It can happen at a moment’s notice: Your leasing agent is sitting with a prospect, hopefully describing all the great benefits of living at your community, when an unhappy resident bursts into the leasing office to frantically express their distaste for some recent occurrence. This is no time to panic. While there may be no easy button fix, there are a few tips that can help diffuse the situation quickly.
The first, and most important tip, is to listen to this person. If possible, you will want to immediately sit down with the resident to address their concerns. Stopping what you are doing shows them that you are willing to put their interests above your own, which will ultimately start the conversation on the proper note. I would also suggest taking the resident to your office or to a private room, as there is nothing more uncomfortable than discussing private issues in front of an office full of people. You also won’t want current or future residents overhearing this unhappy conversation. The key at this part of the process is to listen. In order to figure out how to properly resolve a problem, it is integral to find out exactly what is causing it. I would suggest taking notes on what they say so you can address each specific point, and further display your concern for their problem. Be patient and never engage in an argument because even if you are factually sound in your position and prove them wrong, you will more than likely still have lost their favor. Let the resident finish speaking and ask if there is anything else they would like to tell you. This will signal that their time to talk is coming to a close and that you are ready to address their concerns.
The next step would be to take time to go over the information that was just given to you. I would start off with something like, “Ok, I want to make sure I understand exactly what it going on.” Go through each of the points to make sure you have not missed anything and to show that you were actually listening to their complaints. At this point, you should take the time to apologize for any mistakes made by you or your team. Conceding to a few different points will show them you are not defensive and that you genuinely want to solve their problems. I have found that admitting your own faults can deflate the sometimes aggressive nature of these conversations.
Finally, ask the resident exactly what steps they would like to see taken to resolve the issue. Then assure them that you will do everything necessary to fix the problems and give them a time and date they can expect it to be done. Make sure to use a realistic time frame, as missing a deadline will probably bring them back in the office with a vengeance. After the job is completed, take the time to contact the resident to make sure they are happy with the resolution. I have found that doing a small amount of follow up makes a huge impact with residents, and is one of the best ways to show your concern for their comfort.
It is never easy dealing with an unhappy resident, but it is something that almost everyone in multifamily either has or will experience. While there may be situations beyond your control, it is important to remember that as property management you will be held accountable for the comfort of a large amount of people, and learning to effectively diffuse uncomfortable situations will be vital to maintaining a healthy management/resident relationship.