Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10 Ways to Keep “Customers” Happy

In any business, customer service is the key to success. That's certainly true in the world of property management, where happy “customers” (residents/customers) stay longer, take better care of their units, and even refer friends and colleagues your way. In other words, a little bit of resident/customer happiness can translate into less turnover (with fewer empty units), lower maintenance costs, and word-of-mouth marketing. Plus, when everyone's happy, the atmosphere around your community improves, too. For vendors in the property management service industry, the same rules apply. A satisfied “customer” is a happy customer.
How do you keep residents/customers happy and satisfied?

1. Pay attention to what actually matters to residents/customers. As strange as it might sound, many don't actually realize what their residents/customers really want. Get in the habit of keeping your ear to the ground and you'll develop a sense for which issues and concerns are most important.

2. Get in the habit of answering questions and returning messages promptly. For many residents/customers, feeling ignored is even worse than getting a rude or unsatisfactory answer to their questions. Being quick and attentive with your responses is an easy way to build trust and keep residents/customers satisfied.

3. Get good at keeping track of details. Often, it isn't that anyone intentionally ignores a resident/customer, but that different questions or concerns "fall through the cracks," especially in regard to small maintenance concerns or minor questions. Use a good filing or note-taking system that ensures you'll remember details and follow up on them as needed.

4. Be up-front with what you can do and what you can't do. If something really is out of your control, don't be afraid to let residents/customers know. They might not like the answer, but they'll usually appreciate your honesty if you can explain why you're unable to resolve the situation. Being up-front with everything works with everyone. This way, there are no surprises!

5. Allow customers to make suggestions anonymously. Sometimes, there are certain questions or concerns that people want to raise privately, or without giving their name at all. By having a suggestion box or other anonymous reporting tool, residents/customers can tell you about sensitive issues in a confidential way.

6. Be a better listener. No one likes the feeling of not being heard or paid attention to, and yet most of us don't practice active listening as often as we should. Become a better listener and you'll automatically become a better owner/manager/service business (and possibly a better, more likable person at the same time).

7. Learn to see both sides of a problem. There are going to be times when you feel at odds with a resident/customer, or will have to sit through an argument about policies, repairs, etc. Instead of following nature’s first instinct and becoming defensive, give the other person a chance to speak and then consider their position. Even if you don't agree with them, you might be able to find a good middle ground.

8. Give customers the benefit of the doubt. As the saying goes, the customer might not always be right, but they are still the customer. Make small concessions when necessary; it's usually better to lose the battle if it saves a good business relationship.

9. Get in the habit of taking responsibility. One of the biggest symptoms of poor customer service is that no one feels technically responsible for anything; for some, fixing a problem is always someone else's fault. Get in the habit of becoming accountable, and be the kind of person who can either give solutions or find them. A good tenant/customer service team is a collection of people who take responsibility!

10. Make customer appreciation a real, and regular, part of your business. Sometimes, people spend a lot more time trying to attract new customers than working to keep current ones. A little bit of genuine customer appreciation goes a long way, so make it a regular part of your business.

In a lot of ways, providing great customer service and keeping customers happy comes down to simply treating residents/customers the way you would want to be treated. That's a relatively easy guideline to follow, but it's also one that can make an enormous difference!