Technology has revolutionized the way many companies and entire industries do business – including property management. In some rental offices, everything from leasing to rent collections, purchasing and maintenance requests, etc., are being logged, inputted, tracked or entered into a variety of computer programs and databases. All of these processes are designed to improve accuracy, efficiency, customer service and the bottom line.
However, depending on how these programs are administrated and maintained will ultimately determine what it’s really costing in customer service and resident relations. Following is a concern from an on site manager to illustrate this point.
Question: The property management company I work for is very progressive and seems eager to try every new software program that comes out. Therefore, my maintenance workers, leasing staff and I spend countless hours attending meetings and training sessions in order to understand and implement these programs on site. Due to the amount of input work required for tracking purposes and all of the reports that are generated, not only is my leasing staff often bogged down, but so are some of my maintenance techs. This means that it’s taking longer to get apartments ready for new residents. On the busiest weekends of the month, prospective renters are being turned away and asked to come back because a leasing consultant working alone cannot handle multiple resident requests, the amount of incoming traffic AND all the computer/paperwork they are responsible for submitting at the end of each week. Many times on the weekends and during the week, we are forced to close our office and pretend like we are not there just so we can have some uninterrupted time to “catch up” on the volume of paperwork we are expected to complete. We are in such a vicious cycle with this situation; I just can’t see a way out. What do you suggest?
Answer: It must be extremely exciting working for a company that is always moving forward with innovative programs. On the other hand, it must be equally frustrating dealing with programs designed to enhance efficiency and improve customer service when they leave little time for actually serving the needs of the very customers you are tracking and recording!
My first suggestion would be to have your leasing staff keep a daily log for one month detailing the amount of time they spend being trained/administrating the leasing aspects of their jobs versus actual time spent with clients. I would encourage you to have your maintenance staff do the same exercise; track the amount of time they spend receiving training/inputting information regarding their make-readies and work orders versus the amount of time they spend doing actual work. (Note: Travel time to and from meetings and training sessions should also be noted since this time away from the job affects employee productivity and impacts customer service too.)
At the end of the 30 day period, prepare a report of your findings and present the information to your supervisor. Then, be prepared for a “brainstorming” session to come up with some solutions that will work for your specific circumstances; the size of your staff and your community.
For example, perhaps employees could “trade off” in their roles daily, weekly or monthly. Maybe during the busiest times of the month, one leasing consultant would be exclusively responsible for interacting with prospective renters (i.e. conducting tours, closing the sale, doing the follow up work, etc.), while another employee is made responsible for all data entry, reporting, move-in paperwork, leasing renewals, etc. A similar arrangement could be made between maintenance workers so at least one employee would be able to work uninterrupted turning apartments, while another is responsible for handling the ordering, work orders, data entry, etc.
Again, the solution(s) to your situation will depend on many factors, but the important thing is to be in communication with your supervisor regarding the challenges you are facing. If quality customer service to future and current residents is being compromised for the sake of standardization, speed and efficiency, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate some of the systems that are in place.
After all, your customers don’t really care how quickly you can enter their traffic source or how efficiently you can input their work orders into your computer system. What is important to them is your AVAILABILITY. Of course, if you are so busy processing paperwork that you don’t have time to serve your future or existing residents, you won’t have this problem for very long. When faced with a leasing office that is often closed or a phone that goes unanswered, your prospective renters and residents will eventually take their business elsewhere.
Joyce (Kirby) Bica is the former owner of Shoptalk Service Evaluations. For more information, email [email protected]. Reprinted with permission.