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Tired of Being a Broken Record?

Many days we will feel like a broken record, repeating things that we need to explain to each tenant and landlord, with a growing frustration of saying the same thing over and over.

Our favourite phrases such as explaining where the two weeks rent are from when the tenant moved in, responding to similar rental enquiries, explaining to an owner the difference between wear and tear… I’m sure you could help me make the list even longer.

Each time we repeat ourselves we often act surprised and shocked at the nerve of the idiotic person on the other end of the line, however if they knew how many times we had repeated that same line and not done anything about it? They may be thinking the same thing about us.

I’m sure we have all heard from time to time that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So what is the solution to this recurring broken record syndrome? My advice is to educate, template and automate.

EDUCATE

We do this job every day, the same process on multiple properties, we know how to move a tenant in and how to move one out. However, the tenant or landlord on the other end of our transaction does not deal with that same issue every day.

They cannot know exactly how the process will work, and even if they have been through it at one point previously, firstly they have not committed that process to memory and secondly they have not usually been through that process with your business.

Our job is to educate them so there is no confusion as to what has happened, and will happen next. When we book a flight online or order products online, we are educated at each step (throughout the purchase process), our actions confirmed (a confirmation email) and next steps outlined (perhaps in the same email or a follow up email afterwards).

So it would make sense that our consumer needs the same level of education in their property transaction.

How can you better educate your clients along the way?

TEMPLATE

Having templates ready will go a long way to supporting this process. We do not want to be writing out an explanation at each step of the way. What templates do you already have in your business? How can they be enhanced? What other templates could you create that would help your cause?

What about “Commonly asked Questions at the Vacate?”, “Wear and Tear factsheet”, “Tips about viewing properties with us”.

Having these ready to go so that you can easily attach, or copy and paste specific paragraphs into your emails, will drastically help in the time it takes to explain these things.

What else can you think of that could use having a template document or paragraph in place?

AUTOMATE

Now how can we streamline and speed up this process even further? What systems do you have in place to automate and support you in responding to and dealing with your clients?

There are some great tools right under your nose such “quick parts” in your outlook – used to easily create, store, and find reusable paragraphs of content. There are auto responders and rules that you can apply to many mail clients to control where your emails go and how they are responded to.

Even just using your ‘out of office’ to actually explain the answers to a few common queries when you are busy. And ensuring that there is an FAQ section on your website so that people can find the information they are looking for, or you can link them to this section when they have a question.

There are awesome tools outside of the business such as online booking systems for your rentals that respond to and manage all of your enquiry and other maintenance programs that automate the communication throughout that process.

If you are really looking to take things to the next level you could even consider virtual assistants or trialing out the new Facebook Messenger for Business to create an autobot that can respond to all common enquiries.

The sky is the limit, its just about how you look at the problem of the broken record and putting the steps and process in place to minimise the occurrence, so we can find something else more important to worry about.

Hermione Gardiner

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When you Lose a Landlord, Don’t Lose the Lesson

None of us want to receive that email or pick up the phone to hear the message that the landlord wants to leave. Whether it be to self manage, to another  Real Estate agent, to live in themselves or to sell the property, we can often feel frustrated at the loss, especially if we are trying to grow the rent roll.

Have you stopped to consider that it may not always be convenient for that person to manage their own property? That the other agent may not suit their needs? That they will move out again at some point, or purchase another investment in the future. That they may refer other people to us? The likelihood of this taking place will depend on how they exit the business.

How to you rate your exiting client process? It is a smooth event that leaves the client with a warm positive feeling about your business? Or is it a bit of shambles with a lack of total care and look of good riddance. What will your client be saying to others about their experience when they walk out the door?

If we can handle this process with grace, dignity and detail, we may more than just leave the client with a warm feeling about our business, but we may enable them to return one day, or perhaps tell their friends and family of our friendly professional service.

In order to ensure they leave on a good note, here are some tips to facilitate a smooth departure and leave the door open for a possible return.

