Let’s take one more look at complaint handling. Previously, we talked about LAST (Listen, Apologize, Solve, Thank), and how each of those steps is essential to effective complaint handling. Steps 1, 2, and 4 are the easy ones. No matter what the complaint, you are not really doing much differently.
It is Step 3: Finding a Solution that really requires you to be on your game - incorporating your experience and your community knowledge to arrive at solutions that keep your residents happy. All of the listening, apologizing, and thanking in the world cannot overcome the lack of a workable solution.
Fortunately, you can ensure that you are offering the best solution every time, while removing much of the stress associated with complaint handling.
Create your community’s complaint solution playbook.
What are some of the characteristics of a useful playbook?
1) It gives you the resources to easily solve most complaints, and allows you to focus on the other parts of good complaint handling.
2) It allows you to quote realistic time frames immediately.
3) It will include the steps to the complaint handling process, so that you don’t forget any in the heat of the moment. It also gives you confidence in the solutions you have to offer, so you can focus on the other (often neglected) steps.
4) It creates a log of the process for every complaint, so that subsequent inquiries can be handled by any leasing agent.
5) It lays out all of the important steps to the follow-up process, and reminders to confirm resolution of every complaint.
6) It is a changing document, allowing you to avoid shortfalls from reoccurring, and ensuring that future complaints have optimal solutions
How do you build your playbook? It’s pretty easy!
1) Make a list! Organize potential complaints by type, and list as many as you can. Most complaints within each type will be handled similarly, so classifying them in advance gives you a jump start on your solutions.
Here are the complaint types you should be ready for:
- Maintenance issues
- Issues with neighbors (noise)
- Pest control
2) Under each type of complaint, list as many specific complaints as you can, and then give preferred solutions and expected turnaround types for each.
3) Incorporate a system to track every request, and include checklists for follow-up and resolution.
4)When complaints are resolved, circle back, and make any changes that will ensure future complaints are handled better.
Maintenance issues are usually straightforward. You need to know who gets called, and what time frames should be quoted. Neighbor and pet issues are more complicated. They are handled as mitigations, and require contact and follow-up with both parties. Pest control can be tricky. You need to gather information to determine the extent of a problem, but you don’t want to sound an alarm about a problem that might be isolated. Safety issues - such as physical hazards or potential crime - should always be treated and communicated as your top priorities.
Communication plays a part in most complaints that you get. So why does it get a category of its own? Well, it is the communication about all of these other things that really comprises the bulk of complaints that you will hear from residents!
Resident complaints are often more about their frustrations with getting issues addressed than they are about the issues themselves.
[Here is a great article we found about communication and resident complaints.]
Which brings us back to your playbook, and the most essential part of making it effective. Your complaint process has to have something in place that makes it less painful and more productive for your residents. You can’t use your playbook if you have created barriers that keep your residents from complaining.
So, make sure that you have open lines of communication. Office hours should be available where real attention can be given. E-mail and instant messaging should be encouraged, and rapid response times should be guaranteed. (This has the extra benefit of removing some of the added emotion of a face-to-face meeting, but only if it is does not become another source of resident frustration!)
Do you have a complaint solution playbook? How could yours be better?
This is the final installment in our Handling Resident Complaints series. If you missed the others, catch up here:
Part 1: Get Excited For Complaints!
Part 2: Crush Those Complaints
Part 3: The Complaints You Cannot Solve