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Your Tenant Has a Complaint, Now What?

Tech might help you with tenant complaints, but it’s not worth it if you don’t use it

How the role of a landlord keeps getting advertised as “the best way to make passive income” all over TikTok has got to be the dumbest false advertising since Kellogg claimed that Rice Krispies cereal boosts the immune system. Being a landlord is work, and being a good landlord is even more work. But despite your best efforts to be proactive, it’s almost a mathematical certainty that you’ll have to deal with a difficult situation with a tenant at some point. It can be tempting to get cynical because tenant complaints are an inconvenient element of the business, but it’s still your obligation to meet each issue as quickly as you can and with an air of professional decorum. After all, swift resolution of tenant complaints is crucial for both tenant satisfaction and the long-term viability of your entire business. Unhappy tenants aren’t terribly keen on renewing their lease contracts, and that could cause real damage to your revenue stream down the line. While you might not be able to swish a magic wand and prevent tenant grievances, you do have absolute power over how you respond. 

Just answer 

One of the most crucial factors is how quickly you respond after receiving a complaint. Putting your tenant’s issue on the perpetual back burner can only lead to additional disagreements. Whether you’re managing a modest single-family home or a commercial building rigged with various smart technologies, responding promptly not only demonstrates that you actually care about your tenants but also reminds them that you are on their side. If a tenant feels like they have to jump through hoops to be able to reach you, they will (understandably) get frustrated quickly. That said, if it’s clear that you won’t be able to resolve the issue within the immediate future, at least be transparent with the tenant. Whatever you do, don’t over promise anything as you run the risk of underdelivering the solution. 

This is a maxim that Disney park employees know all too well. It may seem counterintuitive (if not completely irrelevant) to take advice from an enterprise that claims that magic is real, but the Walt Disney company is a juggernaut when it comes to customer satisfaction, so it might be a good idea to take a page from their script. Disney theme park employees (referred to as “cast members” no matter their position, since the Disney experience is all one big show, after all) are famous for refusing to say, “I don’t know” to a guest. Instead, cast members are taught to say something along the lines of, “that’s a good question, let me find out.” In fact, the Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange (TRACE) evaluated Disney’s success as a global brand in a report, and attributed the company’s smashing success in the hospitality sector to their overwhelming “culture of positivity.”

Disney as a corporate entity understands that their real sale doesn’t take place until after the initial purchase, just like good landlords recognize that their real sale doesn’t take place until after the tenant signs the lease.

There just might be an app for that 

One way to make it everything easy for both you and your tenant is with technology. There are a ton of property management solutions available. A cloud-based solution seems to be the most popular option, as there are dozens of apps that are designed to handle all aspects of property management services. 

Property owners, managers, maintenance technicians, and tenants all have access to these kinds of cloud-based platforms. In one system, the tenant can review tenant applications (including background and tenant credit checks), process and view monthly rent payments, it can all bbe push-button simple. But the real end-user, the tenant, can also benefit from this property management platform as well, as they can easily submit their payments and just as easily report any maintenance issues or other concerns that they would need to reach out to their landlord about. Easy-peasy.

But any tech that you may choose to implement isn’t worth it if you don’t follow through. Phil Mobley, Director of U.S. Occupier Insight at Avison Young, pointed out at the Propel by MIPIM conference last week that any occupier-focused technology, whether it be an app or a complex digital twin ecosystem, is useless if the property managers “don’t integrate it with what they use themselves.” Yes, property management technologies can absolutely make lives easier and tenants happier, but if you’re not bothering to connect it to the management end, your tenants are basically sending their concerns into the void. If the best customer-service practice is to answer quickly, then that would completely defeat the purpose.

On the flip side, if tenants aren’t made aware of the building’s apps or other technologies, then there’s no precious data to make use of. “Whatever the technology is, it HAS to connect to the occupier experience to generate usage, and, therefore, insight,” Mobley continued. “If you’re investing into these technologies and aren’t taking steps to inform your tenants of them in the first place to drive engagement, you’re not investing wisely. So why spend the money?”

In the end, be kind

There’s a little nugget of wisdom in the Disney World employee (cast member) handbook, called the “Four Keys of Guest Services.” It’s a mantra that’s drilled into every single member of staff, from the custodian to the CEO. These four tenets of guest satisfaction are the backbone of a global enterprise whose hospitality services warranted the phrase “happiest place on earth.” Even so, these principles are totally relevant to refocus an organization’s energy to being kind, and ultimately, being more successful. Thus we have “Safety,” “Courtesy,” “Show,” and “Efficiency.”

Though you might not be out to sprinkle glittery pixie dust on your occupants, you can absolutely use these calls to action to illustrate that you care enough to be worthy of tenant retention. Safety means that you will “take action to always put safety first.” Courtesy means that you will “go above and beyond to exceed guest (tenant) expectations.” Show means that you will “perform your role to the best of your ability.” And efficiency means that you will “use your time and resources wisely.” 
“The fact is, businesses have to be totally committed to improving the customer experience if they want to still be around in years to come,” said Yasmeen Ahmad, brand contributor for Teradata. Disney might maintain that providing a “magical” experience is the best customer service, but you can distill that without going into jaw pain for a never-ending smile. As a landlord, the best way to make your tenant feel valued is to make their experience as easy as possible. Whether it’s over an app or an informal text message, a tenant should be able to approach you with any issues and know that you’ll take their concerns to heart. Frankly, that’s all kindness is.

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