Matthew Whitaker -
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Results of the 2016 Owner Survey
Each year we send a survey to all of our owners so that we can learn what we’re doing well…and what we need to improve on. This year’s survey didn’t disappoint. Below you can read a letter Matthew wrote to all of our owners as well as a link to an infographic that will walk you through a summary of the survey.
See the results of the 2016 Owner Survey Here.
Here is the letter from Matthew:
Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. We received a lot of good feedback, both positive and in areas where we need to improve.
We are particularly excited about the honest feedback highlighting improvement opportunities, because we have the overarching goal of building an insanely great property management company.
Sometimes we get so focused “managing the day to day operations” that we lose the ability to see the flaws in what we are doing; and once a year, you remind us that we are overlooking areas where we can improve and that is very healthy for us as an organization.
We think success in property management is pretty simple. New owners come to us worried about three things:
How quickly can you rent my home?
How do you keep from leasing my home to a bad tenant? And,
How much is this going to cost me?
But, as soon as their home leases, it sometimes converts to the fear. . .
“Can I trust my manager?”
Knowing this allows us to focus on a simple message internally of Trust and Communication. Interestingly, we have found that Trust and Communication are not mutually exclusive. We believe that these attributes are actually the same thing, only that one . . . Communication; precedes the other . . . Trust, in our relationship with you.
We feel these are so important, we have highlighted them in two of our three differentiators that we focus on that make us “different” from other managers – we call them Communication and Uncomfortable Transparency.
As we take a step back and review this year’s Owner Survey, we are reminded of these overarching themes. What does gk do well? We communicate. What does gk need to improve upon? Communication.
We’ve come a long way in communication. Originally it was Bryan and me on our cell phones working for Golden Key. Some of you even expressed a nostalgia for these good ole days.
These “good ole days” had several benefits, but also many negatives that became increasingly apparent as we grew. We’ve taken many steps forward in communication which, unfortunately, have caused a few of the small boutique management conveniences to be replaced with more dependable systems (although, we still are trying to figure out how to re-establish or keep as many of these “boutique conveniences” as we grow).
All in all, I think we’ve come a long way and have grown to have an entire department devoted to Owner and Tenant communication.
While the communication is better, it’s not yet “insanely great”. . . as we would like it to be. You’ve reminded us of this fact, again, through this survey. Almost 50% of the respondents highlighted some form of communication improvement as their area that they’d like to see us improve. Knowing this, we’d like to highlight some changes we will be making over the course of 2016 to improve our communication with you.
1. The first thing we will begin doing is including more pictures and focusing on better descriptions in our maintenance bills to you. I reminded the team that you don’t have the luxury of getting to look over their shoulder, or even feel the pain of something in the home not working. Nobody feels good about spending hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars on a repair; but it makes it much worse when you have no clue what you paid to have done.
Providing you as much detail as possible as to the cause and solution is our new goal for “insanely great” maintenance communication. As a first version of this, before and after pictures and descriptions will appear on a report that will follow the invoice (if you have one) when you receive your owner’s packet every month.
2. Secondly, we are going to focus on making it abundantly clear who is emailing you through the support email. We’ve found when we use the “support” email, you feel like it is going into a black hole. We assure you that it is not and this form of communication allows us to ensure that the issue is handled quickly and efficiently. Our ultimate goal will be that you have confidence that your issues and questions are being received in a timely manner and who is responsible for handling it.
As a quick side note, now is also a good time to clarify why we use the “support” email address. Our hope is that clarification will reduce some of the source of your frustration. We receive many requests from both Owners and Tenants here at gk and it is extremely important to accurately answer, accurately document and accurately calculate the response time of every request. A lot of the questions require two or three people collectively to answer.
For example – An owner calls our Owner’s line about a heating and air repair. Depending on the nature of the question, this may require the collective “heads” of the heating and air tech, a property manager and our maintenance coordinator to accurately answer.
We believe, having a dedicated available person (the operations coordinator), who gathers the information and responds to you, is the most efficient solution to these types of situations. We think of this team member’s role at gk as a communication hub or an air traffic controller who can see the bigger picture, is always available and can obtain the answer quickly.
Many owners are very interested in having one point of contact for all communication. The operations coordinator position solves this too, by creating one point of contact for all your properties.
When you email or call into our communications department, your request is assigned a ticket, which starts a timer and the system forces us to resolve the issue before we close out the ticket and stop the timer. We record the amount of time it takes to get you a response. If it is something that can be handled by another department, the communications department will simply assign it to that department. That is why you will receive emails from the property managers or other departments from time to time.
If it is a situation like the one above, where it requires multiple people to answer, the communications department will call or meet with everyone, come up with the answer and deliver the answer back to you. This does mean that there will be times where you call in and the operations coordinator doesn’t immediately have an answer for you. From our experience, we still believe this to be a better solution than the alternative method of connecting you directly with the property manager, who is frequently unavailable and may appear slow to respond, which is more frustrating.
3. A third item you highlighted in the Owner Survey was the fear of a bad tenant, resulting in non-payment of rent, an eviction and a trashed house. I think it is important to note that we are constantly updating our underwriting guidelines to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Unfortunately, we are not 100% perfect and it does happen from time to time. As a result of those few who slip through, we are currently working on a program that will allow us to “guarantee” your rent in the event of an eviction. This will offer a solution to those of you who have identified this as a fear.
The cost and what it is going to cover, have not been decided upon yet; but we are hoping to have an element of coverage for both the tenant not paying and the damage they typically do when they don’t pay. If I had to guess, this program would be launched sometime this year, and we will notify you when it is available.
I very much appreciate those of you who scored us a 9 or 10. Obviously, as the owner of the business, I wish/want it to be everyone. Those of you who scored us a 6 or below highlighted some of the deficiencies I spoke about above as the reasons for the lower scores – and I appreciate your honest opinion so we can improve. I’m hoping we continue to work, you see the difference and we are able to turn you from a 6 to a 10 next year. I know we have a lot of work to do.
Recently, we opened a gkhouses.com office in Nashville. If you own properties or know someone who owns properties in this area, I hope you will let them know we are there. Real estate is a very local business, but we are hoping to be able to learn some more ideas in a new market that will improve the way we handle management in Birmingham.
We see our Nashville office as a benefit to our Birmingham owners – from both the learning standpoint and our increased marketing dollars driving more tenant traffic from awareness, resulting in better tenants in the homes. We hope you see it that way too.
We always value your feedback, even when it is hard to digest. When someone tells you your baby is ugly, it can hurt, but you have to appreciate them for their honesty and willingness to tell you the truth.
Keep the ideas and improvements coming. If you’d like to see something or see a better way for us to do something, please let us know. We don’t feel like we have it all figured out.
I hope the last 3 quarters of 2016 is awesome! Thank you again for participating in the survey.
See the results of the 2016 Owner Survey Here.