Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 206

Let Your Residents’ Voices Be Heard

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Mobile home park owners rely on happy residents to make their business work. However, sometimes the community manager can be a blockade to the owner’s knowledge of his customer’s satisfaction. Without providing a good value, no mobile home park can succeed, as it will be unable to obtain or retain residents. So how can you keep a constant tab on this feedback? In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to discuss the action steps to allow you to make sure that your residents’ voices can be heard.

Episode 206: Let Your Residents’ Voices Be Heard Transcript

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "An important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him, he is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so." This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. We're going to talk all about how to listen, how to get feedback, how to let your customer voices be heard, in your mobile home park.

Let's start off with literally talking and listening to what people say on your premises. The best way to achieve that is to get your office line ported through a service, like Who's Calling. And that way, every time a customer calls, that number is transcribed and tracked, you find out how long the manager talked to the customer, and you most importantly, learn what they're saying because you can then listen to the recordings. Sometimes when you listen to those recordings, it can be very eye opening. The managers that you thought were doing a great job, it turns out weren't doing quite as good as you had hoped for. Sometimes it can save your business, save you from all kinds of problems with customers and retention and selling homes. So it's very, very important that we know what the manager is saying and what the customer is saying in reaction to what is being said.

You can also take those phone numbers, which are duly captured in these services, and you can now do exit interviews. You can call potential customers and say, "Did you buy? Did you rent? If not, why not?" Get their feedback, listen to what they say. They might say, "Well, I came by but the manager did not show up at the showing." Or they might say, "Well, I came by and looked at the home. But there's another one that significantly less expensive down the street." Or they'd say, "Well, I came by but the home just wasn't what I expected. It wasn't clean, the steps were wobbly." All of this has fantastic feedback for you. This is the kind of information you really, really need to move your mobile home park forward. It can help you learn everything about your business, and it's so simple to use.

Another great way to let your residents' voices be heard is by having a helpline. We are a huge believer in this, we think all mobile home parks should have a helpline. So what is a helpline? Basically, it's a dedicated line, and email if you want to do it properly, and we give all of our residents a little magnet. It says, "Need help?" and then it has a toll free number as well as an email they can send their questions to. And what happens then you have two choices, you can live answer the line if you're large enough to afford to have someone to do that. Or you could just simply have a go to a Grasshopper number or Google number, which transcribes their voicemail. And then you might return them at the end of each day. You'll learn so much from the helpline, because you'll be talking one on one with the customer or if by email communicating one on one. You'll learn such things as problems with the property, things that the manager isn't getting done. Problems with managers themselves, all kinds of issues that you really, really need to know. And here's why the helpline is so very important. If you should happen to have a manager who is falling down on the job and not really providing the customer service that you need to as a good business person, you will now find that out. If you don't have a helpline, there's no way the customer can get around the manager. The manager can tell you things are going great and everyone is happy when in fact the customers are miserable, and there's no way they can express that concern to you.

 I'm sure you've driven down the highway been behind a giant 18 Wheeler. On the back of many of those it says "How's my driving?", and a phone number. The trucking company put that on there so if that manager of that truck, if that driver is not doing a good job, if they're weaving around or speeding, you can call in and report it. And that's extremely important information for any business to know exactly what is going on on the premises. Now helpline questions can be any number of items. Sometimes they're ridiculous. Sometimes it's someone calling say, " I'm having trouble making my car start. Can you give me a jumpstart?" But most of the time, it's reasonable information for you to know. Now some of it is actionable, some of it is not. Even the things are not actionable, if it's someone just calling to complain about a rent raise, that's important information to know. That may help guide you on the next rent raise as to maybe I won't raise it so high because I got a lot of negative feedback last time that I did. Other times, it's bigger things than that. It can be that, "Hey, are you aware that the manager had the police come to their home last night?" Issues that are really, really critical. Sometimes it can be a tip, like, "There's a tree in my yard that's dead, I'm afraid it's going to fall on my home."  I would much rather know that information in advance of that event, wouldn't you? That way I can take action in real time based on real information. There's really no reason you can come up with to not have a helpline. And because it's so very important, since there's not a single thing, it doesn't cost you very much money, it doesn't take very much time, every park owner should definitely enact that.

Finally, you're going to hear all about your park's performance and the happiness of your residents simply based on the actual statistics. Every park owner should have a dashboard of statistics that they track on a continual basis. Two of these are collections and occupancy. And in both of these, it will be very clearly manifested if the residents are not happy. On the collection side, we found that happy residents tend to pay better than residents which are unhappy. Why is that? Well, it's a lot easier to write that check and turn it in when you're feeling good about it than if you feel like you're getting a bad value. If you're seeing your collections begin to slip, it's a good sign that your customers are not really happy with the value that you are giving them. It is time for you to put a microscope on why that is. Sometimes you'll find the collections issue falls back to a manager issue. The customers are mad, the managers men handle them or spoken unkindly to them. And therefore, they just don't want to write that check. A happy park is a park that pays on time. So if you see their collections begin to slip, definitely you're getting a message here that people are not happy. And that's why they're not paying the rent. They want you to go in and bring back that sense of value and reaffirm the reasons that they're there.

The bigger item that will tell you whether you're doing a good job or a bad job at listening to your residents voices, of course, is in occupancy. In a park where people are unhappy, they tend to move. Now if you drive through any mobile home park and if you see in every window and yard a "For Sale by Owner" sign, that is a park in which the owner is not really listening to the residents. And they're so unhappy at this point they want to sell their home, they want to go somewhere else where they might be happy. So that is one of the worst signs to us you can possibly have as a park, where every homeowner has suddenly decided they don't want to be a homeowner there anymore. It's a terrible, terrible vote of a lack of confidence in your property. Also, if you're trying to attract new residents, if you've gone ahead and you've got brand new or used homes you've brought in to sell or to rent, and they're sitting there and nothing's happening once again, what does that telling you? It's telling you the residents are unhappy with the value you're providing. Remember, the value is more than price point. You don't have to have the cheapest home on the block. What you have to have is the best value to the customer.

It's not all about price point. I frequently asked managers to prove this point. You're going down the highway there's an exit. There's three hotels at the exit the Tiki Motor Lodge for $19, the Marriott Courtyard Inn for $99. and the Four Seasons Hotel for $400. Where would you stay? They always pick the middle one. I've never had anyone say the Tiki Motor Lodge. Why is that? The Tiki Motor Lodge is only $19 a night. Well, they'd say "Well, I'd be afraid to go there. I think it would be murdered or it would be unclean." And of course they would be correct. But that means it's not all about price point. There's many other considerations that the customer has. And it's very important for you as the park owner to understand what they're saying. And if they're saying "Well, I don't want to buy that home or rent that home," that's very valuable information need for you to know.

If your residents voices are truly being heard, you're providing the value that they're seeking, you're providing the product that they're seeking, you're providing the management that they're seeking. And when you get all those things combined, you seemingly always have a happy customer base, and a very, very successful mobile home park. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.