Communication is the key to landlord love

November 16, 2020

Communication is the key to making or breaking personal relationships. The same principle applies to the relationship you have with your owners or landlords as a property manager. At the recent Nebula: Beyond 2020 virtual summit, I spoke about the importance of communication (watch the 15-minute video here).[caption id="attachment_12142" align="alignright" width="300"]

Natasha Anich presents at Nebula

Nebula: Beyond 2020 - Why communication is key to landlord love[/caption]And with communication being the foundation of healthy relationships, it makes sense that your team makes it a priority. I say this also because the number one leading indicator of landlord happiness is how satisfied they feel with the communication between them and their property manager. I repeat: the number one leading indicator.Customer experience in property management is more than just customer service. It’s the experience in every single interaction a customer (or landlord) has with your business—and the impact you can make in each of those interactions.In 2019 our study of Property Management and the Customer Experience Economy identified that 63% of agencies were driven by the need to ‘keep their customers happy’, with 43% of agencies admitting to facing challenges around managing owner expectations. So even before a pandemic, delivering a customer experience was high on the agenda for many of the agencies surveyed. Since the arrival of COVID-19, there is even more pressure on PMs to be responsive to their owners, as they navigate the uncertainty of things like the tenant’s ability to pay the rent on time, or even at all.Bringing the level of customer experience up to a new standard in property management has never been as important as it is now, regardless of whether you are in growth or defend and retain mode.

Communication at the centre of agency Net Promoter Score (NPS) results

An NPS or net promoter score is a simple measurement of your customers’ satisfaction and loyalty. NPS surveys ask customers one question, being: on a scale of one to ten how likely would they be to recommend your business to someone else. This question most often includes an optional follow-up question, which asks customers to cite the reasons for their score.The survey organises your survey respondents into three groups: promoters (those who gave you a score of 9-10), neutrals (who scored you a 7-8), and detractors (who scored you 6 or less). Looking into a pool of anonymised agency data in the back end of Console Cloud, we can identify the key trends in customer satisfaction scoring that are leading to customer loyalty and attrition. It was clear that communication was the leading reason for both.

Looking into a pool of anonymised agency data in the back end of Console Cloud, we can identify the key trends that are leading to customer loyalty and attrition. It was clear that communication was the leading reason for both.

All happy landlords are alike

Some 56% of landlords who were satisfied or very satisfied (which we will refer to as promoters) cited the number one reason for their satisfaction as ‘good communication. They also mentioned factors associated with communication, such as reliability, responsiveness, promptness, helpfulness, expertise and support as the reasons they love their property manager or property management agency. These satisfied landlords also commented repeatedly that they were happy with the feedback they received’ from property managers, commenting that their agency goes ‘above and beyond’ to make things simple for them, and that they felt ‘well-informed with regular updates on all aspects of their property’.

A lack of communication makes for unhappy landlords

On the flipside, the key reason for dissatisfaction with an agency’s service was due to lack of communication. In fact, 48% of owners who were dissatisfied with their property management agency gave reasons for their feelings that clearly indicated a lack of communication.s They repeatedly cited that there was ‘a failure of their agency to listen to their requests’, ‘a lack of correspondence and explanation of issues’, ‘taking too long to respond to queries’, ‘getting a run around with excuses’, and the worst one: ‘never calling back as promised’.

Communication is also the key to slowing down landlord churn

While growth is the goal for many property management agencies, the costs of onboarding new clients, advertising their properties, and attracting new tenants means that keeping hold of existing listings are expensive customer acquisition costs. That means that keeping landlords on your books for as long as possible is incredibly important for an agency to remain profitable.

Journey to the land of happy landlords

A number of opportunities exist for you to lock in your landlord’s loyalty. So if it's happy and loyal clients you want, take the time to evaluate the customer experience you provide and how your agency staff is communicating with your owners. Find the standard of communication that makes your landlords love you and benchmark it. That’s the standard you need to drive more fruitful, long-lived, and profitable relationships.

Use Yardstick to measure your customer satisfaction

Finding that benchmark is as easy as implementing an NPS tool to measure your customer satisfaction. This tool sends out a two-question survey to your landlords and essentially measures how satisfied they are, and then makes sure your landlord’s feelings are documented and attached to their file in Console Cloud. It’s a powerful piece of intelligence, and it’s easy to implement today with Console Cloud (for free). It's one very sure-fire way you can make sure that changing property managers isn't on the minds of your clients.

How Yardstick works

Yardstick is your net promoter score (or NPS tool) that comes built-in to Console Cloud, ready to use today. An NPS measures your customers’ level of satisfaction and loyalty from 1-10, and then aggregates those scores, giving your agency a global score of between -100 (very bad—100% of your customers hate you a lot) and +100 (a perfect score—100% of your customers are your promoters).High scores (8-10, and globally +50-+100) mean happy owners, while low scores indicate unhappy customers that you are at risk of losing. This tool will give you the insights you need to identify the owners feeling the most love and the most pain. It’s your leading rather than lagging indicator of growth and churn.Yardstick NPS will more importantly help you create a benchmark, so you can identify if your agency’s actions, or adjusted processes over time, have in fact impacted your owner's feelings and satisfaction with your agency.Yardstick goes one step further with a follow-up question to determine the reason a score was given. This insight allows you to see why a particular owner responded the way they did. That makes it even easier for your team to immediately learn who your happiest (and unhappiest) customers are.

