Customer Experience: 3 Steps for Making the Transition from Good to Amazing

Is there a disappointing connection between consistency and being good? Is being consistently good good enough? If you are content with delivering a consistently average customer experience, how can you expect to transition from good to amazing?

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin shared: “Sometimes, we’re so focused on being consistent that we also lower the bar on amazing. After all, the thinking goes, if we can’t be amazing all the time, better to reset the expectation to merely good. This robs us of the ability to (sometimes) be amazing.”

Here are three steps your property management team can take when making the transition from creating good to amazing customer experiences for your residents:

1. Pay Attention to Detail

There’s a thin line between being good at what you do and being amazing. Amazing property management companies are like amazing athletes:

  • They never take anything for granted and they never stop working to improve themselves.
  • They continue to work on their internal environment and then they extend that to their customer’s experience.

An Olympian doesn’t start out as a gold medal winner. An Olympian trains thousands of days when no one was monitoring him and made the best choices moment by moment until he became a gold medal winner athlete. The same can be said for amazing companies like Nordstrom and Starbucks.

Details matter when it comes to delivering an amazing customer experience. I have read many times on shopping reports and resident surveys the phrase “attention to detail” written by residents. It’s the difference from being just good at what you do and being great at what you do.

According to Michael Levine, author of Broken Windows, Broken Business: “Constant attention to detail demonstrates corporate competence, but it also shows that a company and its employees care about customers’ needs.”

It’s his belief that customers can get a strong indication about how a company does business and how it will attend to big concerns by how it attends to small details. Amazing companies know this and demonstrate it throughout the customer experience.

Paying attention to the details and responding to the emotional needs of residents is not always easy. Reading and hearing the brutal facts—that is, that sometimes your employees are under-producing the experience the customer wants—is not fun. In fact, there are times when the comments on a mystery shopping report, resident survey, or apartment ratings and reviews sites closely resemble that of a horror movie or comedy show. Yes, employees insult, embarrass, ignore, and bring residents to anger every minute of every day. They are human!

Using a feedback tool to chronicle the hits and misses of your on-site property management staff and point out the flaws will help you make necessary changes, eventually leading you to great discoveries and helping you make the transition from good to amazing.

2. Anticipate and Proactively Address Resident Concerns

When a resident comes to you asking questions and expressing needs that you quickly and effectively respond to, you are practicing good customer service. When you anticipate and proactively reach out to your residents to address any questions or concerns and gain insight into their future needs, you are practicing amazing customer service. Obviously, when you don’t respond or respond slowly, that’s bad customer service, but let’s save that topic for another blog post.

What can and should be anticipated? If you have worked in property management for any length of time you already know what most of those problems are.

  • Create a list of the most common problems that prospective and existing residents face.
  • Create a variety of categories such as maintenance, utilities, application process, etc.
  • Provide solutions to residents before it becomes a problem for them.

But in reality, no matter how much time you spend looking into your crystal ball, you just can’t possibly think of everything. So you need to have a system and a procedure for handling those things that can’t be predicted.

  • Your resident should never have to hear your on-site employee say “I don’t know what to do” or “Let me check with the manager and get back to you.”
  • When something unexpected happens, your employee’s first thought should be: “Okay, I’ve been taught how to handle these situations,” and they should be able to proceed with confidence.

Today’s customer desires amazing customer service. They are often satisfied with good customer service but will walk away easily when they find a company who has made that transition from good to amazing. In fact, 60-80% of customers who defected had reported on a recent survey they were satisfied with the service they had received [Reichhold, The Ultimate Question].

Don’t’ make leaving your apartment property easy for your residents.

3. Move Beyond Employee Engagement to Entanglement

According to the Institute for Human Health and Human Potential, the average person has 60,000 thoughts a day but just six percent of those thoughts are work related. Gallup and numerous research companies attribute this to lack of engagement in the workplace. Gallup’s 2011 data is unsettling because it reveals that 71 percent of American workers are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” in their work. That leaves only one-third of American workers who are “engaged” and enthusiastic about their jobs.

Thomas Walter, coauthor of It’s My Company Too!, believes that entangling employees vs. just engaging them could be the key to improving upon these numbers, as his research discovered companies that went well beyond employee engagement to what they identified as employee entanglement.

While we define the word “entangle” as a means of twisting together into a confusing mass, Walter and his co-authors found entanglement to be an extremely positive force that drives individuals, teams, and organizations to achieve better results because of the tension between “what is” and “what can be.”

To illustrate the point, Walter and co-authors wrote about the parallels between a collegiate athlete and an engaged employee and the parallels between an Olympic athlete and an entangled employee.

  • The average college athlete may be a high performer engaged in a sport, but she also has her sights on other things besides training and competition; classes, friends, and future plans outside of sports also occupy her time—even while she is training and competing.
  • Olympians have a narrower focus, such that every action concentrates on attaining the highest level of performance and achieving greatness. Every aspect of living— diet, sleep, training, and exercise must align with the Olympian’s goal to achieve the very best outcome.

Olympians ask, “Will this action improve my skills or better my chances of winning?”

Entangled employees ask, “Will this action improve my individual and our organizational ability to achieve success?”

Entangled service employees see each customer contact as possibly their first and only opportunity to make a positive impression. They put their best foot forward in every interaction in an effort to provide an excellent customer experience. Each day they are excitedly drawn into the magnetism of their entangled culture to do more, achieve more, and be more than any one person believes possible.

So what constitutes an entangled employee?

  • Shared values
  • Belief in a common purpose
  • Commitment to excellence

Employee entanglement is the embodiment of having made the transition from good to amazing.

Don’t Settle for Good. Strive for Amazing.

A very small number of companies have achieved “amazing” status. Innovation rarely occurs without risk, which means accepting setbacks. The ability to take risks is a building block of innovation and leadership, and those who shy away from them are rarely successful and rarely amazing.

Don’t settle for good; it truly is the enemy of greatness. Determine exactly what it is you’re good at and then push relentlessly until your property management team makes the final transition from good to amazing.

 


President and Owner, Ellis Partners in Mystery Shopping

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Joanna Ellis is CEO and Owner of Ellis Partners in Management Solutions (EPMS) and Co-owner of Renter’s Voice. Under her direction, Ellis has established itself as the premier apartment mystery shopping company in the nation, as well as a respected provider of multi-touch point resident surveys, as part of their retention-focused customer experience program. Current clients include most major apartment developers, management companies, and REITs. Through Renter’s Voice, Ellis helps clients promote and respond to authentic and objective apartment reviews. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Texas A&M, Ms. Ellis has spent more than 25 years in the multifamily industry, and she now holds both the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) and Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS). She is also a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent. In honor of EPMS’ reputation for integrity, the Dallas Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals awarded Joanna, on behalf of the company, the 2008 Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award for mid-size companies.

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