do to make you happy?’ or ‘What would you like us to do, while being fair to all parties, to resolve the matter for you?’

If you look at every conversation with a mindset of ‘This is a secret survey challenge to see if I can turn this situation around to produce a happy client’, I guarantee your communication perception will change.

Of course, much more than a few scripts and dialogues is needed to manage difficult tenants and landlords. However, this should get you started on how to communicate more effectively, defuse the situation and create win/win outcomes.

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