Why measurement is important

With measurement in place, you can manage any required change or shift in your operations to cultivate more of a customer-centric focus. Your staff will be more motivated and equipped to manage their relationships with an understanding of an owner's sentiment and how this impacts the business client retention and growth capability.

Communicate with a purpose

You may have processes and technology in place to do the heavy lifting of your day-to-day administrative owner communications. If you’re using workflows to decrease the amount of time you spend on admin emails and SMS (and if you’re not, you should be!), you should have time to host meaningful conversations with your owners. Use that time to uncover what drives each and every one of your owners and tailoring communications to their interest. Having quality conversations with your owners is like putting deposits in your relationship bank account to build trust. So every time you reach out directly to them, by phone, virtually, in-person or by email, your owners will recognise that your outreach is met with a purpose, and they’ll take notice. They’ll regard this as a valued interaction and it will boost assurance in you as their property manager. Owners want the confidence to make well-informed decisions. They don’t want to come across as silly or ignorant, so if you are looking to them to approve a rent increase for their tenants, for example, give them the reasons why they should or shouldn’t take the option. A property manager’s responsibility as an adviser is to empower them to make a decision that owners are comfortable and confident in.Once you’ve built that relationship on trust and value, any conversation about increasing fees becomes irrelevant.

Don’t wait for your owners to call

If you are receiving more in-bound calls from your owners than you are making out-bound, your strategy and culture around customer experience needs some urgent realignment. In this situation you have in effect left the job of communicating up to your customers. Time to be proactive. We want to be more efficient and we want to talk to our customers better. Just because you are using software that is automating a lot of your day-to-day communications with SMS, emails and portals, that doesn’t mean you should stand back and wait for your owner’s call. In fact, software like Console Cloud gives you the time and space to create meaningful conversations, not just transactional ones. Connecting with your owners in a timely manner (and personally) gives you an opportune time to listen and identify what more you can do to assist them and provide additional value-add to your service. Having these conversations could also uncover new opportunities of additional properties to manage, investments in new property or referrals.

A portal for self-service

As consumers, we are becoming accustomed to tracking our activity online. Whether it’s mapping our exercise, tracking our pizza delivery or keeping an eye on how far our Uber is from us, we are creatures craving instant information. This accessibility provides transparency, a form of communication. It’s about intentionally giving you droplets of information, keeping you informed all the way, and reducing your level of uncertainty or doubt. That in turn reduces the amount of inbound queries and feelings of lack of communication. As such, you build credibility through this transparency, and you also build trustworthiness.In Console Cloud, invite your owners to the Console Cloud Owner Portal. It will give them added confidence in you by providing 24/7 access to all their information. Again, the portal gives your owners that sense of full transparency, adding value to your relationship at no extra cost. Added bonus: we’ve found that the Owner Portal reduces the communication workload of your property managers by 15-20%. The Console CloudOwner Portal is rich with information, intentionally keeping your clients up to date with their investment —including details like paid to dates, statements, invoices, and maintenance and inspections information.

What to do with a pool of happy owners

When you have a pool of happy owners in your portfolio, leverage their sentiment. With Yardstick to help you identify when your owners are at their happiest, you can know who to ask for a referral or review. Reviews are an indicator to others of a first-hand opinion of you. Do they trust you? Do they value your service? Would they recommend you? In today’s world, consumers tend to trust each other—and reviews—more than they trust you. Reviews, therefore, are a great way to build trust in your agency from the outset.

Get more Google reviews

With 70% of online searches happening through Google, if you aren’t employing Google reviews as part of your customer advocacy and marketing strategy, well then you really need to start. And it’s free! Try searching for ‘property management’ in your suburb, in Google. You may get a number of results in business listings. But how many of them are attached with Google reviews? And how recent are those reviews? This is a great opportunity to get a leg up on your neighbouring competition.Asking for a Google review is quite simple. Ask your landlords who Yardstick identified as your promoters. That means they have rated you a 9 or 10. You could do this even when you have delighted an owner (or a tenant for that matter). This should be a regular part of your weekly, fortnightly or monthly routine.As a bonus, Google reviews help with your SEO and visibility in search, with Google favouring those businesses with high and recent activity. In other words, getting regular, fresh reviews boosts your business listing towards the top of the search results. Another added bonus: this also improves click-throughs to your website.

And that’s how you get to landlord love.

Implementing one or two of these strategies will improve your customer’s experience in dealing with your business. But placing your support behind all of these strategies to communicate better with your owners will cement their recognition of the value you provide as their property manager. And all this leads to happy, loyal landlords who love your business, and who will recommend your service.

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