As a property manager, responding to your potential and current tenants is one of the most important aspects of running your business. While you may not be able to respond to every single tenant request and complaint, you should definitely be responsive.
There are a lot of things that you can do wrong, when it comes to customer service. The most common mistakes include:
- Not responding to your customers within 24 hours
2. Ignoring complaints
3. Poor ticket management and poor/no post-incident follow-up (customer satisfaction report, survey, request a review, etc)
With a multitude of platforms, people, and forms of inquiry, we’re sure you know how much of a pain it is trying to keep up with everything.
It could be they were prioritizing more ‘important’ matters for their business. Maybe, they were simply overwhelmed or didn’t think that responding to everything was worth the trouble.
How big of a deal is it to respond to your customers? Are there any particular forms of inquiry that we need to prioritize? What platforms should we place more emphasis on reviewing?
In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- The communication gap between property managers and their residents
- How customer service affects your business, and what the key areas are
- Are there any unique services VAs can provide for customer service?
- What are customer expectations for ‘quick responses?
THE COMMUNICATION GAP BETWEEN PROPERTY MANAGERS AND THEIR RESIDENTS
There are plenty of property managers who actually believe they do a fine job at effectively communicating with their residents. However, data has shown an alarming mismatch between the assumptions of many property managers and reality. This 2019 real estate industry report shows that 84% of property managers believe they communicate effectively with their residents — while only 38% of residents agree!
What is the significance of this?
Let’s first look at customer experience as a whole. Look at it this way: the global customer experience management market is booming. According to Fortune Business Insights, it currently stands at $11.34 billion in 2022, estimated to almost triple by 2029. This growth is reflected in a growing demand led by evolving consumer needs. The 2021 Netomi Pulse report revealed more than 65% of people have higher expectations for customer service today than they did three to five years ago.
The big question is – How does this affect your business?
HOW CUSTOMER SERVICE AFFECTS YOUR BUSINESS, AND WHAT THE KEY AREAS ARE
81% of consumers say positive customer experiences increase purchase probability. Also, we’re sure you’ve heard of word-of-mouth advertising, and its potential to grow businesses organically – but did you know the potential impact of negative word-of-mouth? As a matter of fact, there is a big imbalance when it comes to positive and negative word-of-mouth for your business: 45% of people share positive experiences with fewer than three people, yet 48% of people share negative experiences with more than ten people. So what constitutes good or bad customer service?
According to Zendesk , the main touchpoint of customer service is quick and effective communication. 60% of people say good customer service is being able to resolve their issues quickly. On the other side of the coin, a similar percentage believes a bad customer service experience means long wait times when trying to interact with support.
As a property owner and manager, you need to be able to respond effectively to all of your tenants’ requests and concerns. So how do you deliver these responses quickly and effectively?
VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS – THE CUSTOMER SERVICE SECRET WEAPON
There are numerous skill sets that benefit an individual for customer service in the property management industry. With virtual assistants, high-demand employees who tick all your boxes are not confined to borders – thus, you will have more flexibility to choose from a wide pool of well-trained individuals who match your needs. This includes best practices when dealing with potential, current, and past tenants, social media management and screening tenant applications as well as availability at odd hours.
You also have the benefit of saving money when hiring a virtual assistant. Whether hiring domestically, or outsourcing to another country, you can leverage more affordable labor forces. A property management company in Los Angeles can outsource customer support roles to Boise, Idaho, where cost of living is much less. Looking to save even more? Outsourcing to a country like the Philippines or eastern Europe can save you 60%…. sometimes 70% on overall employee overhead. This means it is more practical to keep your local office small, minimizing your operational costs. You don’t have to sacrifice talent, but your business saves on the bottom line.
The amount of time and effort a virtual assistant can save you cannot be understated. Excellent customer service – especially in the property management industry – is a constant effort that takes a lot of focus and quick response. As long as you provide enough support for the virtual assistant and set clear guidelines on what you are trying to communicate as a business, utilizing a virtual assistant will allow you to provide affordable, world-class support to your tenants.
