Although the list of available technology continually grows in property management as we automate to get more productive, it should not replace human communication. Here are some tips on what you should say and when you should say it from Amy Sanderson.
Two-dimensional communications, such as text and email, are especially open to misunderstanding as they are essentially impersonal. Where there is a limited personal relationship there is also limited loyalty.
Thanks to modern technology, we can create more time for ourselves and our clients by automating many of our processes. This makes it possible to become a ‘relationship manager’.
You can’t always rely on the spoken word and documented evidence is critical; so to get the best of both worlds you should still build your business using technology to assist you to record information and use your words to execute actions and create rapport.
Seventy per cent of adults who know how to read and write don’t comprehend what they read and write. If someone does not understand what you communicate, the problem is yours, not theirs. It needs to make sense to them. The purpose of this article is to give you some pointers and scripts on improving your communication to achieve greater loyalty in your customer base.
TONALITY AND BODY LANGUAGE
Sometimes a meeting or a phone call is beneficial to support your written message, confirming it is understood.
- Consider how you say things – do you sound welcoming?
- Consider your body language – is it open?
- How is the other person receiving your information?
A little saying from our mums: ‘You have two ears and one mouth – use them in that ratio.’ We need to make a conscious effort to listen to what our clients want and need and deliver on that.
Do you ask clients how and when they would like you to communicate with them? What do they expect from you? Everyone is different and how they want you to communicate varies from person to person. Listen to them!
Before discussing rental arrears, check first whether the tenant has paid. Give them the benefit of the doubt. You could say, ‘We haven’t received your rent; are you able to confirm whether you paid it or not, please?’
If there seems to be a problem, you can add something like, ‘You can download your rental ledger from our website. Let’s compare what payments have been made and what has been received.’
You may need to explain the ledger to them and point out the importance of meeting their payments each month. ‘Not paying your rent on time could impact your housing situation now and later.’
RENTAL REVIEWS AND LEASE RENEWALS
Discuss the points below with owners first, before you email:
- Return on investment and security of tenure
- Keep rents at or just below market value
- Some insurance policies are void once a lease goes periodic
- Confirm instructions in writing
- Discuss with tenants
- Avoid implied leases
- Lease renewal offers need an expiration date.
Are you delivering the number you promise on your management authorities If not, catch up fast – this is a big liability risk. Here are the conversations you should be having:
- Tenants on what you are looking at and why
- Access details
- Owners might want to attend with you. Check with them, perhaps once a year.
- Repair form
- Feedback to owners and tenants – written or by phone
- Repairs and maintenance – past and current
- Lease terms/rent review
- Property compliance
REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE
Once a tenant tells you (or reception, or anyone in the office) about any repairs or maintenance issues, it is deemed you have been advised, whether it’s in writing or not. Then you need to act on the situation.
- Emergency – do it
- Speak to the owner/refer to the authority
- Is it a risk to the tenant if you don’t act?
- Qualified tradespeople/get estimates in writing
- Advise owner/tenant once arranged
- Follow up until complete and keep all parties informed
- If no action is to be taken, advise the tenant – call them and send written explanation too.
Think about the following conversations around vacates:
- Pre-vacating preparation/expectations/wear and tear/damage
- Offer both parties the opportunity to inspect and compare to the ingoing
- Discuss results with owner/tenant
- Opportunity to rectify
- Discuss claim with all parties
- Make claim for what has been discussed or discuss again
- Use local tribunal should you not come to an agreement.
And now for some scripts to help you on your way!
COMPLIANCE: MINIMISE RISK
Conversations you should have around the non-negotiables, think of the ‘what ifs’ and how you would manage the situation if it happened:
- What if a tenant abandons a property and leaves damage?
- What if a property burns down and the smoke alarm didn’t go off?
- What if a toddler drowns and the pool fencing wasn’t compliant?
- What if there is a flood?
Script: ‘Mr/s Investor, there are certain items that need to be addressed within a rental home to ensure it is compliant. We need to discuss items such as insurance, fire alarms, blind cords, safety switches, pools, and so on. These are areas where we need to work with qualified people to ensure everything is up to standard. If we don’t use a qualified professional and something goes wrong at the property, you and your tenant could be exposed to unnecessary risk and litigation. We also need to discuss the possibility of additional tax deductions for you.’
This is an opening to talk about the different companies with whom you have a relationship.
Script: ‘While we can’t recommend anyone in particular, many other clients have used XYZ and have been very happy. Here are their contact details, but you should also make your own enquiries.’
Sometimes a client refuses to consider the use of qualified professionals for compliance items, or repairs for that matter.
Script: ‘Unfortunately we can’t test or install these items as we are not qualified. Again, if something was to go wrong we all could be held liable. Speak to your current insurer and ask them about the potential risk of not having these items addressed by a qualified professional and see what they say.’ In order to have a loan approved you must have building insurance at least, so the client always has an insurance company they can check with.
You should also have a conversation with your tenants about contents insurance. It would be best practice to include this in your lease’s additional terms.
Script: ‘The tenant’s personal effects are not covered by any insurance policy of the landlord or of the strata plan. It is strongly advised that you ensure you have adequate insurance cover for your belongings.’
WOW: MAXIMISE RETURN
Wow your clients with calls that can make them money, not cost them.
Script: ‘Tax time is coming up – have you had a quantity surveyor complete a report on your property? They are qualified to depreciate items your accountant isn’t and have saved some of our other clients thousands; may we arrange it for you?’
Script: ‘Have you had someone discuss your mortgage with you recently? May we introduce you to someone who has saved other clients on their current mortgage and worked on financing them into another property?’
WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY?
Be polite and listen. Hear what people are saying to you and confirm your understanding.
When you agree to act, do as you say. Confirm it in writing and follow it up until complete.
And best of all, remember to smile. I was once told you can hear a smile on the phone; I have tested this theory and found it to be correct!