Create a Pattern of Excellent Customer Service
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Customer service, on a base level, starts with a genuine desire to delight your customers. Marketers today are escorting customers further and further down the road to the sale so a majority of the responsibility to create an awesome customer experience falls on us. It starts the minute they begin their search for a new apartment home online and continues on from the day they move in until the day they move out. It is this cumulative experience that will shape your customers’ view of you and what you can do to make their lives and interactions with your community better.
1. Know Your Product/Service
I was doing some preliminary apartment shopping a few days ago for an old friend moving to DC. I called one community and was struck but how many obstacles we have put in the way of our leasing agents ability to do their job. My only question was “Do you have any apartments available for a May 1st move in?”. This agent had been trained very well and started asking me for my contact info. Since the apartment wasn’t for me, I had zero interest in divulging that. The agent stated that she couldn’t access the information I requested unless she completed a guest card…
Two takeaways here:
A. I’m concerned that she didn’t know her availability and is relying on a computer to tell her if there are any vacancies in the building.
B. Why would I want to give my contact info if you don’t even have what I’m looking for? It’s not a good trade. So who knows if that apartment community had what my friend needed or not…all I know is that we will not be visiting them tomorrow.
In order to provide outstanding customer service, your leasing agents MUST know what they’re selling, inside and out. They need to know what they have and when they have it. Make sure they also know how to use all the tools that you have given them. Have you ever called and asked your leasing agent to walk you through how to do an online application? Why not? If they can’t explain it to you, how are they going to explain it to a very impatient co-signer? Take note of the most common questions customers are asking on surveys and contact inquiry forms then train your employees on how you would like each of those questions to be answered. While you’re at it, write an FAQ blog post so customers can find the answers themselves.
“Easy self service *is* excellent customer service.” TWEET THIS
2. Be Friendly
As they say, customer service starts with a smile. This is easy to communicate when you are in face-to-face situations but is your online presence communicating the same warm greeting? Since we know your online marketing is typically the customer’s first impression, your marketing needs to deliver that same welcoming feeling. It’s also worth looking for some opportunities to show your company’s personality…or at least not take yourself so seriously! Whatever personality you decide to depict online should be the same that the customer can expect to feel when they walk through the door at your property. Make sure everyone on your team knows that being professional does not mean being a robot and that representing a luxury building does not mean being a snob. Everyone on the team needs to be ready to be friendly – to everyone.
3. Say Thank You
One of my favorite parts of every Wednesday is #Bufferchat sponsored by Buffer. It’s a collection of Marketing, PR, and Social Media professionals getting together to talk. After participating in a couple of chats, I received a package in the mail. It was a small gift and a hand written thank you note from a Buffer staff member. Gratitude is memorable. It is what will set you apart from 98% of your competition and it reminds your customers why they came to you in the first place. Regardless of your position, saying thank you after every transaction is one of the easiest ways to start a habit of good customer service.
4. Train Your Staff
Think about it: who has the most opportunity to interact with your residents? In our case, we noted that it was our maintenance team and our concierge. I’m sure you’ve trained your staff to be polite but have you trained and equipped your maintenance team to be able to provide the best experience? How about your cleaning staff and porters? We found that our porters, while cleaning the Fitness Center, were often asked how to operate the gym equipment TV’s. They didn’t know and this created an unnecessary point of frustration for residents. Now every member of our team knows how to operate every piece of equipment from the TVs on the gym equipment to the fireplace in the Clubroom.
ALL of your employees, not just your customer service representatives, should understand how they should talk to, interact with, and problem solve for your residents.
5. Show Respect
Once, when I worked onsite in Florida, we had this lady that called EVERY DAY with a maintenance request. It could be simultaneously mind numbing and maddening. Many times when our maintenance team would get there, they couldn’t identify or replicate the issue. One day, the resident called me to tell me there was an alligator in her breezeway. She lived on the THIRD floor. The sarcasm dripped off my voice and I know she could sense it. I repeatedly assured her it was anything but an alligator. Finally, after 13 minutes on the phone, I told her I would come and identify the source of the noise myself. I walked the couple of blocks to her building in the blazing hot afternoon sun, cursing her every step of the way, climbed the three stories to her floor and laid eyes on an enormous alligator chilling right outside of her apartment.
- I have never run so fast in my life
- I was wrong and in that moment a total jerk.
I forgot the number one rule of property management: we only have a job because of our residents. Our only job is to keep those residents happy.
Home is one of those words that evokes so much emotion. It’s no surprise that our residents can react so strongly to any notice or event involving their apartment or our delivery of service. It’s crucial that you and your team are empathetic to the fact that what may seem like a minor maintenance hiccup to you could, at the moment, be a legitimate crisis for your resident. Remember, you don’t know what is going on in their world; It might just be a clogged garbage disposal to you, but what if it’s the first time they are cooking dinner for the new love of their life? To you it’s just a clogged dryer vent, but on their end, the outfit they were going to wear to a very important job interview is left soaking wet. It’s always a big deal and should be addressed as such.
“Never let your own emotions overtake your desire to see your customer walk away happy.” TWEET THIS
Every customer service class teaches active listening. It’s one of the simplest secrets of customer service. Truly listening means hearing what your customers are saying when they are in front of you and even more importantly, what they are saying about you in the wake of that interaction when they are no longer in your presence. Rest assured: if their experience in real life is not up to snuff, they will take to their social platform of choice and let the world know. Do you have a strategy in place to assist those consumers who are crying out for help online? We have started using the Mention App, which alerts us of any mention of our company online. It has helped identify both negative comments and praise across multiple channels, allowing us to respond appropriately, in a timely manner.
7. Be Responsive
So now you’ve got the listening thing down… but it can be so easy to justify blowing off some of the comments you think are ridiculous. Respond anyway. This applies to the surveys, too. Are you taking the time to thank your residents for going to extra mile to provide you feedback? Why not? We know you won’t be able to accommodate every wish or solve every annoyance. Sometimes it’s just about knowing that someone is in fact paying attention. There may be nothing worse than non-responsiveness to a customer who is trying to get help, resolve an issue, or find out more about what you’re selling. It’s fair to assume you won’t always have the answers they’re looking for and it’s totally acceptable to say you are looking into the issue and will be back in touch. Some response is always better than the customer feeling ignored.
8. Ask For Your Customer’s Opinion
I used to think that the touted benefits of resident surveys were way overblown. Then the data started to roll in and my opinion was forever changed. Surveys are not a new concept, however you will be surprised what you learn about your customers, their needs, and what they think of you when you start really paying attention. The information you collect is invaluable in highlighting opportunities to better serve your customers. Whether you ask via surveys, feedback forms or review sites, you must also ensure that your employees are making it common practice to ask customers first-hand.
9. Use The Feedback You Receive
If a customer has taken the time to reach out and offer their point of view regarding your product and service, you owe them, at the very least, the respect of hearing them out. We are getting over 400 reviews a month. I ready each and every one…especially the comments. It is in these comments that we have discovered the easy wins that have made us look like heroes in our customer eyes. You need to do something with the feedback you receive from customers: start with identifying areas for improvement, make specific changes, and begin to make it a useful component of your customer service process.
Good customer service often comes down to consistently checking in with your customers and making sure they are happy with not only your apartments, but also the marketing, leasing process, working with your employees, etc. If you do that successfully, you are on your way to building a loyal customer following!
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