Learning From Unhappy Customers

Bill Gates once said “your most unhappy customers are your greatest sense of learning”. It’s an unusual adage from someone who held a virtual monopoly over the personal computer for decades, but this mantra is true for all industries. So what can you learn from unhappy customers, and how can you make them happy again?

Let’s start with how to get their input

You can’t know that your customers are unhappy unless you have that channel of communication in place. So here are some ideas:

  • Help Line. This is the one of the most important sources of honest customer feedback. You get a Grasshopper number that gives you a dedicated toll-free number, as well as an email address. You then print up refrigerator magnets that say “Need Help? Call XXXXXXXXX or email XXXXXXXXX.” You can also put this on the bottom of your invoices. Customers are encouraged to call this number if they have any problems. Of course, most who call will be unhappy and you now have a continual source of this feedback. Trucking companies have used this strategy for decades by putting “How’s my driving?” on the back of 18-wheelers.
  • Social Media Reviews. This is an item we are all familiar with, as you probably look at these reviews when you consider a restaurant to go to. In this case, it’s all about what customers are posting about your mobile home park. It may not always be pretty – it’s often your most unhappy customers that take the time to post – but it will give you insights.
  • Manager Comments. While managers can restrict the information flow from unhappy customers – because they’re often the target of such commentary – some of it will still slip through, often when the manager complains about what customers are saying.

The common complaints

Here are the most common customer complaints you will hear under these programs:

  • Unhappy about the rent going up.
  • Hate the fact that the manager is enforcing rules violations.
  • Complaints about one or two residents that they suspect of dealing in drugs, etc.
  • Suggestions on new amenities you might install.
  • Complaints about the manager being rude or mean.

Things you can address and things you can’t

Of these five most-common complaints, you really can’t fix their hate of higher rents and stricter rules – that’s what your business needs to succeed. Sometimes the complaints against the manager are coming from residents who refuse to pay timely or follow the rules, and so they’re really griping about the progress you have tasked the manager undertake. So of this list, the three you can act on are the amenities suggestions, the residents who might be doing illegal things, and the manager (if it’s legit).

How to make them happy again

On every complaint you get from a customer, the first step is to do some research to see if it’s true. If they are saying a resident is “selling drugs” your first task it so talk to the police and get their opinion. Or you can have the residents call 911 directly when they see such behavior. You can’t really fix the rent and rules complaints as that’s just a part of business. But you can certainly research and ponder the amenity additions as well as if the allegations against the manager are justified. Since most of these complaints come in anonymously, you will only know if your efforts are working if the complaints cease or diminish.

Conclusion

Take every customer complaint seriously and look at it as an opportunity to improve your business. There’s nothing wrong with residents having problems as long as you do your best to address and solve them.

Frank Rolfe has been an investor in mobile home parks for almost 30 years, and has owned and operated hundreds of mobile home parks during that time. He is currently ranked, with his partner Dave Reynolds, as the 5th largest mobile home park owner in the U.S., with around 20,000 lots spread out over 25 states. Along the way, Frank began writing about the industry, and his books, coupled with those of his partner Dave Reynolds, evolved into a course and boot camp on mobile home park investing that has become the leader in this niche of commercial real estate.