Last modified on April 26th, 2016
By Bryan Ives
Some tenants seem to think property managers sit around waiting for a problem to pop up. Fix a leaking water closet at two o’clock in the morning? No problem. Calm the crying babies, paste up the drooping wall paper, and banish the sand fleas instantly from the pet park. Right?
Whenever a complication develops, residents expect property managers to answer the phone and find a solution pronto. What residents don’t understand is that property managers aren’t sitting around waiting for a problem to pop up. Most of the time they are overseeing daily tasks to prevent problems before they occur.
True, property management isn’t a nine-to-five job, but no one should be expected to work 24/7. There are some “temporary upsets” that simply don’t warrant calling the manager in the middle of the night.
Managers wish residemts would exercise some discretion when deciding what is urgent and what can wait.
In a real emergency situation, every tenant should be able to reach a management team member. Incidents involving water damage, fire, security issues and similar maladies demand prompt attention to prevent further property damage.
Every property has unique workflow patterns. For some managers, early morning is the best time to call to arrange pest service or schedule an appliance repair. As one property manager put it, “Calling early allows the property team to work maintenance requests into the daily schedule – making sure the tenant gets a faster response”. Calling five minutes before five on a Friday to book the clubhouse for Saturday morning is typically not the best time to call.
Delaying the call until it is convenient for the resident can create extra burdens for property managers. If you discover a problem with the dishwasher on Wednesday, but don’t contact the maintenance team until your next day off, you could delay service unnecessarily. Since many contractors charge extra for night and weekend services, chances are the property will spend more for weekend repairs. Ordering parts can also create special challenges.
The after-hours call service is an extension of the property management team, but . . . Many properties contract with a management service that provides a 24 hour call center. Call center personnel are trained to answer simple questions about accessing resident portals, pool hours, and property rules. Call center staff relay urgent messages immediately and hold non-emergency questions according to pre-established protocol. Calling back every fifteen minutes to complain about the neighbor’s dog barking or the pulsating security light won’t expedite a return call.
Customer service is important, but it doesn’t relieve tenants of personal responsibility. Rules prevent chaos. Delivering exceptional customer service doesn’t mean managers should bend the rules – in fact, consistency is a key component of exceptional customer service. Take the case of a tenant who fails to pay their utility bill and can’t get into his apartment because your property uses electronic key cards. Even though he is locked out until he can get service restored, this situation isn’t an emergency that property managers must address.
Stop Wishing and Start Solving
So what’s a property manager to do in these situations? Stop wishing your residents knew what to do in these circumstances and start solving the problems.
- Adopt call standards and publish contact information with hours of availability.
- Be consistent. Residents will appreciate it and everyone will have the same expectations.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. If you haven’t already set up text messaging and email broadcasts to give residents prior notice about utility interruptions or upcoming property-wide policy changes, this is a great time to explore your options.
- Save money on after-hours repairs by improving your bidding and contracting policies. Third-party vendor contracts often save money in the long run.
- Review your after-hours call technology. Whether you use an answering machine or a call center, make sure callers know when to expect a return call.
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