How improving communication with your suppliers, will improve relationships with your customers
“Communication works for those who work at it.” John Powell
In Property Management, good communication is vital to building and maintaining good relationships. And there are a lot of relationships to manage. Relationships with suppliers, relationships with clients/customers and relationships within a team. Property Managers are essentially the middle man in most conversations. So it’s important to keep the flow of communication moving between everyone who needs to know what is happening. When Property Managers need to manage repairs or maintenance work on a property, there can be many people involved. Depending on the size of the job, there could be multiple suppliers, a number of customers/clients and all of that information must be accessible to everyone in the business who needs to see it. How Property Managers manage these communications could make a world of difference to clients, suppliers and to the team’s everyday office life. Failure can have devastating effects.
The problems with poor communication
This allegedly took place in a factory in the USA which makes the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ toys, (a children’s plush cuddly toy which laughs when tickled under the arm). The legend has is it that a new employee is hired at the Tickle Me Elmo factory and she duly reports for her first day’s induction training, prior to being allocated a job on the production line.
At 08:45 the next day the personnel manager receives a visit from an excited assembly line foreman who is not best pleased about the performance of the new recruit. The foreman explains that she is far too slow, and that she is causing the entire line to back-up, delaying the whole production schedule. The personnel manager asks to see what’s happening, so both men proceed to the factory floor.
On arrival they see that the line is indeed badly backed-up – there are hundreds of Tickle Me Elmos strewn all over the factory floor, and they are still piling up. Virtually buried in a mountain of toys sits the new employee earnestly focused on her work. She has a roll of red plush fabric and a bag of marbles. The two men watch amazed as she cuts a little piece of fabric, wraps it around a pair of marbles and carefully begins sew the little package between Elmo’s legs.
The personnel manager begins to laugh, and it is some while before he can compose himself, at which he approaches the trainee. “I’m sorry,” he says to her, not able to disguise his amusement, “but I think you misunderstood the instructions I gave you yesterday…. Your job is to give Elmo two test tickles.” (Story source).
When managing different people and situations, poor communication can lead to all sorts of problems. In Property Management, there are numerous occasions where poor communication can lead to frustration and problems.
If work isn’t allocated swiftly to the right supplier, it could cause issues with clients if work isn’t done on time or to the standard expected. This is particularly harmful when the work needing done is an emergency situation. This can then cause problems amongst clients who might refuse to pay for work being done. Or, if this becomes a regular occurrence, it could hinder future work happening.
Poor communication might rear it’s head when a supplier allegedly (or actually) fails to show for routine maintenance work. A client complains about it, but no one in the office is aware of it and is unable to solve their complaint until they have tracked down the supplier to establish what happened from their side. Meanwhile, clients are complaining about the poor service they have experienced and begin to recall other examples of when things have gone wrong. This can lead to tension and a reluctance to pay bills.
A third and final example of a typical situation involving clients and suppliers where poor communication can lead to problems, would be when a supplier turns up for a job and the clients don’t know anything about it. How has this happened? Has the supplier got mixed up? Have they been instructed to do work and clients have not been notified? Or has the communication got lost somewhere along the chain? Moreover, how does the supplier fix the situation there and then?
The paradox of communication in the 21st century
In a world where communicating has never been easier, why do businesses still get it wrong? With so many ways to speak to clients, suppliers and customers, messages can get lost, become confused or might never reach the intended person at all. Tracking communications when there are so many different people involved with varying methods of preferred communication can get confusing so is it any wonder mistakes happen?
Some suppliers may engage via text message, some through email, some through telephone. And clients/customers are no different. Often, it might even be good old snail mail that is the method of communication. A particularly tricky form of reaching people as the ‘it got lost in the post’ excuse is easy to wheel out.
These varying methods of communication have to be managed efficiently and effectively by Property Managers. There’s information being passed from one person to another. Information being merged from different directions into one place with a need for accuracy and the achievement of SLA’s. This is information that is used to inform decisions. And the information has to be accessible to other team members.
In 2020, this has to be much easier to manage than spreadsheets and post it notes.
How can Property Managers communicate better with suppliers?
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so hard to keep the lines of communication open and flowing. By embracing better methods, Property Managers can elevate their relationships with clients simply by communicating better with suppliers. Managing the different chains of communication begins with suppliers. When that’s good, the knock-on effect can be great.
What are the options? We’ve thought about three potential options to improve communications with suppliers that will improve relations with clients. These are:
- Implementing strict SLA’s for suppliers. Property Managers could put agreements in place for suppliers to agree and adhere to. For example, completing job sheets and progress reports. Or taking photographs once a job is completed. Of course, this might be met with resistance and could be viewed as a ‘hassle’. This also requires manual management, which is still open to human error.
- Putting a limit on the number of suppliers used for any given purpose. By limiting the number of suppliers, it should make it easier to manage the lines of communication. This solution would depend on the size of the portfolio and geographic location. It might be possible where there are larger suppliers offering more services and more manpower, however, it is potentially going to create more issues than it solves if ‘putting all eggs in one (or two) baskets’.
- Bringing everything into one place. By this we mean that suppliers and Property Managers would access all the information they needed on one platform. This platform would provide everyone with the information they needed at the swipe of a screen or touch of a button.
Of course, the third option sums up what Blockworx does. And by having everything together in one place, the lines of communication are open 24/7. This smoother and easier method of communicating and doing business put robust processes in place easily. Which means that clients/customers will see the end benefits.
To go back to the examples of poor communication and how a platform like Blockworx would help solve them.
An online platform means that a Property Manager can upload any job at the touch of a button and monitor which suppliers are quoting and for how much. In the context of an emergency situation, notifications would alert suppliers that a job has been posted and they can react immediately to this notification.
As everyone involved in a job would have access to the same information, if miscommunication were to happen, or if a client/customer claimed not to know about work being done, the supplier would have the information they needed in the palm of their hand. Clients/customers will be impressed by the speed at which issues are resolved. Whether this is routine maintenance or a repair job, clients can be informed of what they need to know by the supplier without any back and forth.
Transparency and Trust
Having an online platform to manage the supplier/Property Manager relationship will foster better communication between all parties involved in repairs and maintenance work. Being able to see all the details of all jobs in one place will help to create better working relationships. As suppliers and Property Managers are able to engage and communicate better, this has the knock on effect of better and improved communication and relationships with clients. This is due to faster and more efficient engagement at the start of the process leading to better, more efficient communication with clients. Wait times are reduced as the speed of processing jobs is increased. Clients can be kept informed of progress more easily as all the information is instantly available. And any issues can be resolved by anyone who has access to the online platform where all information is stored. Ultimately, Property Managers can use information to be more transparent with clients, which in turn leads to greater trust.
If you are a Property Manager or a Supplier to Property Managers, and you would like to find out how Blockworx can help you work together better, please contact us today.