We had moved from Chicago to Carmel Indiana with expectations of starting a family and getting settled. We decided to rent first and explore the area before we buy. I won’t go into all the details of the situation, but we rented a 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment. Now, get ready to have your skin cringe when I tell you that in just over a year we had close to 40 maintenance issues – ranging from an air conditioner and furnace which wouldn’t function to faulty wiring that would spark and smoke when you turned the light off. And those are just the minor issues.
My wife and I are positive people, so we kept thinking with each thing they fixed, it would be the end of the chaos. But, what we learned was the reality of the definition of insanity, which is hoping it will get better when in reality, nothing is changing.
One day, I stepped outside on our balcony
to get some fresh air and it was wobbly.
Come to find out a few more wobbles and I would be on the ground, two stories below, it was that unstable. It ended up being a city violation that they had never properly addressed. It took multiple calls to get the problem fixed because no one wanted to take responsibility for it properly getting fixed. Each person we talked too would say all of the right things, “we are so sorry, we will make sure it gets fixed right away.” Except they didn’t, they just let us fall through the cracks and no one wanted to take the time to make sure it was quickly and properly fixed. When it finally got fixed we were promised we would not have any more experiences like that.
Did they get better? NO.
We were basically forced to move because things just kept getting worse. Our hot water heater would break multiple times a month and our toilet would flush by it self and had such a significant leak that it resulted in extremely high water bills. Neither of these issues were fixed in one, two, or even three calls. When the property management company found out what I do for a living they asked me not to disparage their company. Which as a professional I would never call out a specific company. I don’t need to trash another business to build my own. But I found it extremely interesting that instead of trying to get better and learn from their mistakes their solution was to try and brush it under the rug, hide it, and keeping going on making the same mistakes and providing the same sub-par service.
Now, you might think we moved into a thousand year old apartment that was a fixer upper. Nope, we moved into a beautiful place in an incredible location, but despite all that, the attitude of the company was all wrong. And it all starts with attitude.
The positive is now I can share the experience with other property management groups as what not to do and these groups can use my experience to improve and grow their own companies. I had no idea that my experience would turn into a profit and positive for my wife and I and so many others. It wasn’t fun at the time, but property management groups hire me year after year to come back and talk with their company staff and share fresh ideas on how to build business, service customers and go to the next level with their goals.
Now, let me highlight, we did not ask for 40 maintenance issues or do anything to be treated poorly. We were always polite and tried to be understanding when we raised our concerns because we wanted good service. But when you have poor leadership, that becomes the culture and the brand. It is what you become known for.
Let me share a few ideas that will bring a ton of value to your property management organization. Some seem simple and small, but in reality they are huge.
- High internal turnover is never a good sign. If you have high turnover, it means people are not connecting with leadership or finding purpose in what they are doing. If they are doing a poor job from the get go, then the hiring process needs to be worked on. If you want to cut costs, then you need to cut turn over. One of a companies single largest expenses is training new people, and if people are continually leaving after a short time you are losing time and money. When an employee doesn’t feel valued or challenged or is not given the tools or power to do their job they will leave for something better. And if they feel that way and stick around you can be confident they are not doing a great job or providing quality service.
- Customer service is everyone’s job. When you have maintenance guys driving around on a golf cart around the property and they drive past a tenant, teach them to be friendly and smile. Teach everyone the fundamentals of common sense customer service. This should come from the top down. It is every single persons job to provide great service. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to this topic of customer service. If you consistently apply the basics of good customer service, everybody wins.
Conflict is an opportunity to build loyalty. We had so many issues with our apartment, that pretty soon everyone was passing the buck and didn’t want the headache of dealing with the conflict. Step up and own the conflict and do some math regarding the situation. Not every situation is identical. For example, if they had said, “Hey, we would like to give you a month’s worth of rent and a gift card to a nice dinner”, they could have had more issues and we would have been fine as long as they were fixed. But, they would not return our calls and when they did it was some new person who would say, “We are sorry for your experience. (Pause) We will do better next time. We want you to have a good experience” Just as if they were reading the company handbook written by a room full of lawyers. Heck, Siri talks to me with more emotion!
If you want better business, then you have to get better. When I speak at leadership events for property management groups, the reason they have me back is I light a fire in people’s hearts not under their butts. If you want to raise excellence, you start by raising how people care and connecting them to something that brings them purpose and excitement. Have you ever noticed people who care and love what they do end up providing the best service and are the most productive? Change the location of where you lite a fire.
Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. If you tell someone you will email them by 3:00 PM it should not be 3:01. They should not have to follow up with you on what the situation is. By following through and being a person of your word, it builds trust. Even if you don’t have the answer they want, communication will help build trust that you are doing everything you can. To build better business, you need trust. People buy from those they trust. If you say you will do something, then own it and do it.
Always offer the surprise of extra effort. Simple things like offering a discount or gift card can help turn around a poor experience. Go the extra mile to give good service. If you have to go into someones home to fix something make sure you are efficient, clean up your mess in full, and look for opportunities to go the extra mile. Offer to change a light bulb in a hard to reach place or hang a picture that is sitting on the floor.
Excellent customer service and experiences start with attitude and attitude filters from the top down. My experience may have been negative but it has helped countless organizations improve their businesses which has resulted in even more people getting great service and having better experiences then I did. That knowledge makes everything I went through worth it and I am excited to help even more organizations grow and achieve their goals by providing excellent customer service every time, all the time.
Sam Glenn is an award winning keynote speaker and is often the highest rated speaker at every conference he speaks at. If you are looking for an uplifting speaker that your audience will absolutely love and gain value from, then contact Sam Glenn’s office about booking him. – Sam@samGlenn.com