Here is a summary of what virtual assistants can provide:
Minimize expenses and operational costs
Encourage business growth by freeing up time and money
Decrease workload by consistently and effectively managing the tedious daily tasks
Have a large pool of highly qualified candidates not limited by borders
Keep your business functional even during odd hours, or when you want to take vacations
Provide expertise in areas you may be weak in
CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPECTATIONS AND HOW TO SATISFY THEM
The customer’s perception is what matters. The customer expects better service and more interaction than ever before and wants the ability to contact you 24/7. Why? They want their issue resolved quickly. PERIOD. If your business is not meeting these expectations, then you are losing customers and money.
We can break down a customer’s expectations into 3 sections:
- Leads from potential tenant
- Requests from existing tenants
- Reviews from current and past tenants
This is unsurprisingly the area you must place the highest priority in. Upon receiving an inquiry for your business, Zillow states it is imperative you respond to them within 1-2 minutes of their message. This increases the likelihood of engaging with potential tenants by 40%, which is vital in growing your business and staying competitive in the market.
David Borden, Co-Founder of Property Manager Websites, argues that 5 minutes should be the maximum response time to answering leads, saying the opportunity to close a deal dwindles to 10% if you wait 24 hours.
Although it goes without saying, we cannot stress enough the urgency to swiftly respond to any leads, especially within the property management industry. Having dedicated support to pick up the phone, answer emails and reply to social media as soon as possible is extremely important – this is because as a property manager, it is inevitable you get busy handling other aspects of your business.
Keep in mind that quick communication is pointless without effective communication. What is the point of responding to leads if the messages you send are inconsistent, potentially missing out on vital selling points of your business? To kill two birds with one stone, make sure you or your team have a prepared ‘cheat sheet,’ or a list of ready-made responses to frequently asked questions. This helps your business not only respond quickly but be able to send out well-crafted responses to impress your potential tenant. Your business will then be capable of consistently and rapidly communicating key benefits your business has to offer to really lock down on those potential leads.
Using Virtual Assistants to secure leads – It makes a lot of sense to hire affordable virtual professionals so you can focus on other aspects of your business that allow its growth, all while providing you with an edge over your competitors.Virtual assistants have a vast array of skill sets. They really can do everything a regular customer service support can do for your business. And more! Virtual customer support would be available at odd hours which puts you at an advantage, allowing them to respond to leads at times where your competitors cannot.
Having these virtual professionals on your social media also allows you to stay on top of your Facebook private messages, which is one huge potential source of leads. By doing so, they can reply to messages quickly which grants you the “Very responsive to messages” badge, which will be displayed on your Facebook page. This encourages users to ask your business more questions on the platform, as they will see you take questions there seriously.
Virtual customer support assistants are also equipped with the capability to find new, promising leads via digital advertising. Especially when paired with your first-party data, they will be able to show ads related to your business to lookalikes of your best-performing residents. This optimizes your ads to show to the most relevant people at the most relevant time.
For the property management industry, it was found that most tenants expect to have their queries responded to within 2 hours – regardless of the communication platform. How does reality stack up against these expectations, you may ask? Based on 1,000 companies, the average customer service response time is 12 hours.
With this knowledge in mind, there is clearly a huge opportunity for your business to stand out in the property management market by addressing such a widely neglected issue. By addressing inquiries and requests of existing residents within this 2-hour time frame, you will be better at satisfying their customer service expectations, thus increasing the likelihood of positive word-of-mouth advertising. This includes both traditional word-of-mouth, and strongly positive reviews online.
Post acknowledging your residents’ requests, you must optimize your maintenance processes to streamline the workflow, allowing for minimal roadblocks and time consumption between when a complaint is raised, and when it is resolved. This can be done by splitting maintenance tasks into separate categories: Urgent (issues that render accommodation unlivable), high-priority (an extreme inconvenience to residents), medium-priority (relative inconvenience to residents), and low-priority (minor inconvenience to residents). Understanding, classifying and taking action on requests is an important skill as a property manager, and this link is a great source for further reading on the matter. However, keep in mind you do not have to do this alone.
