I’m always looking for ideas on how to provide better client service at my marketing agency, no matter the source — like a continuing ed workshop in Raleigh by the editor of MrLandlord.com. Jeffrey Taylor helps property managers improve their apartment rental businesses, but his client-relations advice easily applies to doing account services at your marketing agency.
Why Great Tenants are Like Marketing Agency Clients
If you think about it, apartment tenants are like an agency’s retainer clients, and lease agreements are a lot like marketing retainers — we provide a certain level of service for a monthly price. And our goal is to keep them as a happy client for as long as possible, to help them get results and to maximize Lifetime Customer Value (LCV).
Jeffrey Taylor’s TREIA workshop was called “How to Fill Any Vacancy in 72 Hours for Top Market Rent, in a Competitive Market.” Which — speaking of marketing — is an irresistible title for his target market. He’s given over 1,000 presentations, and it showed. He had great content, with a ton of audience interaction — and there wasn’t a single PowerPoint slide.
Top 10 MrLandlord.com Tips, for Apartments… or Client Service
With an eye for always improving my client service skills, I identified 10 top tips that I can apply at work:
1. Whenever possible, make residents feel like a winner.
Mr. Landlord doesn’t even call them tenants — he uses “residents” throughout all communications. “Tenant” is adversarial and lowest-common-denominator. “Resident” shows respect… and helps him demand better behavior.
- My client service takeaway: How can you make your clients feel like a winner?
2. Give residents a move-in gift.
He has a move-in gift basket for new residents. It’s sitting there on the counter when he shows an apartment. People ask, “Is that for me?” He replies, “If you apply and are approved, yes, that’s yours.”
He stocks up on the “gift baskets” at Wal-Mart, where they’re actually sold as “toiletry baskets” — after they’re marked down from $20.00 to $6.00 after Christmas. He includes a toilet plunger in the middle, with a pink ribbon.
- My client service takeaway: What do you do to welcome new clients to your agency? And what’s your marketing plunger, to avoid those midnight “my toilet’s overflowing again!” phone calls?
3. Give residents an anniversary gift.
To reward tenants — and entice them to renew — Mr. Landlord offers current residents an annual bonus. It’s always related to improving the property, to show his priorities (e.g., a ceiling fan in the bedroom, new paint in any room, carpet cleaning, a day of maid service, etc.).
And he always gives people a choice — it makes them happier to have the choice.
- My client service takeaway: How do you keep clients coming back?
4. Show rental units to 2-3 prospects at once.
Jeffrey Taylor never gives tours to one prospect at a time. Prospective residents spend more time looking at each other than the unit itself. He’s even gotten higher bids from people, trying to lock in the place first.
- My client service takeaway: Is there anything you can do to communicate scarcity, like how you aren’t taking new clients for X weeks or until Y date? Think about that, the next time you’re in an agency cattle call.
5. Build a “preferred waiting list” made of people referred by current and former residents.
By now, he can fill most of his vacancies from this network of people. Apart from offering a $50 moveout bonus (to current residents if he can rent the apartment before they move out), he doesn’t have to pay any referral fees or commissions.
And he gets results — most vacancies are filled within 72 hours of the prior resident leaving, because he has a pipeline of eager future residents. His current residents have the incentive to cooperate to get someone new in ASAP. And since the unit’s rarely unoccupied, he’s always getting paid.
- My client service takeaway: Do you have a program to actively solicit, manage, and reward referrals?
6. Have written procedures on every aspect of running your business.
For instance, when he receives notice that someone’s leaving, he has a checklist of what he needs to do next. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel every time it happens. It also makes it easier to delegate to others when it’s documented.
- My client service takeaway: If you don’t want to do everything yourself, you need to be able to tell someone else what you need — whether it’s an employee or a service provider.
7. Require residents to move out by 11am.
That’s “checkout time” on the lease. The “check-in time” is 3pm the next day. This gap gives him 27-28 hours to do any final cleaning or prep before the new person moves in. By setting this expectation up front (and reminding them when they give notice), he no longer has people moving out at midnight.
- My client service takeaway: Do you have and enforce minimum expectations for getting your deposit and signed contract before scheduling the kickoff meeting? They’re not a client until they’ve paid you money.
8. If you give residents a program to follow, they will follow it.
People will often do what you ask, especially if you give them an incentive to do what you want them to do. Even his evictees get the guaranteed $50 move-out bonus, if he fills the vacancy before they leave. Because of how he treats people, evictees don’t trash the place — which reduces his expenses and increase his profits.
- My client service takeaway: Do your clients know what to expect from you, and what you expect from them? At Coalmarch, I created a Client Bill of Rights to make it obvious.
9. Don’t ask residents “Do you want to renew?”
He realized that when he asked people if they wanted to renew their lease, many of them chose not to renew. Now, he sends a different letter: “Thanks for being one of our great residents. We look forward to serving you for another two years. Please initial your choice of anniversary gift and sign your lease extension, and return to our office.” He joked, “I don’t ask my wife to ‘renew’ each year. I just ask her which anniversary gift she wants.”
- My client service takeaway: I wouldn’t hide that they’re renewing their retainer, but can you improve how you handle renewals or what you do as you’re wrapping up a one-time project?
10. On the rental application, ask how long prospects plan to stay.
His intake form has three choices: 2 years, 5 years, 10 years. It’s about setting expectations. And if someone says, “Oh, well, I only want to stay for one year,” he finds a (legal) reason to reject them in favor of a longer-term prospect.
- My client service takeaway: Are you asking the right questions in your client pre-qualification process?
Applying These Concepts to Your Marketing Agency Today
How might you translate these ideas to your agency client service work? Amidst my day-to-day work, I need to do a better job of actively asking for long-term referrals. I’m a big fan of documenting procedures to avoid reinventing the wheel each time, and I’ve already started setting clearer expectations with clients.
Business is all about continuous improvement. What’s your favorite tip for improving your client service?