Posted Friday, April 30, 2021
In this article, we explain the role of the property manager and the importance of providing a consistently excellent customer experience. We’ll dive deep into what can and can’t be fixed within property management because as with any customer-facing industry there are strict guidelines and legislation that govern certain aspects. But first, we look at customer service and the overall expectations from a property manager.
What is customer service?
Our Customer Experience Manager describes it like this; “Good Customer Service means different things for different people and the key to good customer service is remembering that not one size fits all. Never over-promising and always over-delivering is essential to receiving positive customer feedback. Being able to actively listen to your customer needs and making sure that the customer understands what and when you can achieve it is imperative to getting the solution right the first time.”
All of the above could sum up what most people deem to be customer service, but what about the customer experience? Herein lies the real difference. It’s good to fix a maintenance problem, deal with a repair on time, and provide residents with updates on their property, however, the key here is ‘how’ it’s all delivered. You could say that giving appropriate and timely communications, dealing effectively with negotiations, in an ethical and professional manner is important, but beneath all of that is the ability to truly understand things from the customer perspective. Often this can be overlooked by the need to simply get the job done, and at times urgency is important, but not always!
One of our top Senior Property Managers always states it’s about “knowing your client, knowing your property, and knowing your budget”. Wise words and he’s never lost a client in over 10 years! And he’s right because if you are armed with the right information good customer service and managing relationships come easily.
What do you expect from a property manager?
Let’s start by clarifying the role. All buildings require servicing, much like cars, things can go wrong, break, or malfunction. It’s the role of the managing agent, working closely with the Client or the estate’s Resident Management Company (RMC) to ensure that good general upkeep and maintenance is provided throughout the year to ensure mechanical parts are kept working, roofs are watertight and heating systems keep going. The role of the property manager is therefore diverse and often complicated, but at the heart of it lies the need to fix issues.
Why does it cost?
The service charge as set out in the TP1 that homeowners sign when they purchase a property pays for the services that the managing agent organises and provides. The budgets are devised by comparing actual expenditure and estimated future expenditure. The property teams (and that extends wider to admin and other supporting teams) use this budget to help homeowners to enjoy their environment, keeping common parts safe and clean, and often resolving disputes. This budget would normally include a provision for future reserve funds to allow the Management Company to deal with the obligations as set out within the lease. This may include external decoration, internal decoration, roof refurbishment, and other costly expenses likely to be incurred by the development. It is the managing agent’s responsibility to ensure that these funds are managed efficiently, working with contractors to help reduce expenditure whilst maintaining standards.
According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) there are key areas that a property manager is required to be competent in: “The eight mandatory competencies are the ‘soft’ business skills demonstrating your ability to work with colleagues, manage workloads and act with integrity”. They also state “Residential property managers help residential owners, in all sectors of the market, make the most of their assets and are instrumental in improving the lives of many residential occupiers.” These are firm foundations for providing a good customer experience, but it really depends on ‘how’ and ‘when’ these competencies are delivered. Property managers must comply with certain legal obligations, health & safety, and fire regulations, and of course, there is also the matter of complying with the homeowner’s lease. This can mean that there are some things that simply cannot be fixed. Let's dive deeper into these matters...
What we can fix
It is the managing agent's responsibility to maintain and repair the building and manage the common parts of the building or the external environment. In short, the parts of the building or grounds not specifically granted to the leaseholder in the lease but to which there are rights of access, for example, the entrance hall and staircases, corridors, and lifts. So in short, there are day-to-day duties that are carried out which mean we can 'fix':
What we can’t fix
Whilst we cannot deal with or 'fix' situations that are outside of our remit, or matters dealt with by other authoritative bodies, we can advise and inform residents of who would be able to deal with any enforcement. Some examples are:
It takes time
There are also some issues that whilst we can fix, take a little longer than expected, and this is where customer service really kicks in. Not being kept abreast of any situation will undoubtedly fuel frustration and concern. It is therefore vital that at every point of a maintenance project the customer is kept up to date with what’s happening. This is usually a smooth enough process, however what the customer often does not see is the ‘duck’ scenario – where the situation appears to be in hand, however behind the scene there’s a lot going on to arrange contractors, obtain quotes, which then need to be authorised by the client (the RMC Director). It may then need a risk assessment, and then finally the property manager can schedule the works. All of which takes time, and quite rightly the customer wonders why? A great customer experience will involve that bit extra – more correspondence (but not too much), more picking up the phone and definitely more ‘care’. A great property manager, therefore, is one that cares.
I just want to mention teamwork, as this is really what makes a difference. Across the group there are many teams, and not just within property management, such as admin, accounts, conveyancing, legal, and marketing (to name just a few). Working together ensures we can provide well-rounded joined-up solutions. A great example of this is outlined in this customer feedback received this week:
“I just wanted to report back and send a big ‘thank you’.
I really didn’t expect to have five people listen carefully, discuss and respond to my question so quickly and professionally. I was expecting: no response, slow response, no idea what you’re talking about, talk to your conveyancer or some other form of ‘no’.
The background is we’ve been trying to buy a family home for almost 4 years.
Having failed to put a chain together we sold our old house and have been in a rental with no garden for almost two years. Discovering that there may be a critical defect with the title having agreed the purchase was heart breaking and we were desperate to find out if this could be resolved. Reading some of the angry reviews for Remus my heart sank again, I just felt there was no way a faceless management company would even understand the issue let alone be part of the solution.
My faith is restored, and I really am very thankful to all five of you. Many people talk about joined-up teams, professionality, and customer focus, not so many actually do it.
You should all be proud of your team.
With best regards, Davey S.”
We promise to always act according to The TEN P’s
Professionalism, Positivity, Principles, Pellucidity (clearness), People First, Promptness, Product Knowledge, Personalisation, Patience, Promises (don’t break).
We see all Customer Issues as an opportunity to learn and improve.