Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 159

The Right And Wrong Way To Keep In Touch With Your Residents

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You may call your mother weekly, but that’s not the appropriate way to check in with the residents of your mobile home park. Instead, there are systems that have been developed to keep in touch but in a structured way that it best for the owner and residents alike. So what are the correct and incorrect way to stay in touch? In this episode of the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review how smart owners stay on top of resident contact.

Episode 159: The Right And Wrong Way To Keep In Touch With Your Residents Transcript

Every smart Mobile Home Park owner knows that it's the residents that pay all the bills. The only way to make any money, the only way to pay the utilities, the property tax, the insurance, the mortgage, all comes from a regular collection of the rent of each and every person residing in the Mobile Home Park. As a result, every smart owner knows it's very, very important to stay in constant contact with those residents to ensure that they are getting a quality product that they're happy living there.

So, how do you do that? This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series. We're going to be talking about the correct and incorrect methods to stay in touch with your residents.

Let's start off with the incorrect methods. What you don't want to do as the owner of the Mobile Home Park is to make direct regular contact with your residents. Why is that? It's because you have a hierarchy. You have a structure in your Mobile Home Park. The person that the residents should contact with on a regular basis, even if it's daily, is in fact, your community manager. That is your point person. That is the person that represents you out in the field. That's your eyes and ears out in your community. If you start contacting the residents directly yourself, it confuses them. They're not really sure who's in charge. Is it the manager or is it you? This becomes a real problem when certain cases arise, if someone has having an issue, for example, with the rules there, abiding by the rules, and the manager says, "No, you can't do this behavior. This isn't good for the community." They may say, "Well, you're not my boss. I'm going to call the owner."

So, pretty soon, what will happen is you'll kind of have this good cop, bad cop scenario where whenever the resident does not hear what they want to hear from the manager, they're going to try and go directly to you. And, that just doesn't work. Can you think of any business that works that way? I can't. Can you imagine if at McDonald's in the olden days, people could just call Ray Kroc himself because they don't like the size or the number of pickles on the burger? No, that doesn't work. You have to have structure. Every business does. And, the person who should have the regular contact with the residents is in fact, your manager.

You can create the same kind of issue if you frequently go to the Mobile Home Park yourself, identify yourself as the owner, give people your name and your phone number. And, again, what will happen is whenever there's critical things going on in the Mobile Home Park, they'll always try and get a second decision by going to you. It's really not going to help you in any way as far as your business works.

Now, a lot of people who buy Mobile Home Parks think it's like some kind of fine restaurant where the owner walks table to table saying, "Is this not the best meal ever? Are you a hundred percent satisfied?" That works fantastic in that industry because the owner of that restaurant and the quality of their food very much determines whether or not the person's having a satisfactory experience. However, you offer no value add. You may own the property, but basically people are renting land from you. They're not coming by and tasting your delicious salad and fish entree. So, you don't need to be going around table to table in your Mobile Home Park. Because, again, what you say, what you do is not going to create them having a happy or an unhappy experience.

So, what is the correct way to stay in contact with residents? If we don't want to talk to them on a regular basis and phone them and meet with them because it doesn't do any good. In fact, it hurts the business model ruins the ability of the manager to manage. So, what are the good things you can do?

Well, probably the first step in any successful Mobile Home Park to stay in contact with the residents in a positive way, is what we call the helpline. Now, what is the helpline? It is a phone number, a dedicated phone number however, it's typically done as a grasshopper number or Google disposable number and an email address. And, here's how it works. You give every resident, a refrigerator magnet that says, "Need help? And, then that phone number and that email address. And, you can also put it on your invoices if you like every month. If they have a problem, if they have an issue, they can contact the helpline.

Now, the helpline is typically not live answered, depends on the size of your communities and how much you want to devote to that topic. However, it should be monitored daily and as a call, which then comes in as a form of a voicemail or an email comes in, you immediately want to look at that and say, "Okay, what's going on here? Is this an actionable item? Is this someone just letting off steam what's going on?" This gives your residents a lifeline, a way to reach the owner in the event that the manager is not getting the job done.

You can imagine again, back to a McDonald's, if you have a manager of that McDonald's, but they're doing a terrible job. The food is very poor quality. The place is filthy and they have no way to reach McDonald's corporate office, what would happen? Well that McDonald's would effectively go bankrupt. Customers would stop coming in. No business wants that. That's why every smart business in America has a helpline or something similar, which allows their customers, the ones who pay the bills to contact them and say, "Uh-oh, I don't know if you're aware or not, but what's going on in this business is not really appropriate. It's not really working for us, your actual customers." It gives you a chance to then correct it. I think a helpline is a very, very essential tool to any successful Mobile Home Park.

