Customer Service TEAM AWESOME: Handling Repair Requests

Apartment repairs. It’s where the rubber hits the road. You claim to offer great customer service and renter satisfaction. But do you deliver?

As a manager, people are paying you not only to provide a roof over their heads, but also to keep that roof in good condition long after they sign the lease. Here are some tips on how you should handle repair requests from Salvatore Friscia, a representative from San Diego Premier Property Management in San Diego at MHI, and from Doug Miller and Jen Piccotti, representatives of SatisFacts Research LLC.

Responding quickly to repair issues—even if it’s just to say “That’s normal upkeep, we are giving you the green light to handle that problem yourself!”—makes a big impact on a renter’s perception of you; perception, needless to say, affects whether they’ll stay or go come time to renew.

Also, poor upkeep will lead to lower-quality tenants. According to Salvatore, lack of maintenance affects the condition of your property and the quality of tenants you can attract.

With those motivators in mind, use these tips to manage repair requests well:

1)     Know what a repair looks like, and make sure tenants do, too: it’s not a clogged toilet (thank God) or a dusty porch deck. Rather, it’s anything a contractor’s expertise is needed to take care of: things like plumbing leaks, electrical problems, or issues with appliances, heating or cooling, flooring, or construction.

2)     Unless you’re an expert handyman, let someone else—such as a licensed bonded contractor—handle the work. Letting a renter do the work himself in exchange for rent reduction is risky: he might not do a good job, meaning solving the problem is delayed and you have to pay twice for the repair; he also might try to keep needing to “fix” things once he sees he can get a discount when he does; and he might, maybe, even sue you if he gets hurt fixing your apartment.

3)     Consider having management staff available during peak times: according to research on resident preferences conducted by the SatisFacts team, about a 1/4 of residents want to be able to get in touch with management in the evening—from 7 to 9 PM—while another quarter wants to be able to do so before work, between 7 and 9 AM. Staffing your office at these times will make communicating with your residents easier. But wait, you ask. 12 percent of residents said they’d like access to management pretty much always. What does it mean??? It just means…

4)     You should have a helpful website. Having a property level website that shows residents how to a) submit work orders and b) reach management directly is pretty standard. Companies such as Archstone are making it possible to submit work orders via smartphones, meaning a greater percentage of residents have access to this service when and where best suits them.

Thoughts? Tips? Lessons from years of experience? We always want to hear about them!

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