Block managers find themselves operating in a challenging dual role – although they are employed by their building’s freeholder, it is the leaseholders’ and their AST (assured shorthold tenancy) tenants that they are in contact with on a daily basis. And while they might be supplied with the current contact details of the leaseholder, their means of contacting the short-term tenants tend to be more limited.
The radio silence can go both ways too – tenants often complain that block management companies are hard to get hold of, and they end up going through their landlord, which in buildings without on-site staff and a high proportion of AST tenants can lead to assets deteriorating, due to a delay in repair requests reaching the right person. Early intervention is likely to save higher costs in the future.
Handled correctly, however, the way a block manager communicates with the building’s residents can revolutionise their relationship with both leaseholders and AST tenants, and add value to their property management and asset management processes.
Don’t be afraid to get traditional
As we said, while block managers should have the contact details of each flat’s leaseholder, in cases where the units aren’t owner-occupied, it can be difficult for the block manager to know how to contact the resident directly. Don’t be afraid to go old school – letters in mailboxes and posters in communal spaces are one simple way to know that you’re getting the information out there, but how can block managers work smarter?
It’s a two-way street
Whatever information you circulate; make sure you include your preferred method of communication. While building relationships with leaseholders (or customers, as they are increasingly called) is crucial, communications to an individual team member’s inbox is a process and compliance risk. After all, an individual property manager could be on holiday or off sick. Centralise and strengthen your inbound communication to make sure that all occupants know that your door is (metaphorically) always open and all authorised members of your team can see what’s happening.
Let’s get technical
Utilising software such as Fixflo Block ensures the constant availability of contact between you and occupants of the blocks you manage. Technology not only provides ease of communication but also provides you with a secure, centralised audit trail which ensures you have all information on record and easily to hand. An added bonus to the system comes in the form of a nifty feature. As occupants are able to report issues in over 40 languages, you can guarantee that their messages won’t be lost in translation!
Using the Fixflo BlockPlus system, it is easy to ensure relevant messages can be broadcast to the right audiences, whether residents, leaseholders, freeholders, or other relevant stakeholders.
A changing industry
In 2014, Eptica, a customer engagement software, found that 56% of respondents expected an email response from a company within 4 hours.* In an environment of rising expectations, it’s typical that the individuals you interact with on an everyday basis now exist in an ‘Uber-ised’ world, made up of instant communication and response. It is now not enough to get back to a leaseholder, freeholder or tenant etc. when you can. You must ensure that you are putting systems in place whereby you can manage expectations to resolution almost immediately whilst simultaneously dealing with their query in a seamless and efficient manner. This may seem like an impossible task, but the way around this is to utilise technology such as Fixflo Block which ensures that the right information is available to assess an issue’s nature and severity immediately.
The building blocks of Build-to-rent
An interesting battle is unfolding in the nascent build-to-rent sector as block managers, letting agents and in-house teams are vying to provide the management model of choice. If you are interested in accessing this growing and lucrative sector, it’s best to take note from the UK Apartment Association (UKAA). A membership organisation for the Build-to-Rent sector, the UKAA have created a training program to attract prospective tenants to the PRS, which focuses specifically on the areas of customer service and brand-building. **
As UKAA chief executive Michael Green states, “The importance of providing high levels of customer service cannot be overstated. As the UK rental market evolves, customers will become increasingly discerning and will demand a certain standard of service that is not currently being delivered.” ***
With only 17% of leaseholders believing that they receive a good service, set yourself apart from your competitors looking at the build-to-rent space by improving your service delivery and evidencing the higher level service that you offer. ****
In a competitive tenant situation, evidence of service is key.