Customer service is very important in off-campus housing; much the same as any other industry where consumers decide whether to purchase a product or service.
Most especially, first-year student tenants are usually making a paramount decision of where to live, after leaving the comforts of home. Although most often young and inexperienced in the rental market, they have the expectation for a reasonable level of service and quality. Regularly, parents play an important role in the rental selection process as well.
When choosing a rental unit, tenants often compare and communicate with multiple landlords to carefully select a place that meets their own specific, unique criteria and needs. Excellent customer service and timely communication is one way for landlords to automatically stick out from the others and gain a valuable competitive advantage. According to Gartner, when it comes to making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price.
Great customer service should start at the very first rental inquiry. Often a potential tenant will have questions about the property, need clarification about an advertisement or want to schedule a viewing appointment. These are all part of the decision-making process and are best to be answered in a polite, professional and timely manner. It is understood that landlords often receive multiple inquiries simultaneously and a response could be delayed; but the longer a landlord takes to respond, the higher chance of another landlord sweeping a great tenant off their feet.
During the ongoing landlord-tenant relationship, it’s important to handle maintenance issues and complaints professionally; communication is key in all relationships. Priyanka Agarwal, Director of Public Relations for J Turner Research, quotes that residents are most anguished if their maintenance requests are not completed on time and if they there is no communication or update on the status of the repairs in their home. According to NewVoiceMedia, after one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. On the upside, after having a positive experience with a company, most customers would recommend it to a friend.
Replacing a good tenant is a costly and time-consuming process. It can involve re-advertising, full-unit cleaning, changing locks, plus screening and communicating with new applicants. A landlord should always try to make a tenant feel appreciated and valued, as it’s known as one of the top reasons tenants switch between rental units throughout their college or university degree.
How does a landlord know whether they are giving acceptable customer service and how a tenant truly feels?
Distribute a survey of expectations upon move-in
Welcome tenant feedback with an ‘open door policy’
Monitor all online reviews and listen for word of mouth
Are there tenant referrals?
What are the consequences of poor customer service?
Poor customer service can negatively impact a community’s reputation and, as a result, future leasing. Perhaps one of the most empowering elements of the Internet is the ability to give every single consumer a voice. Consumers can now have their voice heard by millions, with little to no effort. When tenants negatively comment about customer service and the quality of a unit, it can have endless, long-term consequences. Students searching for off-campus housing generally seek reviews and feedback; which will likely influence their judgment.
With a growing interest in student housing by developers and property managers, leading to increased competition in the market, it’s always recommended to give the best customer service possible. There has also been a growing emphasis by tech-savvy student tenants to utilize online reviews, so a landlord’s reputation is critical. Using great customer service as an advantage is a relatively low-cost solution to rising above the competition. Like in all other industries, quality of service will only grow in importance to customers moving forward.
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The Places4Students.com Team