  • Always call to attempt to save the management in the first instance, consider if a call from the Director may help
  • Confirm the termination of management in writing, confirming the next steps for what you will do to ensure a smooth departure
  • Notify the tenants of the upcoming changes
  • Prepare the file for handover if applicable (always keep copies)
  • Adjust the system for the departure, record notes of the reasons for departure
  • Be aware of funds available and bills/fees still owing
  • Redirect Rates/Levies if you are paying them
  • Redirect/Cancel Landlords Insurance, Smoke Alarms, Tax Depreciation notice etc
  • Arrange transfer of bond to new agent/landlord if necessary
  • Add a diary note to ensure the owner and property are archived promptly as soon as possible to ensure they do not get unnecessary statements or admin charges
  • Send a thank you letter/gift with an acknowledgement of their time as a client
  • Send an exiting client survey to see what we can do to improve and consider what can be implemented to minimise future loss. What can you learn from this experience?
  • Add a follow up to touch base with the client at 3 or 6 months

Don’t let the ball drop next time a client leaves you, handle it with care – even if they have frustrated you or things are rocky. You never know what opportunities may develop from just that one client.
Hermione Gardiner

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It’s Not What you Say It’s How you Say It

A message can be delivered in many ways, and it can also received and heard in an even broader variety of ways. Often we do not have control over the reaction of the other person, but we do have a very strong influence on how we deliver a message, having a strong influence on the outcome of the conversation.

Not  remembering this can lead to many unnecessary conflict, lead to extra stress and time taken for everyone involved. There have been many a communication breakdown, lost management, angry tenant and tribunal case that could have been avoided with a few small tweaks to the delivery of our communication and messages

What can we do to better deliver our messages?

Remember they are not you

People have different ways of communicating, negotiating and different views on how situations be handled. If you are a sharp, short and to the point type person, remember that the listener may not be the same as you and may need a bit of fluff and fuzzy to come around to your way of thinking, or perhaps some more facts and details than you would need to make a decision. Consider who you are dealing with and how they may prefer to be dealt with and spoken to.

Have some tact

Consider the use of some tact and strategy, the positive, negative positive sandwich is a popular one, instead of

  •  “You have not cleaned the property and will be charged if you don’t fix it”

 

Try

  •     “Thank you so much for cleaning the property when you vacated and for returning it in good condition. There were a few minor items that were missed, we can sort that out for you easily at a minimal cost of $50 or you can return, and then as soon as we’ve resolved that I can ensure your bond is returned as fast as possible”

 

Select the right method

Trying to deliver a tricky message via email can be the easiest way to increase your chances of conflict. Consider if sending the message via email is really the best method and if it would be better received over the phone.

Negotiating bond claims, tricky tenancies, tribunals, new lease details, complaints and breaches should always be done via phone as priority, so you can better convey sincerity, support and tone (then just using email to confirm the conversation).

Don’t point the finger

Sometimes we can unintentionally seem like we are pointing the finger of blame. Avoid using the words “you” – use more “I”, we” and “let’s” to try to help the listener know that you’re going to work together to resolve it and that you’re not blaming them (even though we may want to sometimes – remember here the goal is to minimise conflict –  which leads to the next point..)

What’s it worth               

Consider what it is worth to stick to your stubborn “I am right” guns and consider how the conversation could develop if you kept an open mind and bigger picture thinking. Sure you may think the client is wrong now, however what is the cost of arguing with this person in the long run? Could it lead to them being more difficult in future, losing managements, losing future sales?  Is it better to save face than fight your point or jump on the defensive?

Acknowledge Frustration

If a client is frustrated and you do not acknowledge this and continue to deliver your message, it can create even more of a disconnect leading to more potential conflict. Acknowledge “I understand your frustrations” “That sounds really hard” “I am hearing you’re not very happy with the situation would that be accurate to say?” “I’m sorry to hear that”, before delivering your message.

Adjust your tone

How is your tone? Sometimes when we are rushing through our days we do not realise our own tone is short, sharp or may come across rude to the listener, even my family sometimes says I have “work  voice” on. Even the tone of a how you open a conversation and deliver a message is important in the success of the receiver hearing it in the best possible way. Next time you pick up the phone and consider how you can make your tone more upbeat (situation dependent of course), or after your next conversation consider, how was I perceived?

Actively Listen

Sometimes we are too busy thinking of solving the issue or developing our response that we are not actively listing to the client which means that when we respond, our delivery could be all wrong as we have not identified core issues, their tone or their frustrations. Remove distractions and truly listen to be able to deliver the best response.

Use verbal softeners

Use words like “likely”, “typically”, “perhaps”, “sometime”, “possibly” or “occasionally” with customers who might not respond well to categorical words like “always” or “never”.

