By John Hall - September 13, 2018
If you like interacting with people, the leasing profession is perfect for you! Tours for prospective residents, visits from vendors (and wanna-be vendors), and residents doing the day-to-day things that residents do. Every day is different, and you never know what is going to come through that door.
Likewise, if you are like most people, you would rather not have to deal with complaints. Who needs residents coming by and complaining about any and all manner of things?!
Well, you do. And your community’s bottom line does! If you are doing it right, complaints go from being an unavoidable hassle, to being an essential part of making your community great!
Now, after you have had sufficient time to roll your eyes, consider these facts about complaints, and why they are essential to community managers.
1) No Complaints ≠ Happy Residents
If problems at your community are not being shared with you, it does not mean they don’t exist. In point of fact, most people do not want to take the time, and deal with the unpleasantness, required to make a complaint. Many people avoid complaining, and choose instead to opt out of their situation as early as possible.
2) Asking For Honest Feedback ≠ Asking For More Complaints
Actively seeking feedback on how are doing from residents and prospects alike helps you in two ways. One, it often lets you know about issues that can be easily addressed, before they become a drain on leasing and retention. Two, it lets your residents and prospects know that are attentive to their needs, and makes them less likely to be angry because of what they perceive to be a lack of interest on your part.
3) Complaints = Opportunities (To Improve Your Community)
You should always be looking for ways to improve your community. Complaints provide you with terrific ideas to make life at your community better. Plus, when someone sacrifices their time and comfort to complain, you can be reasonably sure that they are sharing a problem that actually needs addressing.
4) No Complaints = Bad Word of Mouth
Your residents talk to their friends, co-workers, and families, and nothing makes for better conversation than a juicy story about some problem at home, and how poorly it has been addressed! Your residents are more likely to share their displeasure with their peers then they are to share it with you. If you are not aware of the issues that your residents are having, you have no way of mitigating the bad things that are being said about you.
5) Complaints = Opportunities (To Improve Resident Loyalty)
Conversely, dealing with complaints quickly and honestly is a sure-fire way to create new ambassadors for your community. The positive experience of being heard and having concerns addressed actually leads to greater loyalty, and stories about good customer service are even more likely to be shared than stories about unresolved problems. More often than not, your online reviews and star ratings - positive and negative - are the direct result of how complaints are handled.
6) Rewarding Complaints > Avoiding Complaints
One of the most important parts of dealing with complaints is the follow-up. People who complain are often emotional, and can feel vulnerable as a result. Not only should you be sure to properly thank everyone who takes the time to complain to you, you should treat them as if they have done you a favor. Because, in reality, they have! When your residents are made to feel as if they were wrong to complain, there is no resolution to their problem that will satisfy them.
You are undoubtedly aware that resident renewals, and word-of-mouth referrals, represent less stressful and more cost-effective ways to lease than continually harvesting new residents. To that end, creating loyal residents is really the most important job that you have.
Know this: A leasing office that properly deals with a reasonable volume of resident complaints is probably doing a better job than a leasing office that hears no complaints at all. Not only are they are collecting valuable feedback - They have created an environment where residents trust that their issues will be addressed.
So, the next time that you are faced with a resident complaint, resist the urge to flee or get defensive. Approach complaints with the same eagerness that you have for potential leases. Take a breath, smile, and be excited that you are being given the opportunity to truly excel in your role of leasing professional!
Next week, we will get more specific, with a look at the best practices for responding to complaints at your community.