Contractors deal with many unique challenges that other types of businesses don’t have to worry about. Especially contractors that do work for the home rental industry. As a contractor myself I have seen and dealt with these challenges daily for many years.
When you receive a service request from your typical home owner it is usually pretty cut and dry. They call you up, tell you what’s wrong, what they want, and when they can schedule it. When you show up at their home you diagnose the problem and discuss with them a solution and cost right there.
When receiving a service request for a rental home it’s not that simple. Typically the first call comes from the landlord. Rarely does that landlord have a lot of detail regarding what’s wrong. Most of the time the description we get is “I don’t know, tenant just said its cold in the house”. Then the landlord will give you a phone number to call tenant and schedule the service (We won’t even go into how often that phone number is wrong and how many times we have to go back and forth with landlord to get the job scheduled). Let’s say we get past all of the obvious scheduling issues and actually get on site. Rarely is the landlord or decision maker onsite with you. This means that almost everything you find or do has to be called in and authorized by somebody offsite. This may not seem like a big deal, but wasted time (even a little bit of time) is wasted money for the landlord, the contractor, or both, and some repairs are simply hard to explain over the phone. Also, since all of this communication is being done verbally through several phone calls; we commonly have to deal with the dreaded “He said; She said”… Ugg! Tenant claiming “that’s not what I told the landlord”, Landlord claiming “yes they did” or “that’s not what I told you to do”. Who’s usually stuck in middle?… the contractor!
Even with all of these issues landlords and property managers are good customers to have. They are usually willing to schedule out a little further if it will save some cost, and lets face it… the more properties you have, the more work you will need. A good balance of retail properties and rental properties is a great way to keep your work load consistent year round. The question then becomes, “how do we make rental jobs as profitable as retail jobs?” Obviously you can’t raise your rates for landlords, and if you charged them for every wasted minute spent on the phone, they probably would think you’re too expensive to use any more. The easiest way to increase your profits, and show landlords the real value of having professionals do the work is to implement an efficient communication and service request procedure.
The following are some pro’s and con’s of the 4 easiest ways I found to accomplish this:
- Pro- By having landlords make all of their requests in writing via test messages you would then have everything timestamped and be able show the customer in writing why there was wasted time due to a poor job description
- Con- Text messages are usually very short, lack a lot of the detail that you would like to have, and a lost or change of phone usually means a loss of your records.
- Pro- Emails tend to be much more detailed than text messages, can be forwarded directly from tenants, and still allow for timestamping
- Con- Landlords and tenants could still easily leave out the details that you really need and it is sometimes difficult to search through past emails when in the field.
- Pro- Messaging through some type of social media (facebook, twitter, etc.) will allow easy access for both tenants and landlords while still giving you a timestamp and something in writing.
- Con- Some people may not want a social media account, and it is easy to make a mistake by accidentally posting all communication as public. Also, some outlets won’t allow private messaging on business accounts.
- Cloud based programs such as www.Network4Rentals.com would allow customers to enter service requests that would be automatically archived for you, timestamped, and allow you to control what information you want to get. The right program will also allow you to easily reference current and past jobs while in the field.
- While Network4Rentals is free, most other systems have some costs involved with these types of programs, and you have to decide if the value added by the program and if it has enough additional features to be worth it.