The next item is a newsletter. How does the newsletter work? Well, it can just be typically a one page eight and a half by 11, or it could be two pages front and back. And, it just, again, reinforces with the residents that you want to stay in contact with them. You want to know what's going on, that you care deeply. However, it's all structured around the manager. Typically in a good newsletter, you've got just some feel good items in there. You may have a recipe, observation of what happened this day in history, but you also have important reminders of things. If we're approaching winter to let the faucets drip so your waterlines don't become frozen, issues such as that.

And, it's just nothing more than a public relations piece for the most part. But, again, reminding them that you do care about them and that they do have a channel of contact with you. Typically, once again, you might want to put your helpline, email and phone number in that newsletter. We found that residents really liked newsletters. They liked that feeling of continuity, they liked that whole idea of sense of community. So, newsletters, again, very smart way to keep in touch with all residents.

Next item is the bulletin board. Most every Mobile Home Park has one spot in the entire property where residents congregate typically on a daily basis, that's known as where the mailboxes are, right? So, if you have a mailbox cluster, which most people do have in Mobile Home Parks, if you want to build a little building over that with a little roof on it, to allow people to get their mail and not have to deal with the rain, which is a great idea. You can also place in that structure, a locking outside bulletin board. You know what these are, they're made of aluminum. They have glass or plexiglass in them and they lock. And, you can then inside that, post all kinds of information that residents would need to know.

So, you might put in there, homes that are for sale. You might put in their reminder of important dates. You might just have a theme. Have decorations for Thanksgiving or Valentine's day. It's again, a daily reminder you're keeping in touch with your residents, therefore on a daily basis when they get their mail and another option would be to put it over by your office. If you have an actual office structure residents, let's say, pay the rent to the office, you can put the bulletin board there. They could drop by for other reasons, besides just paying the rent. Some may just stop by to say hi to the manager or if they have any other problem.

But, again, a bulletin board, once again, a great idea if you're a smart owner to stay in contact with the residents.

Finally, holding some kind of annual event. The event that we prefer the most is called the Spring cleanup. Now, of course, it's been very tough to do this year because of COVID. But, if it wasn't a COVID season, typically what you do in the Spring cleanup is you pick one defined day. When things get warmer, it can often be in April or May and the whole purpose is to use this as an opportunity for residents to meet each other and also jumpstart the whole idea of pride of ownership. What you do is you select the day, you announce to all the residents, the day that we're having the Spring cleanup, you typically have a roll off dumpster on site for that day.

Your manager will be in charge of the event. You'll set up to have some form of food service and beverage service for all the residents who participate. It can be anything you want. It could be pizza, barbecue, Mexican food, whatever you think everyone would like to have. And, so basically, how the event works, it starts at a certain time the volunteers show up and basically what you do is you start at one end of the park and you try and clean it up as best you can. Throwing junk, debris, tree limbs, anything like that in the dumpster. It also helps if you could hire a professional. Maybe your onsite maintenance man or someone you just hired, who's a handyman. Never allow the residents to do anything that might endanger them. So, you want the maintenance man, the handyman to be the one that handles obviously power tools, any carpentry, things like that.

But, even those who have no training who don't handle tools well, and they shouldn't, they can still do such things as picking up litter or even painting. And, the general theme is they meet people. They meet their friends and they have the communal meal and they, once again are making relationships and forging new friends inside the Mobile Home Park. And, what you've done now is you help create that sense of community, which is super important. You've also helped to create the pride of ownership of everyone who lives in the Mobile Home Park which is also equally important. And, once again, you've kept in touch with your residents.

So, really the key to keeping in touch with your residents is, it must always be in a structured manner and it needs to be a little distant. You don't want to have it where managers can call you rather than the manager in the event of a crisis. However, you do want to be able to allow residents to reach you if things are not going well, because of course, as I cannot emphasize enough, it's the residents who are really, at the end of the day, paying all the bills.

No successful park owner in American history has ever ignored their customers, not provided a good quality of community for their customers and ever succeeded. You can't retain customers. You can't retract new customers. You can't really raise your rents. You can't really accomplish anything if you're not in tune with the most important person in that Mobile Home Park. And, that's the people that live there. So, even though they may own their home, they're a stakeholder in the business just as you are, who owns the land. Everyone needs to get along well together. Everyone needs to appreciate each other's interests. They need to respect each other. And, most importantly, they do need to stay in contact, but only when it's done in a proper manner.

This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.