Last modified on June 24th, 2020
By Brittany Benz
Customer service has always been pivotal in property management. Based on a 2019 report by AppFolio in partnership with John Burns Real Estate Consulting, the number one goal for property management companies was to deliver excellent service to customers. Today’s consumers have high expectations when it comes to interacting with your property management company. Not only do they expect to be able to complete tasks quickly and remotely via digital technology, they also want to feel valued and well cared for.
However, unforeseen circumstances, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can get in the way of delivering great service and make it harder to maintain that human connection with residents. As more businesses transition to digital technology and self-service options, you’ll have to think of new ways to impress your customers and stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips to overcome tough situations and still provide a great customer experience:
Add a Human Touch
As you’re relying on virtual tools to carry out operations and meet your customers’ needs, it’s important to not forget about the human element that goes into customer service. Innovative technologies that allow prospects to view units virtually and residents to pay rent online can start to feel cold and distant without personalization.
One company, Cambridge Management Group, has used AppFolio’s AI leasing assistant, Lisa to maintain a personal touch from the first point of contact. Far from a typical robot, Lisa follows up with every lead using personable and thoughtful language. Using this type of AI technology has given the team at Cambridge more time to focus on providing higher levels of service to serious leads and build relationships with their current residents.
“[AppFolio has] definitely made life a lot easier and set aside a whole set of challenges that we haven’t had to deal with through this whole time, so that we can focus on the people aspect at the heart.”— Kayla Röeder, Chief Operating Officer, Cambridge Management Group
Other ways you can humanize your customer experience include sending personalized emails or text messages, creating custom communications, such as a weekly newsletter, and offering virtual ways to stay connected, such as a digital book club or community happy hour.
Anticipate Their Needs
One of the best ways to level up your customer service is to anticipate your residents’ needs before they even have to ask. For instance, if you have a resident with a lease renewal coming up, consider proactively reaching out to them via text message or email to see if they’d like to renew, along with offering them a way to quickly and efficiently renew their lease online using digital tools.
Another great example is reopening communal amenities after a closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this situation, you can anticipate customers’ needs by communicating your plan early and clearly, so your residents know exactly if and when they can use the pool, gym, or dog park. Having a complete software platform that enables you to communicate with your residents in just a few clicks can make it easier for you to maintain transparency and keep everyone informed day-by-day.
Readdress Previous Concerns
In times of disruption, temporarily pausing non-emergency services may be necessary. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have paused repairs as necessary to keep your residents, staff, and technicians safe. However, residents will expect their maintenance requests to be handled eventually. When you are able resume operations, spend some time reevaluating the repairs you put on hold and map out a plan of action. Mobile communication tools available within AppFolio can streamline communications and keep your residents informed on the status of their request. If your team is ready to complete the repair, then clearly communicate your updated safety policies with your residents, maintenance technicians, and vendors — and provide detailed instructions for everyone to follow.
If your residents have made complaints that you still haven’t gotten around to, be sure to spend some time reading and responding to each one thoughtfully, no matter the concern. In a January 2020 survey, AppFolio asked renters from across the country if they were satisfied with their property management company. Only half reported they were satisfied. When asked why, those who were dissatisfied listed long response times for maintenance requests as the primary reason. By responding to their request in a timely manner, you will show them you care, and as a result they will be more satisfied with your company and want to stay in your community.
Continue to Provide Resources & Support
As a property manager, the relationship you have with your residents is key to the success of your business. Providing helpful resources to your residents via email, newsletter, or an Online Portal can strengthen their trust in your team. Consider creating a list of resources that would be relevant to your community. Here are a few of the things you could cover:
- Financial assistance programs
- Current CDC health and safety guidelines
- Local restaurants serving takeout or hosting outdoor dining
- Kids activities to do while social distancing
- Ways to get involved and engage with the community while staying safe
Along with resources, you can also share your team’s experience, what you’ve learned, and how you’ve overcome challenges. If you’re open and honest with your residents, they’ll be more encouraged to share their own experience and connect with you on a personal level. In addition, ask for feedback and ideas through online surveys on what your team can do to improve and enhance their experience.
While technology has made our lives easier and allowed for greater efficiency, it has also revealed the need to maintain a human connection. Providing your customers with mobile tools is only half of the recipe for great customer service — you also have to proactively reach out, anticipate their needs, and show your support on a daily basis. With all of these things combined, you build strong relationships and create an experience that is unforgettable.