You might not admit it, but there are going to be times when your residents annoy you. (Well, you shouldn’t admit it to the residents, but I’m sure it comes out over a beer or two with your colleagues.) In a recent blog on Rent Sauce, author Dallas Jensen discusses what could result from negative feelings about your residents, including bad reviews about the community and lower resident retention.
And, of course there are going to be downsides to not liking your residents, but what happens if you really can’t avoid it?
In college, I worked at a movie theater in the concession stand. It was pretty great—free movies, all-you-could-eat popcorn when the managers weren’t looking and…well, that’s about it. Interacting with the customers was usually pretty fine, until it wasn’t. At best, they knew what they wanted and just wanted you to go as quickly as possible so they wouldn’t miss their movie. At worst they’d scream at you because the fact that there was a line and they showed up late for a new movie and wanted to catch the previews was all somehow your fault. Once, I had to make a large buttered popcorn three times because I didn’t get the requested butter-to-popcorn ratio quite right (they wanted some popcorn, and then butter, and then more popcorn, and more butter, and so on, instead of just butter on the top like we normally did). Of course, when I finally did get it right, I accidentally knocked it on the floor and had to start the whole process over again.
So, yeah, I totally get not always liking your customers. But, it’s bad for business to visibly dislike your residents.
Here are some tips to keep your interactions with residents positive.
Put yourself in their shoes. Sure, it’s irritating when the same resident calls you every day about a toilet that’s not flushing. You heard her the first time, and made a note for maintenance. It will be taken care of after the long list of actual emergencies are taken care of. Why is she still annoying you about it? OK, so imagine going home and your toilet doesn’t work. Not a big deal, right? It’ll be fixed soon. But maybe it’s your only toilet. And then you have to use the restroom at the local gym, or if you forget, you certainly can’t flush. I give you two days before you’re calling your plumber every hour, on the hour. When you’re living there, every minor hiccup becomes a major crisis. Have some compassion—those personal trainers get so judgy when you’re just using the bathroom instead of working on your quads.
Communicate clearly. Maybe your residents are calling you at ungodly hours because they just don’t know they’re not supposed to. Does your office have set hours? Make sure they’re clearly posted. Update your social media pages with the office’s hours of operation and community rules, and gently remind residents when you see them. If you have a community website or use Building Link or something similar, set up a FAQ section for residents so they can get the information they need. Because if they know, then at least maybe they’ll pretend to look sheepish when you remind them again that they shouldn’t call your cell at 2 a.m.
Make sure the entire team is trained. Make sure everyone on your team is trained and knows community rules and what to do in different situations. That way employees can’t just pass the resident to another person, annoying everyone in the process. And if someone doesn’t know the answer to a question, make sure they know to ask for help. It’s better to find out the right way to do something then to put a Band-Aid on the problem and then having the resident come back with the same issue later on.
Fake it until you make it. Look, sometimes people are just pains. And, while we all have fantasies about how we would tell these people off, polite society frowns upon that, especially when we’re at work. So, just be nice. Keep smiling. Even if it doesn’t make the resident any nicer, it might make you feel better about the situation. And, if not, that’s why happy hours were invented.
What are some other strategies to deal with problem residents?
-Jessica Fiur, Senior Editor