Start Saying “Yes!” : Customer Service Tips for the Property Manager.

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Property management is not a career for shy people or those who can’t stomach confrontations.  No matter how good you are at screening tenants or building a good rapport, there are some tough moments.

At my company, we’ve developed some guidelines to help deal with situations like a tenant not being able to pay rent, an owner unwilling to make a repair, or a general disagreement on how a situation should be handled.   Here’s an example of how they work.

1.  When you say “No” they stop listening

TENANT: “I am not paying my rent, because the owner took three days to fix my stove when it stopped working. That was the landlord’s fault, and because I had to have no stove, he gets to have no rent!” (Believe it or not, this is a true story)

MANAGER: “No, that’s not how it works. The law provides a certain amount of time in which repairs must be carried out.  The owner completed the work within 3 days and the law allowed 14 days.”

Right around the  “No” in this response, the tenant  stopped listening as he heard all that he needed to know, and that was you dont agree.  He stopped listening and started preparing a rebuttal. Here’s a better way to handle this:

TENANT: “I am not paying my rent, because the owner took three days to fix my stove when it stopped working. That was the landlord’s fault, and because I had to have no stove, he gets to have no rent!”

MANAGER: Yes, I understand not having a stove can be frustrating. That must have been difficult for you to not be able to cook at home, especially considering you have children. Let’s look at what the lease and discuss what options are available to you, it would be my pleasure to help you solve this problem. I think the lease or the local statutes or laws will have the answer, wouldn’t you agree? (Yes).  Well then let’s look them up together and explore some options.

2.Instead, seek a connected relationship.

We didn’t say no, we got them to listen the entire time and we gave them a perspective that they understood and could relate to.  We are trying to create a connected relationship. We even got them to say yes!  In reality, we were able to resolve this by sending a $25 Subway gift card to the tenant and the tenant paid us a nice review online afterwards for being so cordial.

Here are nine other guidelines that we have developed over the years to provide tenants the best experience no matter what the situation might be.

  1. Ask for a commitment. “So you’ve said you want a place with x, y and z.  If we are able to give you that and stay within your price range, you’ll rent from us?”
  2. No negations.  Replace “but,” “however, “although”, “No”, and similar negations with “Yes, and” positive responses. (Ex. Yes, and I understand that can be frustrating”) The “yes” doesn’t even have to make sense. For example: TENANT: “In fact, I think you should pay me  or owe me money, and if you don’t pay, I will contact the Better Business Bureau. MANAGER: Yes, I understand not having a stove can be frustrating. That must have been difficult for you to not be able to cook at home, especially considering you have children. Let’s look at what the lease and discuss what options are available to you, it would be my pleasure to help you solve this problem. I think the lease or the local statutes or laws will have the answer, wouldn’t you agree? (Yes).  Well then let’s look them up together and explore some options. (My company’s staff and I have exercises where we role play difficult situations and conversations where you are forbidden from using a negation. Try this, it’s rather fun!)
  3. Facts leading up to the conclusion work better than stating the conclusion first.
  4. Get them to say “yes”.  Saying “yes” to anything eventually leads to a yes to what you want later.
  5. Be a problem solver, not a rule enforcer.  “I really want to help you figure this out, let’s talk about  some options.”
  6. If you don’t believe what you are saying, how can you expect me to?
  7. Use psychological consistency to your advantage.  Telling yourself a bad situation is easily solved will make it easy.
  8. Laugh.  When you laugh, your brain works at top speed, your problem solving abilities improve and your IQ grows.
  9. Emotion, not information.  Don’t bog people down with facts.  They will respond to a connected relationship.

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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About Author

Brenton (G+) is a professional landlord and a serial real estate entrepreneur, with diplomas from Harvard Business School in Real Estate Management, and Entrepreneurial Development from Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT).

8 Comments

  1. Chris Clothier

    Brenton –

    Great article. I am a big believer of quality customer service so I appreciate the article and the practical advice. Figuring out a way to connect with that tenant as a landlord or property manager is huge!

    Good job -

  2. I agree — good job with an approach that sounds logical, esp. points 2, 3, 5. I’ll start using some of these suggestions myself.

  3. Brenton, I gotta know, did they teach you how to have connected relationships with your tenants at Harvard or MIT? Or was that from On the Job Training? Nice post, real estate is 99% about people!

  4. Very good points.
    A lot of landlords forget that our residents (Purposely didn’t say tenants) are customers that should be treated as such.
    They are also human beings that have a home that is also a property we own.
    Even if we don’t agree with things we have to respect that they have concerns about their home.

    One thing I did is print up a bunch of $10 off rent coupons that I give around the holidays and occasionaly if there is some maintenace thing that is an inconvience for them. Even if it is not my fault and take care of it timely it is a small price to pay for some good feelings.

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