Have you mapped your customer journey to see where there are gaps? What are the moments in your customer’s property management experience that cause them the most joy and pain? And if you know what they are, what’s next? We hear from Gemma Cook, our Head of Customer Experience on the whole CX phenomenon and what property managers can learn from CX best practice.
What is CX anyway?
If you’re involved in delivering a product or service to human beings, then you are delivering customer experience (CX). And according to Gemma, it’s important to be aware that CX is much more than what we traditionally call customer service. “Customer service is seen as a person-to-person interaction,” she says. “It’s often quite a reactive thing you do when a customer walks into your agency office or you pick up the phone. CX is much more comprehensive. It encompasses every interaction with your business, including the content and functionality on your website, your social media and any apps you use to communicate with customers. It’s even in the forms you ask people to fill out.”
Start with your journey map
Being friendly and helpful to customers when communicating with them is certainly a big part of CX. But to really invest in a more positive CX for every single customer, you need to explore and evaluate just how each individual interacts with your business throughout the entire customer lifecycle. “This is what we call customer journey mapping,” says Gemma. “In property management this means looking at the lifecycle of every tenant, as well as owners. It does mean agencies have two quite different journeys to keep track of, with each having many moving parts.”
But, as Gemma says, you can still tackle this process just as any other business would. “Start by looking at a really high level to determine what all the key touchpoints are,” she says. “For a tenant it might start with getting in touch to view a property, then the inspection itself, followed by all the different parts of the application process and so on. Once they’re a tenant, the journey continues with routine inspections, contract renewals, maintenance issues and, perhaps, rent increases.”
If this sounds too big and difficult to document, Gemma’s advice is not to overthink it and just make a start. “You don’t need any fancy technology or tools,” she says. “A whiteboard to scribble on or a bunch of post-it notes will work fine. Just get your team to brainstorm each point on the journey for the top-level map. Then you can drill into each process that sits behind these touchpoints to create multiple maps of CX. Much of CX does come down to your processes and how well they serve customer needs, as well as the needs of your business.”
“As you do this, try to put yourself in the shoes of tenant or owner and figure out what might be difficult or painful for them about a point in their journey,” Gemma adds. “Ask yourself what they would want out of this process and then discuss whether your process is actually delivering that. You’ll quickly start to see where the pain points are and what you could be doing to minimise inconvenience, uncertainty and stress for your customer at any point on their journey.”
Bring in the experts
If you’re finding it tricky to get into the same headspace as your customer, it can help to setup some customer focus groups to find out what tenants and owners really have on their minds. “Feedback from five people should be enough to give you a good steer on what’s working and what isn’t” says Gemma. “Try to choose people who will tell it like it is, rather than what you want to hear. And take time to ask them for a blue sky take on being your tenant or owner. What would the customer experience be like if it was as good as it could possibly be?”
So you’ve brainstormed, listened and jotted down a huge list of ideas for what you could be doing better with your CX. Just how do you decide where to start? “The main obstacles to change are going to be people and resources,” says Gemma. “For the quick wins, try to pinpoint an improvement to a high-volume process – something that happens a lot. Even better if it’s something that won’t cost the business money. This effort up front in reshaping the three or four highest volume processes will save you a lot of pain down the track. By addressing the cause of potentially negative experiences for customers, you’re removing a source conflict which means less drama for staff to deal with.”
Getting your people on board with these new processes comes down to good change management. “You need to bring property managers along on this journey to transform CX,” says Gemma. “Starting with something that will pay off for your property managers as well as your customer will build their trust in the benefits better CX can bring. Improvements in CX have to potential to create better, more rewarding experiences for your team too.”
Removing barriers to better CX
As someone who knows well just how demanding the day-to-day routines of property managers are, Gemma understands that journey maps and CX improvements can be hard to get around to. “Property managers are time poor so it’s normal for them to be reactive most of the time,” she says. “In this industry, it’s very hard to take a step back and think about which processes aren’t working and why.”
For agency owners who want to make CX a priority, using an app like Kolmeo is a good place to start. “To improve CX you need your team to be more proactive,” says Gemma. “If they’re time poor, something has got to give. If you expect them to make more effort to add value to the customer with every interaction, you’ll need to reduce their workload elsewhere.”
“This is one of the big reasons why Kolmeo can be a real value-add for CX,” adds Gemma. “It’s not just about introducing a well-designed app that tenants and owners will enjoy using. It’s also about freeing up time for property managers by automating a lot of their manual tasks. The app can also give them regular cues to check in at key points during a process or follow up in situations that have been tricky in the past. This means they can anticipate problems before customers get to the point of escalating something. It keeps CX more positive and reduces the amount of reactive communication needed which frees up their time.”