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June 15, 2020

Tenants are the lifeblood to a property management company. Without tenants to pay rent every month, the management company can't pay the bills to meet their obligations to owners and stay in business. As a property manager, how can you be sure your tenants are satisfied with how your company serves their needs with well-maintained, safe, and functional housing? Ask them.  

Why Open Dialog is Essential in Property Management

Asking for feedback from tenants is the most direct route to improve your level of service. By asking for feedback, a property management company sets the stage for a constructive conversation with tenants. Your first order of business is to listen – tenants may not always reach out when they need something if they feel like the management company isn't listening.

The unheard tenant becomes frustrated and carries the risk of becoming a problem tenant, one who may start to pay late, cause trouble with other tenants or worse yet, damage the unit. 

Tenant feedback is crucial to better customer relations. You need to understand how they feel about services provided, even if you assume you are doing a good job of staying on top of both regular obligations and one-time problems.

When You Should Reach Out to Tenants

It's wise to make a plan to stay in touch with tenants frequently, perhaps even quarterly. You can conduct an email survey, post a survey online, or mail a questionnaire. When you remain in touch throughout the year, it sends a clear signal that you want to stay on top of any concerns, and not just hear about issues when it's lease renewal time, or when tenants are moving in or moving out. 

Allow your respondents to remain anonymous if they choose – you'll get the most honest feedback, which is what you need to make meaningful improvements to the way you operate your business. 

How to Reach Tenants

 Posting your survey online makes it easy for tenants to stay anonymous, with no need to submit an email or other identifying information. There are many different survey platforms you can use; among the easiest are Survey Monkey and Google Forms, which offer a free option. You can, of course, run an email survey, which is harder to make anonymous than an online form they fill out. For those who don't use a computer, hard to believe, but they are out there, a mail-in survey can be as easy as a quick form mailed to your tenants with pre-paid return envelopes. They don't need to sign it or address it to keep it anonymous. 

Always keep in mind the purpose of the survey, which is to improve the quality of management. You might receive surprising and even hurtful feedback – keep an open mind and view it as a fact-finding process to help you do a better job on behalf of both tenants and owners. 

What Questions Should You Ask? 

You will want to get feedback about essential, recurring services and procedures, such as:

• The process for move-ins and move-outs, 

• Maintenance and repair requests, and follow-ups after work is completed

Other Areas to Probe Include:

• The process for lease renewals and reasons for not renewing (if applicable)

• Possible additional services —so you can gauge interest, and consider a rent increase if warranted by the other services

The tenant's view of your staff's responsiveness, accessibility, and professionalism, and how they feel about your company overall With "yes" or "no" questions, you make your survey easy to complete, but you also get minimal feedback. A better approach is to offer tenants the opportunity to elaborate on each response. Of course, you still want to keep the survey short and simple – consider presenting questions where they can rate their answer on a 1-10 scale.

Always Tell Your Tenants What You Are Going to Do With the Feedback.

Tenants are much more likely to provide comments and feedback if they know you will listen and make changes. When you make changes in response to their feedback, tell them about the changes and why they are being made. The bottom line? Do not ignore the survey results, even if the comments seem minor. Doing so will swiftly erode the credibility and reputation of your property management business.

Take Action

When you create and send out a survey, review responses as soon as possible, any problem areas will become apparent, and you can now put together an action plan to address them. 

For example, maybe a few tenants complained about a particularly noisy neighbor in their apartment complex. When you become aware that one tenant is affecting the well-being of several others, you can work proactively with the noisy tenant before the issue blows up into a bigger problem or even a confrontation.

You might see a common thread in comments about maintenance times, call-backs, and other communications or enforcement around pet clean-up or barking loudly. You'll learn about noisy or disrespectful neighbors, and find out how your tenants feel about the amenities and what might be lacking. 

Of course, you don't have to change everything. But when you can identify your tenants' concerns – especially if several people share these concerns – you'll be able to make improvements that will have the most significant positive effect on your properties.

If you make it clear that you're willing to listen to your tenants and then take action based on their suggestions, they will feel as if the time and effort they spent providing feedback has been valued. This understanding that their voice has been heard improves their overall satisfaction and makes it more likely that they will give you valuable feedback.

Happy tenants will stay longer. You'll benefit from lower turnover and consistent long-term tenancy, which leads to improved profitability.