They Only Know If You Tell Them
March 1, 2009
“The most desirable services. . . are those that keep their promises,” writes in Harry Beckwith in his milestone book Selling the Invisible. In property-management terms, we can say with Beckwith that the most desirable landlords are those who keep their promises. What do you promise?
If you expect to set yourself apart from the bazillion other landlords with rental properties, you must start by doing the basics and work your way up to the extraordinary. The basics are making and keeping your promises. As it turns out, doing the basics, making and keeping promises, is also the extraordinary because so few landlords do the basics. One example, I added the following to the advertising materials of one apartment complex I consulted for:
Our Commitment to You
We want your satisfaction to come first!
We will do our best to see that you have a comfortable, quiet and pleasant home.
We will address your concerns promptly and courteously
We will begin repairs within 24 hours of your telling us about a problem
We will promptly inform you of anything that could affect your home
We will screen all applicants thoroughly against our high standards.
Those are all promises. Those promises bind you to a level of customer service that other landlords may not have. Those promises create expectations from your renters. Those promises allow you to stand just a little bit higher than the landlord down the street. They are basics, but they also make you appear to be extraordinary.
“But most landlords do all that,” you might say. So what if they do? People don’t know unless you tell them. Most landlords don’t tell prospective tenants that they will do all those things. You do. That means that people reading your promises think you are the only one who does it. And that comes from simply telling them.
These promises are most important with your first contact with prospective tenants. Here you are, first thing, promising something that no other landlord promises. Going back to Harry Beckwith’s book, he calls it anchoring. He wrote, “People with little time—almost all people today—are more apt to make first impressions as snap judgments, and then base all their later decisions on them”–anchoring.
Now that you’ve promised, now that you’ve gained some great new tenants as a result, now that your occupancy rate is way up, you have to back up your promises. It’s simple enough, just do all the things you said you would. Your tenants have expectations because you have created them with your first impressions. But there’s one more step.
Because people don’t know unless you tell them, make sure you tell your tenants what you have done for them with a monthly report on your service. Keep a customer record for each of your units and create a short report that you can send each of your tenants every month telling them your response times to repairs, how you addressed any concerns they had, any notices you sent them to make them aware of upcoming events that could affect their peace and quiet, and finally, how many applicants you rejected who would not have made good neighbors. Then they’ll know—and they’ll tell their friends.
In order to be successful, you don’t have to be head and shoulders above the rest. After all, it only takes one millimeter to win a race, it only takes one stroke to win a golf tournament, and it only takes one signature to win a new tenant. But unlike races and golf tournaments, the landlord business has no second place. You get and keep tenants or you lose. One terrific way to get and keep tenants is to promise and keep those promises.