The Tenant’s Point of View
March 1, 2006
“Stupid tenants! They’re so picky and demanding! And they’re always interrupting my work.” How many times have we thought those or similar words? No, we didn’t actually say them to a tenant, but we might have thundered them to a spouse or co-worker.
Let’s look at an example from the tenant’s point of view, though. John and Ginny Tenant just moved in to the unit at 1234 Main St. The next day comes the phone call. “We can’t get the built-in microwave to work.” That built-in microwave had been a big selling point for their renting the unit. After all, the competing home down the street at 2345 Main St. had all the stuff yours does except for the microwave. Now they are rightfully upset. People buy things for their reasons, not ours.
What happens when the tenant calls? Too often he or she is met with a patronizing sneer. “Well, it was working the day before you moved in, I tested it myself.”
The natural response is “Your point? It doesn’t work now, for whatever reason.”
Another, equally offensive landlord answer is “You just aren’t running it right.”
“Well, gee, it didn’t come with an instruction book, and this one is different from any other microwave I’ve ever seen.”
In both instances our attitude has irked our new customer. To what end? All a bad customer-service attitude does is exacerbate a problem. Our job is to make our good customer/tenant’s experience living in our properties as pleasant and stress-free as we are able. A sarcastic or sneering attitude accomplishes nothing except to make us feel “superior.” Of course, none of us have ever encountered a situation where we didn’t know how to handle an issue and had to call for help (then felt silly for missing the obvious) have we?
What’s a better way to handle it?
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s see if I can get it straightened out for you. Electronic gadgets can be frustrating, can’t they? That microwave works a little differently than some others. As I recall when I tested the microwave before you moved in, you have to push the ‘start’ button before you can set the cook time. Had you done that?”
See, we got the part in about knowing it works without being insulting. We also got the part in about the tenant not “running it right,” also without being insulting. It’s all in our attitude at the beginning. That means thinking about how we can show that we value each of our good tenants.
Our job as customer-service professionals and landlords is to see to it that our tenant/customer gets what he or she wants. We help them get that by taking the attitude that we are there to help them do just that. What is it they want? A pleasant home, responsive service, and a friendly, yet businesslike, attitude from their landlord. What are they willing to exchange for all that? A timely rent check, appreciation, pride in where they live, and most of all, a hesitancy to move.