By Samantha Chalmers
When hiring or training a maintenance technician, we naturally tend to focus on the hard skills. But HVAC certification and experience in fixing plumbing, electrical and drywall issues are only a part of the puzzle in today’s customer-centric environment.
Today’s resident wants more than a skilled technician that replaces the faucet quickly—they want a skilled technician with a friendly smile and a positive attitude. If they don’t get it, they’ll find somewhere else to live.
As a greater number of tasks like paying rent and submitting service requests are automated, residents are even interacting with the leasing team on fewer occasions. That means a greater amount of customer service and the ability to influence the resident renewal decision is put on your maintenance team, which has traditionally been left out of the customer service training sessions.
“Daily interactions between residents and maintenance technicians, from a nice chat while repairing a broken dishwasher to saying ‘hi’ as friends in passing, are what truly drive customer loyalty and increase resident retention,” said Kevin Villont, vice president of construction and maintenance at JVM Realty Corp.
A lot of results and reviews come through maintenance. Not just from the perspective of timeliness and efficiency of work, but also how polite, clean and friendly the maintenance tech was while providing service. This underscores the magnitude of resident-maintenance relationships.
Here are some ways multifamily operators can prepare maintenance staffs to build meaningful relationships with residents:
Seek maintenance technicians who fit company culture
The number one step in creating a quality maintenance team is getting the right people on board. This can be a two-pronged approach, with an objective and subjective component.
The objective nuts and bolts part deals with hiring someone who understands and can execute the duties and responsibilities of the position, and will pass a maintenance exam. The subjective part is looking into how the maintenance tech would fit in with and adopt company culture and fundamentals. Every company is different, but ideally you’ll hire someone who cannot only perform the roles of the job, but will also adhere to the company’s core values.
Someone with the personality to connect with and engage residents in a friendly and professional manner is also important. It’s not easy to find this skill set in the maintenance world, but holding out until you do will go a long way to improving the customer service scores of your community.
Hold dedicated customer service training immediately upon hire
Training new maintenance hires on the core fundamentals and values of your company is a big component of equipping them with the knowledge and skills to perform well in their roles.
“At JVM, we have a director of training who provides a customer service course with our maintenance technicians within 90 days of starting,” Villont said. “The maintenance technicians learn all about customer service protocol and how to treat residents.”
Customer service training, when it comes to residents, is a great way to educate maintenance techs on service etiquette, from being kind, respectful and polite to residents, to leaving the apartment clean and following up with residents on how satisfied they are with the completed work.
Harness tech tools to empower associates
Apartment software has streamlined communication with residents and optimized the speed and efficiency in which maintenance requests are executed. By utilizing property and resident management software and the insights it provides, maintenance techs can easily manage work orders and gain valuable resident information from the community data.
Prepare for referrals, crisis management
Occasionally a resident will seek out a maintenance technician for an issue that is outside that tech’s expertise. Preparing maintenance techs on how to steer residents to more qualified coworkers who can assist will go a long way when it comes to that resident feeling heard and supported.
Maintenance teams should also be trained specifically for emergency and crisis duties so they know how to act accordingly and can help residents should anything come up.
Utilize online reviews to improve maintenance
Online reviews, whether positive or negative, present unparalleled opportunities to get a glimpse into the community from the resident’s perspective. SatisFacts and Google ratings are tools that can be used to provide an overview of how the customer views the maintenance staff.
“Residents will sometimes address maintenance technicians by name in a review, which is often a solid indicator that the maintenance team is interacting well with residents and developing good relationships,” Villont said.
As technology evolves, so should the way companies provide customer service to residents.
Whether a resident feels cared for and supported at their apartment community is dependent on the relationships they have formed with maintenance teams. These maintenance-resident bonds are a weighty piece of the resident retention equation. Without innovative resident and property management technology in place, maintenance teams would struggle providing the commendable customer service that residents expect in the digital age.
Samantha Chalmers is an account director for LinnellTaylor Marketing.