It is the lazy property manager’s mantra that, “no news is good news.”
It never ceases to be surprising how often you can arrive to a site and see something in disarray, and think, “why didn’t anyone tell us?!”. The reality is that this happens daily, in varying degrees, everywhere. In other words, tenant’s see problems all the time that they ignore or fail to relay to the office; maybe they’re busy, maybe they missed it, or maybe they are tired of relaying things to management without seeing any action. Regardless of why, this tendency for information not to make it to the office, is called the “Bubble”.
To some degree, the Bubble is good. Without any Bubble, our phones would be ringing none-stop as every small detail is relayed to us from tenants. The bubble protects us from things we really don’t need to know. However, too large of a Bubble and important information won’t find its way to property managers and this is even less good! In our experience, the latter has more deleterious consequences, and therefore an effective property manager will work to facilitate an environment that favors free and open communication.
Our goal as property managers needs to be to reduce the size of this Bubble by increasing the number of AND improving the quality of our current lines of communication with people on site. Property managers that do so, have tenants that have good things to say about them, are more effective at maintaining a property, and ultimately retain contracts in the long term.
The number 1 cause for poor tenant communication, is a loss of faith in management’s ability or desire to solve problems. The more often tenants send emails that go unanswered or mention problems without action or follow-up, the less likely they are to communicate with us in the future. This problem becomes a slippery slope, that many managers end up at the bottom of.
Tenant’s emails or calls should always be answered; whether they are going to like the answer or not. Many times, requests that come in are not realistic and we avoid replying because it is difficult telling people what they don’t want to hear. Always reply with something; anything is better than nothing.
At the end of the day, we cannot rely on what information comes into the office as a measure of how things are going at the property. Managing in this fashion, is reactionary in nature
NOTE: As it is an imperfect world, some degree of a Bubble is always going to exist; hence the never ending importance of site visits.
What are some practical tips or systems for improving information flow??