In a previous article, What’s In Your Foundation, I reviewed the importance of building a solid property management foundation. Key concepts were legislation, consistency, tools, procedures, planning, and more. This article addresses communication, an essential building block for any foundation.
What is your perception of communication?
Clients generally perceive a company’s communication as effective, poor, or the worst-case scenario, “a lack of.” Obviously, everyone wants to succeed in all areas but many businesses can show a variety of results. Here are some examples. What is your perception for each one?
- ABC Management has a very impressive physical office; however, when any client enters the office, the receptionist does not indicate to them that she will be with them as soon as possible or call for assistance. The receptionist has an “attitude” and her rude behavior conveys that clientele are not a priority becauseshe takes her time before helping them.
- ABC Management has an effective program for marketing vacant properties but there is a history of poor communication during the application process that leads to the loss of many well-qualified tenants.
- In another area, ABC’s property managers have excellent skills when making investor presentations; however, they fail repeatedly with direct follow-up on important details and maintaining client satisfaction, leading to account losses.
- ABC Management does provide owner and tenant manuals to their clients but the information conflicts with their current practices; many procedures are obsolete and create confusion for property owners.
The above examples show both effective and poor communication but overall, their rating is poor. You can have all of the other building blocks in your foundation but without effective communication, your company is on a path to experience major problems or possibly financial failure.
Property management companies communicate in many ways.
Many people tend to think of communication as only verbal. Verbal can be through personal meetings, telephone contact, or presentation videos. Although it is very important to be able to communicate well verbally, you need to realize that everything that happens within your company sends a message.
Communication can include verbal, non-verbal, and actions. For example, a rental agreement should outline legal issues and procedures during tenancy. The document is a non-verbal communication. Meeting with a property manager or watching a video to review the agreement is both a verbal and active exchange.
There is a large variety of media to express non-verbal communication, including documentation, signage, advertising, email, snail mail, bookkeeping reports, email newsletters, website, tenant handbooks, owner manuals, vendor manuals, owner brochures, property maintenance videos, and more.
You’ve heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words.” Do you remember the actions of the ABC receptionist? Her poor attitude conveyed a stronger message than her actual words.
The same principles apply to any type of communication; they should be professional, prompt, clear, concise, and accurate. Keeping promises to clients is crucial. Reviewing all communications for clarity, education, and instruction is another requirement for successful communication.
How does your property management company rate in the area of communication?
Stop and take a bird’s eye view of how your property management business communicates with everyone. Here are key questions to ask:
- Is there an immediate recognition and assistance for any party that enters the property management office?
- Do personnel punctually answer phone calls? If so, does the caller experience a satisfactory answer or resolution?
- During showings, do prospective tenants receive the same information and treatment?
- After tenants move in, do personnel return and handle calls on property maintenance or other issues?
- If a tenant gives notice, are there clear communications, verbal or non-verbal?
- After taking a new account, do property managers promptly answer property owner phone calls?
- Does all company documentation convey clear and concise instructions and/or information?
- Are email communications professional and timely?
- Are staff meetings efficient and instructions to all personnel clear?
- Do maintenance vendors understand the company communiques, expectations, and work orders?
Now think about all the previously underlined words – they all relate to effective communication. If you have answered “no” to any of these questions, you need to take action to improve communication.
Reviewing all methods and means of communication can be time-consuming. To help you with this task, I’ve created a Communication Checklist to use for reviewing your office. This form can help to identify areas that need improvement. Review the actions of yourself and all personnel. Meet with personnel individually or collectively to discuss concerns. Review all documentation for accuracy. Then put together a plan to make changes. Implement updates to current practices or documentation and introduce new concepts or tools as necessary.
It may take some time and effort to make improvements with yourself and personnel, but it is well worth it. Increasing the quality of communication can reduce potential fires in your office, strengthen your client relationships, increase accounts, and ultimately improve your bottom line.
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.