Reconfirm to demonstrate understanding

A great tool to close off a conversation is to reconfirm the outcome or actions to the listener, they will walk away feeling more comfortable you have the situation under control. Try “So, confirming that you would like to know if the owner would consider installing new carpet and you would be prepared to sign another 12 month lease, and I’ll be seeking a response on this as soon as possible” vs “I’ll check and let you know”.

Hermione Gardiner

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Are you Afraid to Tell the Truth?

Sometimes we can be afraid to tell our landlords the whole honest truth during difficult situations like tough market, difficult tenants, damaged property, maintenance and improvements needed, rent arrears, or other escalated circumstances. Often we think we are protecting them, sometimes we may be afraid of blame – what if they think it’s our fault, what if they don’t listen, and then there can be a fear over – what if we lose the management?

The problem is that when we sugar coat things, pretend everything is fine, or omit some difficulties; we may actually be making our job harder in the long run.  The landlord may not then fully understand the gravity of the situation, as they have been protected and sheltered from the truth the whole way. This may make it difficult for them to take our advice or have trust in us.  We then get frustrated with them when they won’t listen.

The key when providing honest feedback is to not just dump the tough or negative news onto the owner – but to use the opportunity to show you have a plan in place.  Explain that you want to be transparent about the situation, for them not to be alarmed because their situation is common and we, as the experts, have a plan to overcome the obstacle or challenge.

If they are confident that we have it covered, and that you have just been honest in their best interest, benefits will be two fold.  As mentioned, it shows not only that you have the situation under control, but that on the other hand it actually substantiates to them the value of having a property manager in place.

The best relationships (whether with our landlords or the people in our personal lives), are built on communication concepts such as honesty, trust and transparency.  If you can be honest and transparent in a tactful way you will generate respect and trust with your landlord, and you will be surprised how much better prepared they are to listen to your advice and guidance.

The word tactful is important here, as we may need to think about the way we phrase things and how we and our tone, choice of words and message is received. Using a few simple phrases such as “Jenni, can I give you my honest opinion here?”, “Tom, I am going to be blunt and to the point, is that okay?” “Are you happy for me to give you honest feedback?” will help set a buffer for the message you are about to deliver and gain the respect of the client.

Hermione Gardiner

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Want to Know 1 Sure Fire Way to Maximise your New Business Success This Year?

We live in a world of instant gratification. In moments I can look anything up via the magic of google, I can order a product to be delivered to my door – within 3 hours, I can research a holiday, I can tack and monitor packages, I can transfer money online instantly when I find myself short at the checkout. Heck, I can now even just speak to my phone I do not even have to do the heavy lifting of typing thanks to my little friend Siri.

What does this mean for many of us? I’ve found that it means in business, that we are constantly looking for the quick win, the client that is ready to go and sign up with us this moment, the phone call conversation that will instantly turn into the appraisal, the letterbox drop that instantly generates the call. I see time and time again BDM’s losing interest after a initial attempt, I admit, I have been guilty of this too.

What needs to shift in order to maximise your chances of new business success? We need to shift the mindset from that of Instant Gratification to that of a Long Term Gain game. Success in this game is a marathon, not a sprint. The most successful business’ I work with take a long term approach to their client nurture and relationship building and a high priority to the care of their data. Recognising that the follow up and ongoing contact with all landlord prospects is as much a key component to success as the ready-made walk in investor – eager to sign up here and now.

Your follow up systems and strategies must be on point, you must have them working for you with thorough notes, reminders and database categories.  Remembering that it can take several conversations, offerings and ongoing nurture to build a relationship with a prospective client – so they trust you want to use you. Much like building a friendship or relationship it takes time.

Your marketing plan must be strategically planned in advance across a combination of mediums and media, with the notion it can take up to 7 or more communication messages for someone to know you and be interested to want to get to know more about what you do.

Most importantly, the mindset of yourself and your team needs to shift to that big picture thinking that will support the long term goals of the business. It can be scary to think of the number of potential future client’s for your business that are never contacted again as they are not ready right now. But, if we can shift the mindset from Instant Gratification to Long Term Gain and recognise the future benefits of keeping in contact to yourself and the business, we can really maximise your chances of new business success this year, and the next, and the next…..

If you or your business needs support or guidance don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Hermione Gardiner

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