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By Ken Hutcheson

A term I like to use is “radical personalization.” If something is radical, it’s shocking. And that’s how I believe customer service should be.

Have you ever had service so great you were shocked? I bet you can remember exactly what happened.
Sometimes, I think talking about service in the commercial property industry is “shocking.” People don’t expect it. Not in B2B. But we’re all people, and our clients are, too. For me, radical personalization means making every single interaction personal. That extends from the contract through the maintenance phase.

Want some examples? Here are five tips for making radical personalization work for your business:

1. Be part of the community. As a property manager, you spend a lot of time enforcing the rules. But the most profitable part of your job isn’t administrative; it’s building relationships. Tenants, whether commercial or residential, want to feel like they’ve got an ally. So make it clear they you’re part of the community, just like them. Be yourself. Talk to them about the schools your kids attend; your church; your recreational baseball league. Respect comes from trust and loyalty, not from a title.

2. Conflict isn’t all bad. Some of the best customer service experiences start from bad situations. You can’t prevent every problem, but how you respond says a lot about your business, its quality and ethics. If a tenant is unhappy, take time to listen. Put yourself in their shoes—even if their complaints have nothing to do with you. Taking time to understand people’s frustration, offering an out-of-the-box solution, or just giving them a perk to improve their day, will let them know you care. We guarantee they will remember how you helped, long after they’ve forgotten the problem.

3. Never leave an issue unsolved. This is one of the hardest things for service providers to grasp. No matter how difficult a tenant’s predicament, keep working until it’s resolved. You may not have an answer, and it’s all too easy to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” But that’s not radically personal service. If you truly care, you’ll track down an answer, or delegate the problem to someone who can help. Afterwards, follow up to make sure they’re satisfied and all issues are resolved. Remember: “I don’t know” is never the end of a transaction; it’s only the beginning.

4. Learn about people. Relationships are about details, and getting to know your tenants will reveal this. Maybe an accountant is an avid baseball fan. So, you might pass on some tickets you get from a vendor. Or, if a florist loves indie rock, you might give her a CD by a new band you’ve just discovered. It’s almost impossible to explain the kind of impact these personal gestures have on clients. It’s like Starbucks writing your name on your coffee (minus the misspellings). The more unexpected a personal gesture is, the more people will remember it.

5. Be open about money. Financial negotiation can sour any relationship, but remember to treat your tenants like people, even though they’re paying rent. That means alerting them up front to any extra fees they’ve incurred—before they get the bill. It means never raising prices without sitting down a tenant and telling them why. And it also means being willing to flex if a special situation comes along. Obviously, you can’t play fast and loose with your contracts. But just remember to keep the human factor involved, and treat others in the manner you’d like to be treated. Marketing experts have long known that consumers will actually spend more if they know the service is superior. So, don’t be surprised if a radically personal service model really pays off.

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