EPMEPM: Customer Service

What Tenants Want

As simple as it sounds, one of the most common complaints made by tenants is that their Property Manager does not return their calls.

With the low vacancy rates enjoyed by investors and Property Managers alike over recent years some may say,Who cares what tenants want?” Although there may be plenty more tenants in the sea and no need to offer gym memberships, plasma TVs or whitegoods as incentives to tenants anymore, it would be wise to continue to consider what tenants want and meet their desires as best we can. After all, tenants are an important component of the leasing transaction and unhappy tenants can make for very unhappy landlords and Property Managers. And without tenants we have empty properties!

Keep in mind the theory, a happy customer will share the experience with others, however, an unhappy customer (or this case, tenant) will tell of their experience to anyone who will listen. A real estate office’s reputation can be adversely affected if they have unhappy tenants telling their tales to everyone in the area.

There’s never a better compliment to your skills as a Property Manager than when a tenant becomes a landlord and gives you the management of their properties. It is testament to the courtesy and professionalism you’ve displayed as a Property Manager. Consider how many of your tenants you feel would happily provide you with management of their property should they become investors. And consider how many referrals you may be losing if you can’t think of any tenants who might have nice things to say about you as a Property Manager.

Respect and Customer Service
If you can get this right the rest should come easy. Tenants want to be given the respect and courtesy that is given to anyone else who walks in the door of a real estate office, be they a buyer, vendor or landlord.

As anyone who has moved house recently would agree, moving house is right up there with one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. At a time like this tenants no doubt want, and need, understanding, compassion and generally good customer service from their Property Manager. Throughout the tenancy is it only fair for a tenant to receive ongoing good customer service.

I have often heard Property Managers and Directors say things such as we have the worst tenants,the tenants in this area are awful, our tenants have no idea”. One thing tenants certainly don’t want is to be treated poorly and bundled into a stereotype.

The most important part of customer service is to return phone calls. As simple as it sounds, one of the most common complaints made by tenants is that their Property Manager does not return their calls. It should be a goal of every Property Manager to return calls within the day, in fact it should be office policy.

Fair Rent
It goes without saying that no one wants to pay more than they need to pay for rent. Rents should be in line with current market conditions and increases kept reasonable. Rents should certainly never be increased on a property with outstanding maintenance matters – there’s no better way to upset a tenant than to increase their rent when they’ve been waiting months for the dishwasher to be repaired.

Options and Something Extra
Options, options, options, you don’t get many options as a tenant – you get the house you inspected (no upgrade options), you pay the rent advertised, you sign the lease with all its standard clauses provided by the agent. Then they tell you that you must pay your rent during banking hours, at a bank located 20 minutes drive away, while standing on your head. The paying of rent, in most cases the biggest bill a tenant will pay for the month, should have options, flexibility and most of all be secure. Tenants want options, give them B-pay, Australia Post, direct debit, phone and internet, credit card. And you can give them all these options on one card which also gives something extra, something they didn’t expect – savings and discounts. Give them discounts on everyday items such as petrol and groceries, discounts on dining out, even accommodation discounts when planning their next family holiday. (See corumrealestate.com.au for more information and details).

Working Order
It’s simple really, they want things to work. Tenants want their repairs attended to and everything in the home to be in working order. This surely is not an unfair request. If a landlord is not willing to carry out repairs it should be considered whether the management of this property is worth keeping. The potential negative repercussions and extra time spent on a poorly maintained property may far out way the benefits of keeping the management.

It’s cheaper to keep a tenant than to find a new one even when you take into account the letting fee, vacancies can be costly and eat into your margins. And if all it takes is a house in good order, fair rent, good customer service and flexible payment options then we should all expect long and pleasant tenancies. A happy tenant tends to also look after the property better so you should have less maintenance and ‘wear and tear’ matters.

Kellie’s 7 Rules of Customer Service

  1. Answer your phone
  2. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver on
  3. Listen
  4. Deal with complaints
  5. Be helpful
  6. Take the extra step
  7. Throw in something extra

Kellie Bishop is the Human Resources Manager at L J Hooker Rowville.

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