Customer service excellence: Trust versus transaction

It’s no surprise that many of the UK’s best exemplars of exceptional customer service are drawn from the retail sector, as research data from The Institute of Customer Service consistently shows. The same goes for luxury high-end hospitality. For consumer-facing firms in the mass market the lesson is existentially obvious. A failure to serve, understand, anticipate, respond, deliver and please means just that: failure.

Dig down into how some organisations get it so right – and others so wrong – and it’s clear that the fulcrum of success is about establishing, building and nurturing the trust relationship with the customer. It’s no different for the property management sector and there are lessons we must learn as an industry if we are to make great service the rule and not the exception. They are not insurmountable; far from it.

Let’s start with the terminology. ‘Customers’. It’s not a term widely used but our residents are exactly that: customers who ultimately pay us in return for our services. Ours is also a business where the first contact with the customer is often a complaint. People aren’t that bothered when things go smoothly. A wrinkle-free residential experience is how it’s supposed to be. Still, the pleasant surprise remains rarer than it should be. But when something has broken, an incident needs sorting out or invoices are raised that the customer
doesn’t understand or was not expecting, then the property manager is on the back foot immediately. Ultimately that is our fault.

Then there’s process. Yes, what we deliver as an industry is complex and multi-layered – whether it’s the small print of how property management services are geared financially or managing health and safety risk. But that’s not an excuse for hiding behind the complexity of contracts, leases or liabilities and losing sight – sometimes literally – of customers in a way that creates cold, transactional relationships. All the back office processes in the world will not replace the simple human factors of get it right, get me right – and wow me if you can.

This Briefing Paper digs into the evolving face of customer service and seeks to translate the implications for the way property management can shift the service experience and define a new trust relationship with its customers.

Click here to read the FirstPort briefing report.

May 2017