How can a sharp property manager use technology to improve tenant retention in today’s difficult leasing environment? New, web-based applications that automate tenant request processes are creating quicker response times and increasing tenant communications. These easy-to-use applications are boosting customer service response levels, thereby helping property management retain tenants and attract new ones.
Traditionally, tenant service request fulfillment, ranging from maintenance to planning to security, has been a largely manual and time-consuming process using outmoded paper forms and phone calls with little or no tracking capabilities. While this process did get the work done – eventually – property managers were forced to use inefficient means to deal with hundreds of individual tenant requests arriving every day. This increased the chance for delay and error.
Streamlining maintenance request processes leads to greater tenant satisfaction by eliminating time-consuming, ineffective, and often redundant paper work. It also gives property managers the chance to get to know their tenants’ needs better and proactively address their concerns. A better reporting system with fewer opportunities for human error also allows managers to address reoccurring problems, identify maintenance patterns, and make informed decisions about long-term maintenance or capital improvements.
“Since we’ve implemented a web-based building management software system, we’ve improved our communications with our tenants and they appreciate the convenience of the system. They enter their requests on their time, not the building office’s; they also have the comfort of knowing their request won’t be forgotten,” explains Kirsten Walraven, Seagate Properties, general manager at 44 Montgomery Street, San Francisco.
Not surprisingly, delays and errors place an enormous strain on the tenant/property manager relationship. When a request was initiated manually, a tenant may not see any tangible action taken to remedy the problem for several hours or even days. What the tenant may not understand is that building management is hard at work behind the scenes following an antiquated authorization/reporting protocol involving several layers (and numerous staff members).
Today, property managers can take advantage of streamlined, automated work request processes via the web that not only speed up service delivery, but also provide a critical database of information for billing service requests. Additionally, these new systems provide property managers with the opportunity to create a partnership with tenants by increasing communication, creating a sense of inclusion, and empowering them with self-service initiation and tracking of their requests.
“An increased level of customer service is the intangible amenity that gets a lease renewed,” explains Richard Ruben, founder of Workspeed and CEO of the Lawrence Ruben Co. “Retaining a tenant is always cheaper – it could easily cost $100 a square foot to replace a tenant.” (That’s $100 per lost tenant vs. pennies per square foot for a web-based service request system that increases the chances of keeping that tenant and gaining new ones.)
To compete in this tough real estate climate, property managers need to differentiate their facility from newer, more prestigious, or even cheaper properties. Tenants will be less likely to seek out new office space if the current environment is well maintained, operating costs are competitive, and most importantly, if the building management is responsive and customer focused.Richard C. Giordanella, a seasoned executive with more than 25 years in building successful software companies, is CEO at Workspeed (www.workspeed.com), a New York City-headquartered provider of web-based and wireless applications that optimize real estate enterprise performance.