Tenant and occupant satisfaction is always an important factor for facility managers. The best method seems obvious but can be complex to execute: Enhance customer service and build positive relationships.
“Customer service is incredibly valuable, and it is a facility manager’s entire job,” says Meaghan Baker, facility manager for InterContinental Hotels Group in Alpharetta, Georgia.
By focusing on positive tenant relationships with these seven customer service techniques, facility managers can increase tenant satisfaction and help retain or improve their building’s occupancy rate.
1. Practice Open Communication
By remaining open and honest, facility managers can effectively establish better relationships with tenants, Baker says. “You need to put yourself out there--let the customers know you are always around as a resource of information,” she says.
“Keep tenants informed, and make sure they understand that you are always looking out for them,” says JC Blakely, corporate facilities manager for the PICA Group in Nashville, Tennessee.
2. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Baker recommends acting proactively with tenants and facility management tasks. Facility managers do not want to be known as only people who can respond to conflicts, Baker says, but rather they want to create a positive situation from the beginning. Proactive communication is easily the best way to handle any situation in the building to keep tenants happy, Blakely adds.
3. Never Respond with “No”
Saying “no” is always a bad response, says Michel Theriault, principal at Strategic Advisor, a facility and property management consulting company in Ontario. Facility managers need to know how to appropriately tell a tenant that a request cannot be made by offering an alternative course of action. “Sometimes the alternative ends up being better than the initial customer request," Theriault says.
Blakely agrees, and says to always act with a “can-do attitude.” Provide another option for the tenant, and follow-up with an explanation for why a different approach needs to be taken. “It will keep the customer happy, and the relationship will not be affected,” Theriault says.
4. Be Visible
According to Blakely, “hiding is the greatest mistake facility managers can make” when it comes to building a relationship with tenants. “You want tenants to know your face,” Blakey says. “Every morning, I walk the entire building. That way tenants know I am around if they need me."
5. Keep Your Promises
Living up to the promises and expectations you create is very important to the job of a facility manager, Baker says. A relationship with a tenant can suffer immensely if disappointment becomes the norm, she says. Theriault recommends providing status updates and keeping tenants informed on possible delays to maintain your credibility with tenants.
“People want to hear about problems or delays if they are occurring,” Blakely says. “Otherwise they become irritated when requests are not met.” His advice is to remain knowledgeable of the building, and to have a good understanding of your staff’s limitations. “Knowing what your building [staff] can and cannot do is important when making promises on work requests.”
6. Communicate Face-to-Face
Face-to-face meetings always help build a relationship, especially in comparison to emails and phone calls, Baker says. “They alleviate the tenant’s fear that a facility manager isn’t around.” With face-to-face communication, tenants will believe the facility manager is more involved with the building, and view him or her as a more accessible and approachable resource, Baker says.
7. Receive Feedback
Tenant feedback helps facility managers determine customer satisfaction. “Feedback is the best way to improve customer service and make necessary changes that are reflective of tenant wants,” Theriault says. Both Blakely and Baker agree, and recommend meeting with tenants. “It gives tenants the chance to comment openly and freely on the building management,” Baker says. A suggestion box is also a good way to get feedback that also allows tenants to freely voice their opinions.
With positive communication, every company can improve its vacancy rates, Theriault says. A facility manager’s job goes beyond operating the property. According to Blakely, it’s about making people believe they are part of a community and a family.
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