EPMEPM: Customer Service

Task or Portfolio Manager

Stacey Holt from Real Estate Excellence looks at the pro’s and con’s of both methods of department operations.

In recent years, task management instead of portfolio management has become popular. This may have occurred for a number of reasons, such as increasing legislation and demand for increased services from clients. It may also have occurred due to risk management.

Of the many agencies I have had the privilege of working with over the years, most have had traditional portfolio management with a touch of task. Many successful agencies have created separate roles for leasing, new business and general routine inspections.

Some task operational businesses are now returning to portfolio management. Why?
One of the most common complaints from landlord clients is, ‘Who is managing my property?’ as the tasks are divided among different team members. For task management to really work, the tasks have to be so defined and streamlined as to allow for very little miscommunication.

Communication and systems are most certainly the keys. The trouble with task management is that one staff member may speak to the landlord about maintenance, another about accounts and then another about lease renewals. This can be a source of frustration for landlords when they ask the lease renewal task manager about a maintenance issue and he or she is unable to answer. Sufficient file notes can alleviate the problem; however, there is still an element of doubt in the landlord’s mind as to the overall management of their investment. It takes a lot of explanation for them to understand how the task business operates and how it does benefit them. Most of us, as consumers, are so busy; we would prefer to deal with one client manager who knows our business than three or more who can only answer in part.

It is certainly not being suggested that task management does not work in today’s real estate operation. To be successful, however, it must be a very smooth, well-defined operation. Each team member has to understand that although leasing is their role, they may well need to assist a landlord or tenant when it comes to maintenance, for example, instead of saying ‘themaintenance manager will call you back’. This may well be needed sometimes, due to the specifics of some cases; however, my point is the attitude and service provided to the landlord must be ‘we are all managing your investment’, rather than ‘that is not my department’.

Portfolio management has long been my preferred way of managing property; however, it is not without its own pitfalls and dangers. There have been a handful of cases where portfolio managers ‘hid’ problems within their portfolio, and they only came to light some time later after they had left the business. I must say I don’t believe many of these case were intentional, but more due to lack of knowledge, confidence, education and negotiation skills.

Portfolio management with a splash of task is ideal for most operations, depending on their own business goals and size. If an agency is serious about expansion and has a business plan for growth, a Business Development Manager is an ideal investment. It can be said that leasing is a specialised role that requires a great deal of time management and selling skills. For some businesses, combining the leasing and new business role is ideal; the roles complement each other.

Administration assistance is a must for most businesses today; there are so many administration tasks in property management that could be handled by a capable assistant or personal assistant to the property manager. Property managers should be just that: managers. They should actually be called people managers, given that a large part of the role is the management of landlords, tenants, and third parties such as contractors.

There are many critical factors needed for either model to succeed, such as:

  • Job descriptions for all staff
  • Key performance indicators
  • Weekly meetings, and
  • Regular reporting.

These are key matters that should be part of the business.

One of the key factors, regardless of the model used by a Property Management Real Estate business, is the reminder to staff of what really is the focus of our business: customer service. Property is almost an afterthought.

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