“The way you handled the situation is totally unprofessional.”
Does that sound familiar? Our industry is renowned for claiming to be professional on the one hand and being accused of being unprofessional on a daily basis when Landlords and Tenants are dissatisfied with some aspect of the service that they receive.
The word professional is a loaded word and more often than not, users of the word have no clue what it means. It will serve you well to at least understand what it really means so that you can gauge whether there is any truth in the accusations made.
Maybe you are one of those people that read dictionaries and ponder on the real meaning of words on a regular basis as a means of relaxation, then this article is not for you. If you however do not fall into the above category but are a rather curious person, then read on to find out what professional means in the context of Rentals…
The original meaning of professional is derived from the Middle English profes, an adjective meaning
having professed one’s vows, which itself is derived from Late Latin professus, which meant to profess, confess. The idea was that professionals were those who ‘professed’ their skill to others, and ‘vowed’ to perform their profession to the highest standard. In its original meaning, the essence of being a professional was to have made a public commitment to a high standard of performance, to integrity, and to public service.
Questions to ask include:
Are you a professional person?
Are you in general behaving in a professional manner?
This begs the question… what is considered Professional Behaviour. The following article provides some guidance on principles associated with Professional Behaviour.
So with all this back ground taken into account and having experienced the good and bad associated with the Rental Industry, here’s my take on how to be really professional in the Rental Industry…
Know your industry related stuff and drive for compliance – this includes the non negotiables, leadership principles, knowledge management and technology adoption best practices for the Rental Industry.
Become a Trusted Advisor to your customer – Trust is earned and to be a Trusted Advisor is very special and associated with a Long Term value relationship between yourself and your customer. If you can be in a Trusted Advisor relationship with all your customers, you will probably never be accused of unprofessional behaviour.
Manage Expectations – In this industry people need to be told over and over again what to expect so that they are not surprised when things turn out differently to what they expected. People expect to be informed every step of the way.
Sharpen your mediation skills – In our industry with all its potential for conflict, we need solution seeking people who drive for getting the facts on the table and who can listen and communicate different points of view in order to find common ground to resolve issues in a win win manner. Far to little investment is made in soft skills development in the area of conflict management, listening skills and communication skills, all critical skills for a good mediator.
Drive for HIT (Honesty, Integrity and Trust) in your organisation – Ultimately people will respect you if they know that you can be trusted and that you will do what you say. What are you doing to make HIT part of your value system en company fabric?
Treat every customer as if they were your only customer – This is where it gets tricky because if the customer accusing you of unprofessional behaviour was your only customer, you would want to do what is necessary to resolve the issue. Customers really do not want to hear about your problems and they specifically do not want to be compared with other customers.
Be a good Leader – You can be a principal of a Rental Company and not a good Leader, but then I would urge you to find and appoint a good Leader in a Rental Manager position because only a good leader will be able to bring all the above rather diverse requirements together in a balanced way that will result in your company being perceived as a professional company where the employees act in a professional manner.
Example: Your maintenance administrator have just received a call from a very angry Landlord. The landlord accepted a quote for a paint job. The tenant who has direct contact with the Landlord, contacted the Landlord and complained about the mess made by the Contractor. The Landlord has now shouted at and accused the administrator of being extremely unprofessional. The administrator has done everything by the book but the Landlord would not even listen so the issue has been escalated to you.
How to respond as a Professional
Even if your organisation is still a start-up and you are still in the process of putting Best Practice in place, you can still respond in a professional manner by considering the following:
Do you use vetted and qualified contractors and what process is in place with the Contractors to resolve customer disputes?
What qualification process do you have in place to ensure that work is performed to an acceptable standard?
How do you task your Contractors? Are they being given the correct and precise instructions in order to understand what and how something needs to be done?
Do you have a clearly defined process for maintenance that has been communicated to both Tenant and Landlord that clearly explains the steps so that they know what to do when problems arise and to explain how problems will be handled and resolved?
Do you understand exactly what “the mess made by the contractor” even means? If not, that would be a good starting point to establish the facts.
Since this Landlord is your only customer, you need to find a way to establish trust in your ability to resolve the issue. A good place to start would be to get the facts straight and to have a believable process that you can put forward that will resolve the issue to the satisfaction of both the Landlord and the Tenant. This might require you to take ownership of a ball that might have been dropped, but it will contribute towards your integrity score with the customers.
Once the issue has been resolved, you need to make sure that your administrator is better equipped to handle similar situations going forward and the question is, what can be done to be more pro-active to prevent this from ever happening again. Maybe it is time to revisit the Maintenance Management tools that you are using to empower your administrators to communicate more effectively with all parties during the Maintenance process.
I cannot promise you that if you score more than an 8 out of 10 on each of the above, that you will never again be accused of being unprofessional, but you will at least be in a position to honestly evaluate the accusation against a valid bench mark and decide for yourself whether you need to be concerned or not.