Ever wondered what it would take for property managers to love vendors?
USSI recently hosted a focus group discussion in Baltimore with active participation from property managers of the Baltimore Power Group. Property management professionals from a wide range of companies including third party property management companies (CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield), REITS (Corporate Office Properties Trust) and owner managed commercial buildings (Obrecht, Continental Realty Corporation) shared the challenges they face at work each day. We asked questions about what vendors that provide building services (janitorial services, security, parking, HVAC etc.) do to make the job of property managers easier.
Here’s what we learnt about what vendors need to do to make property managers love them:
Become A Trusted Partner
Property managers want service providers they can trust. They love vendors who think of themselves as an extension of ownership and property management. One of the biggest concerns property managers have is not knowing what happens once they leave the building. Will everything be OK? Will vendors care about the building as much as property managers do?
Another concern is risk management. Are vendors not telling property managers things that they should know about? When they walk into the building each morning, are there things that property managers should be aware of that they don’t already? Can property managers trust you, the vendor, with their building? Can you get the job done?
How can vendors build trust with property managers? By showing that you care about their needs and interests. For example, say there’s an emergency at the building, and the pipes are leaking in the restroom, what would a vendor normally do? Typically, the vendor’s rep would call property management to let them know about the leak. But what would a trusted partner do? A trusted partner would call the property manager, not only to let them know that they found a leak, but that they’re working to fix it. The difference between a vendor and a trusted partner is that the trusted partner is there when needed and will be there until the job is done.
What does it mean to be a proactive vendor? It means anticipating the needs of the building and coming up with ideas to make things better, faster and more efficient. Being proactive means taking charge and not waiting to be told to do something.
A property manager gave an example of proactive thinking: her janitorial services vendor came up with an idea of having a “date replaced by” sticker on the battery operated paper towel dispensers. This simple idea reduced tenant complaints about the dispensers not working.
Property managers don’t like surprises. Let them know if there’s a problem ahead of time so they can budget and plan for it. If the only time they see you is during budget season, you’re doing something wrong!
Communicate Candidly And Transparently
Here’s a big tip for vendors that offer recurring services (janitorial services & security): check-in with property management on a daily basis. If everything’s OK, let them know. If there’s a problem, definitely let them know!
Property managers value open and transparent communications because it fosters trust. By candidly addressing issues, vendors can work with property managers as a team to resolve issues. On the contrary, pushing the dirt under the carpet (literally and figuratively!), creates and atmosphere of distrust and ultimately leads to loss of reputation.
Most property managers felt that vendors should communicate directly with tenants only with prior consent from property management. Also, property managers like it when vendors schedule meetings instead of simply showing up at the building.
Too many things to do and too little time – a property manager’s day in a nutshell! As the property management role becomes more complex, property managers are increasingly finding themselves in situations with conflicting priorities. Vendors can make it easy for property managers by being there and responding promptly.
Property managers like vendors who are responsive. A core belief that property managers have is that property managers be treated the same way that they treat their tenants – as a unique individual and not a number.
A major concern that property managers have is that vendors may not be understanding the urgency of a situation, and property managers hate following up repeatedly. Nothing annoys property managers more than unresponsive vendors. Depending on the type of service, property managers expect a response time of 24 to 48 hours. That time-frame is typical for non-emergency services. If there’s a flood or a fire, you better be there yesterday!
Show Flexibility and Agility
The needs of tenants, ownership, and the building are constantly evolving. Vendors who are agile and flexible are better prepared to adapt to these changing requirements – a reason why property managers like having such vendors on their team.
For example, if a property manager is implementing a recycling program, the janitorial services contractor should be able to quickly train (and re-train!) the cleaning crew, make changes to cleaning schedules and come up with innovative ideas to increase the recycling percentage and help the building achieve its recycling goals.
What do property managers want from their vendors? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.