Communication – getting it right

Posted 29 July 2019


Communication

Even with the combined 80 years of experience within the group, we often take a step back and reflect on the question every managing agent should ask themselves - ‘are we getting it right?’ We believe the answers should come from our residents.

So what does ‘getting it right’ mean for them?

Property managers often go above and beyond, taking care of residents when unforeseen circumstances occur, or needs must be met despite short timelines or budgets. Still, it is important for managing agents to take on board the fact that change is necessary – especially since the increasing influence of social media and online review sites. In the words of a famous brand’s strapline “every little helps” – which, when created was actually intended to be a brand message used internally for staff to remind them that every little thing said or done matters! Turns out that it was such a successful message the company adopted it as a brand strapline, used in all forms of marketing. It’s a very worthy statement, as even the tiniest comment can be unintentionally taken the wrong way and if you don’t deal with it swiftly then you’re definitely ‘getting it wrong’.

So before we take a look at what we do, here’s our top tips:

Create engagement opportunities

Whether you’re sending a text, an email or a physical mailing make sure your content is:

Purposeful: Content should provide timely, relevant information that motivates residents to take action (immediately complete the survey or schedule payment via the online portal).

Easy to read: Short concise sentences that get right to the point respect the recipients time and ensure understanding.

Be realistic: Your resident has an emergency, what do you promise? No matter what, you must to be forthright and accurate with your residents. Never promise beyond what you can deliver.

An emergency + unrealistic expectations = disappointment and frustration for residents

Build a Sense of Community

A true sense of community can really keep residents staying longer. If they feel like they belong in their estate and they are friends with people who live and work there, they’re much more likely to remain. Property management companies that build a sense of community will help themselves and their residents, which is why promoting AGMs and other on-site meetings is important.

Make regular checks with your residents

Don’t just say you’ll make regular site visits – commit to them. Whilst this won’t be remembered as a ‘wow’, one missed visit suddenly becomes a big issue which can be easily avoided. Plan and schedule visits carefully, don’t be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Establish open and honest communication

Property managers should aim to communicate with all residents who need them, not just the ones who want to talk to you, to ensure everyone is kept fully informed. Listen to the good, the bad and the ugly on a real-time basis to make the best decisions, based on their concerns and what’s practically possible – again don’t over promise!

Thanks

A little thanks goes a long way. It’s always good to receive a nice comment (as seen in the resident letter below), but all residents need to know they are valued. A lot of managing agents state “we’ll look after your property as if it’s our own” – a big promise that could actually turn out to be negative after all, not everyone looks after their own home well! Being realistic and genuine counts for so much more.

And now, what do we do?

For us, we feel that our residents have every opportunity to tell us if we’re getting it right (or not). After all, we’re available via regional offices and head office during working hours, and we have a 24/7 emergency service should they need it, they are provided with a survey twice a year so that they can have their say anonymously, and of course we maintain a presence on the ground with regular site visits so that each property gets to know the face of their property manager. Because we believe that good and regular communication is the bedrock of our relationship with residents, we often ask them “are we doing ok?”.

But is it enough to just ask this question, and do we really act on the answers we receive? It’s something well worth reviewing from time to time, as some key pointers will come out of it, you may find some areas for improvement, and also some good news, such as this snippet from one of our long-term residents in Tramway Court, London, sent to our property manager Louise.

Dear Louise

Thank you for your recent email about Tramway Court, you provide such a first-class service, we never have any complaints about you or Remus Management. Thank you for arranging the recent moss treatment and yesterday (July 4th 2019) Jessop replaced a missing roof tile. Thank you for your kind comments about the area at the rear of the garage complex, the weeds in the area have to be regularly sprayed to keep them down and up to now it’s working. I agree that when the new fence is installed it will look a lot better than it had ever done in the past when it became a general dumping ground for some residents which I had to regularly dispose of. Happy to chat to you about other matters on your next visit.

Yours sincerely
James A. Chalmers

On the face of it, this letter is clearly from a happy customer and could just be filed as such – a job well done. However, there are key points that can be taken on board, that help to continuously improve and ‘get it right’:

Just because this resident (of 14 years) “never has any complaints” – should not make us complacent. That statement could easily be reversed should any property manager take their foot off the pedal.

“Thank you for your kind comments…” reflects the good relationship this property manager has with residents, reinforcing that communication goes both ways. It’s important to listen, but also to give back genuine thanks where due.

“…when the new fence is installed it will look a lot better than it had ever done in the past…” clearly demonstrates an on-going relationship. Just like any relationship, it takes work to maintain and grow it, something that can be overlooked when things are going well.

Food for thought.


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