Solutions Vs Resolutions: An Open Letter
Have you ever received a message from a leasing agent requesting you immediately return the call of a resident? When inquiring what it is regarding, I received, “I’m sorry! The resident only wants to speak with a manager, so I’m unsure.” No problem! However, if after returning the call, you thought, “Did they really have to only speak to me?”, then this open letter may be beneficial for your team.
The above occurred throughout years with various leasing teams, so I asked myself, “How may I get my team to go beyond just the surface, see the bigger picture by finding solutions and resolutions?” After much thought, I composed an open letter, which allowed us to have a judgement free discussion.
Since sharing the open letter, company-wide on Alliance Residential’s social learning, interactive platform, FUSE, the feedback from various managers was great to see, as many were looking for how to communicate the very same thoughts into positive discussions amongst their team.
With COVID-19, I wanted to revisit my open letter. Now more than ever, as a manager, you may need the words to provide to your team. Many of us were classified as essential employees, however, our office structure has changed, with some working separately in office or at home. This letter may provide your team the push they need to be more self-sufficient after guiding one to understand solutions, and motivating one to create resolutions.
As you all grow in your roles in your career, I will be looking forward to you being more self-sufficient and having confidence in your decision making. Though I am here to guide you and assist as needed, I want everyone to begin to develop your mind to process thoughts as a "Business Manager". Now, with this new mindset, you have full capabilities to find resolutions to issues or questions from residents, which only require the ability to research policies and communicate.
How did we come to this discussion? At times, associates may look to a manager for a resolution of a residential issue. During the initial communication to the manger, the associate may not have presented any solutions, as suggestions, to resolve the issue at hand. However, the manager will take the very same steps the associate could have, if they become dedicated to finding a resolution by using our available resources.
Though you are a part of a seasoned, amazing team, we can never stop learning. We can always become more knowledgeable of our policies, products and systems, as they can assist in finding solutions to issues. As the Business Manager, I will ensure every associate has the tools and ability to find solutions. However, it is my ultimate goal to have motivated and help elevate you in your thinking, where you will want to prove resolution when a residential issue arises.
You might have asked yourself, “What is the difference between solutions and resolutions in our industry?” Solutions offer assistance to the residential issue and resolutions result in actually resolving the residential issue. It is very important associates recognize there are times solutions can be presented, which may not be valid to the issue at-hand.
Let’s look a scenario below, which we have or will encounter as a residential issue, and see about finding not only a solution, but maybe, the possibility of a resolution.
The Dreadful Renewal Increase:
#5555 phones in, very upset, stating, "My renewal is ridiculous! It is almost $100 more you guys want! I’m $30 higher at $1,500 than what I saw online already. I want to speak to the manager!"
You look on the community website, #2222 displays at $1,470. You inform the resident you will let the manager know, so the manager can see about working with them as we want them to stay.
Though you believe verification of what the resident informed is the proper solution, there are more effective solutions, which can also result in possible resolution.
You verify the amenity detail for the resident’s unit and the unit they are attempting to compare. #5555, the resident’s unit, is 5th floor, Uptown view with $100 amenity added. #2222, the unit being compared, is the 2nd floor, has a negative view. Take Away: Due to a premium view and floor, resident unit is priced accurately. Explain the details.
Pull the resident’s lease agreement. Does their lease factor in any concessions? This plays a big factor. #5555 is at $1,500, but on current lease, resident was provided a $1,000 gift card. $1,000/12 month lease term = $83, additionally off per month, effectively. #2222 online is being offered no gift cards or concessions Take Away: Residents’ unit is $1,417 monthly with special vs $1,470 compared unit online with no special. Explain the details.
Pull the resident’s renewal offer and know Ownership’s goal. Are you aware of what our current renewal increases are? You verify Ownership has a goal of 3%-7%, and the resident’s increase is 5%. Take Away: You see there is opportunity to keep the resident and still gain an increase with offering 3% as it is within Ownership goals. Make a recommendation to the manager for approval. Follow-up with resident.
You did the research, so this solution is valid as we know more than just the surface information the resident provided. We know in reality the resident is did not receive a $100 increase, and the resident in actuality paid lower. However, how do we communicate this without upsetting the resident and maintaining customer service? We use the information in #3 to establish a resolution.
Now is your opportunity to take away the solutions found, using them to find a resolution. With the information provided, you can be of great assistance by taking your knowledge and putting it towards resolving the matter. How you might ask for this scenario?
You would inform me in an email, the apartment, floor plan, current rent, any specials provided, renewal rate offered and your recommendation to keep the resident. You would then inform the resident of the following, "Though you have requested a manager, I took the opportunity to see if I could assist as we'd love for you to renew. Upon reviewing your lease agreement, I’d like to share what I was able to find." You would then explain the findings regarding their objections to an increase and comparison to online rates. You would then inform them you would like to follow-up after speaking with "Ownership" regarding a lesser offer. I suggest to use the term Ownership because informing the Business Manager will lower the rate, can translate to residents as Business Managers dictate the pricing and we know this to be untrue. We do not want to add to “the Business Manager is the only one who can help me" mentality, sometimes those not knowledgeable of our industry, can have. We know the reality is we are already aware 9 out of 10, based on team communication, we would approve a 3% increase, if we can still retain the resident and offer is within Ownerships goals.
If they decline working with you, you may inform, "No problem, as I understand you prefer to only speak with the Business Manager. I'd be happy to establish an appointment based on your availability in the next 24-hours? Let me confirm your phone number and email, so I may follow-up with you confirming your appointment as I know the Business Manager has availability and resolving this is important as we want you to renew, so we will make this a priority."
Final Resolution: You have solutions. You’ve presented facts and you are ready to follow-up. Whether you could resolve in full or not, the resolutions you presented are greatly appreciated from Business Managers!
I look forward to seeing you really step up in finding solutions and resolutions to residential issues. Of course, I am available to assist you when needed. There are items, which may truly need a manager’s attention, and I will always be here for those needs. I want you to know you’ve done so well, thus far. Remember, whether you have a solution or a final resolution, it is the attempt, which sets you apart to be the best of the best!
About the Author: Anita Mixon, ARM, is a Sr. Business Manager, with Alliance Residential, AMO, and serves internally as a Mentor with the ELEVATE Partnership Program and on the Hiring Ambassador Program. She has earned Dale Carnegie Leadership and Sales Certificates, and continues to enrich her knowledge as a CPM Candidate. Anita has two amazing daughters, Lauren and Chloe, and is honored to be a member of IREM Houston.