Difficult residents seem to come with the territory of running an apartment complex, yet not many people talk about how to approach and create success with them. EPMS knows there are effective tools to help you listen to customers, respond to their feedback and understand and enhance overall customer experience and we are eager to share them with you.
The goal is to understand feedback through the eyes of your customers and to manage their expectations, especially online. It is easier and more or a resident to post a “bad” review than a good review. Let’s change that today by focusing on these areas:
Your state of mind – In order to change your interaction with difficult residents, you must change how you react to them. You and your staff must ask yourselves two questions: Is the resident really the problem? and Are you overreacting to THEIR reaction? When you become open and switch your state of mind, you create empathy. Here’s an example:
Scenario: A resident was overcharged and it will take your office a week to return the funds.
Problem: A small error needs to be corrected and the manager downplays it as an error when, for the resident as an individual, it is a huge problem; after all, we are talking about money here.
Goal: Look at it from the resident’s perspective. How you handle the situation can make a huge difference with the resident and how they respond.
Best Next Steps: Choose your approach – in person vs phone vs email (tone, eye contact, etc.). If you can predict it, plan for it. For example, the pool is closed and weather will be nice; someone will have an opinion and express it. Plan an exit strategy. Choose to discuss the matter by phone or email (to avoid misunderstood facial expressions). However, face to face may be needed, when appropriate, to apologize and give yourself time to deal with a situation; possibly reaching out to corporate or the regional manager for solutions.
Maintain self control; your words, facial expressions and tone matter. Make sure to pay close attention to all of these with all staff members involved.
Focus on problem solving. When you are in a difficult and emotional situation, misinterpretations can run rampant, so this approach minimizes miscommunication.
Focus on creating rapport and earning respect. Decide to separate the person from the issue. Build strong problem solving skills and work to relate on a personal level to win rapport, cooperation and respect; do NOT focus on the issue.
Apply appropriate pressure. Difficult residents like to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate, which triggers you to focus on what is wrong rather than try to solve a problem. You can change the dynamic and put the spotlight back on them by asking them what you can do and if your solution is appropriate. You can ask constructive questions to help neutralize their feelings towards you.
Always lead rather than follow. Do not just say no, offer a solution or compromise to the resident. Suggesting how you can assist them or make it right will make a big difference in their response to you and the apartment complex.
Finally, embrace the situation for what it is – an opportunity to understand how you can improve things or become a better communicator. Care and mean it. Go the extra mile and offer to make it better. Respond in real time so the problem doesn’t escalate. Continuously deliver value with how responsive you are, how often you hold events and making residents feel they are getting their rent’s worth.
You cannot avoid dealing with a difficult resident, but you can control how you respond to the situation. Always choose to look at the situation from their perspective before you respond. From there, you can choose the best approach for both parties. This may very well avoid a negative online review, after all!
Misty Sanford, Founder
North of Creative