Using virtual customer support assistants to manage requests – Although they work remotely, Virtual customer support Assistants are equipped with the skills and means to help manage your existing residents’ requests. They are capable of doing research to find the most suitable service providers in your location and contact them directly. Thus, virtual customer support assistants will also be able to make work orders, bearing the responsibility of managing your residents’ requests
As far as reviews go, sources indicate that best practices encourage a 24-48 hour response time. Among the other requests, this falls under the low priority but do be careful not to underestimate its importance.
If you were to satisfy the leads and existing resident requests effectively, chances are you’d be looking at more good reviews than bad. In which case, you would just have to thank them for their service to show your attentiveness and appreciation to others. Unfortunately, life is not all flowers and rainbows. There may come a time when you inevitably face a bad review.
In such a case, it is important to be gracious and humble, regardless of the tenacity of the negative review. Similar to what we mentioned with leads, it is entirely possible to prepare a sheet or template for how you respond to reviews that largely share a pattern. However, the word ‘template’ is key here. The worst thing you could do is reply to the exact same message in multiple reviews, which unfortunately makes you appear like an automated AI program lacking human touch and compassion. No – your responses must be proactive and customized for each response.
You need to offer solutions to any existing and legitimate problems. With that said, worrying about the time and effort investment is a valid concern. Although daunting, 89% of customers stated they would be willing to change their negative reviews based on the response and actions taken by the business in question. With that said, there are huge rewards waiting for you by investing time and effort in catering to these reviews. However, the digital universe is ever-growing. Thus, there is potentially an incredible amount of platforms people can leave reviews on. In this case, it is important to understand the biggest players for reviews.
Sources suggest prioritizing Google and Facebook, which are the largest platforms for reviews. Apartments.com, Apartment Reviews, and Yelp are the other 3 platforms that make up a top-5. Thus, you should look up software or invest in technology that helps you manage these key review locations with ease.
- Reviews (Google) – For Google, you can use Google My Business (GMB) as Google has shut down its Google Q&A. GMB appears when people type relevant keywords in Google Search, as well as Google Maps. This is key because it often serves as your first digital impression on a potential tenant. As an example, here is the first thing you would see when typing ‘Rocket Station’ in Google Search.
Based on this first impression, many audiences can (and will) filter out companies they choose to do business with, simply by taking a peek at the number and quality of reviews. However, responding to reviews plays a part in showing your business within Google Search in the first place: Google has stated that responding to these reviews is one of the best practices in maximizing the possibility of your business appearing in the platform.
- Reviews (Facebook) – Facebook is a platform that goes through a lot of changes very often, and this applies to how its recommendation system works. Currently, most reviews take the form of comments. You can often find these on the posts of your social media (assuming you do post there regularly). Alternatively, you can allow recommendations (which gives you a star rating) on your Facebook page, but this only prompts users a yes or no question on whether they would recommend your business.
With that said, responding to reviews is not the most difficult part of property management, but it is undoubtedly time-consuming. Why not hire a virtual assistant for this role, as these responsibilities are not ‘core’ activities for your business? This way, the smaller tasks for your business can be handled so you can focus your expertise in other areas, or just get more time to rest and relax.
Using Virtual Assistants to manage reviews – Now that you know where the most important place for digital reviews are, and the approach you need in dealing with them, you can hire a virtual assistant to lighten the load here as well. Qualified virtual assistants are able to interact with their customers using psychological and behavioral practices, which will satisfy a customer’s emotional side and thus improve public perception of your brand. Using this method, a virtual assistant will be able to constantly respond to reviews on various platforms quickly, consistently, and effectively. This improves your visibility and reliability across the digital space, allowing you to stay ahead of the competition.
Customer service is about more than just doing one thing right; it is about doing everything right. It is about providing excellent experiences for every customer interaction. The goal is to make every interaction a positive one where both parties walk away feeling like they were heard, understood and respected.
Customer service expectations are high and have been for decades. These days, customers have access to more information than ever before about the companies they do business with. They can read reviews of your products and services, and they can read about your company’s policies in the news. This means that customer service expectations are higher than ever before, too.
The future of virtual assistants is here, and it’s getting better every day. So what can we expect?