“Under New Management”

I went to my gym on Saturday and brought a friend with me who was in from Chicago.  The guest policy as I knew it was no fee for first time guests and $10 per visit thereafter.  So I told my buddy it was free, let’s go.  When we got there they informed me that the policy had changed, as they were “under new management”. 

I did not receive any written notice of the new management or policy changes.  I acknowledged that I understood and asked for an exception since I had not been informed prior.  They said no (of course).  Then they proceeded to inform me that my account wasn’t up to date and I owed for January and February.  Mind you I was with my friend and right at the main entrance of the gym.   I told them to run my card again and they said they needed a new card.   Needless to say there was some confusion and the person helping me was not making himself clear and I was a bit embarrassed

At this point, “Under New Management” meant “Under Bad Management” to me.

Eventually, the new Manager got involved and apologized for the confusion, however by that point their first impression had already been made.  I shared with him how they could have handled things differently and that any reasonable person would understand.  In all honesty, I wasn’t upset with the policy changes, rather the delivery of those changes. 

In this scenario, I was only paying $20 per month for a gym membership, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.   I began to think about management changes at our apartment communities and how this style and poor delivery of policy changes would have a much greater impact on the success.  If I was paying for a premium gym membership and there was decent competition, I would have cancelled my membership on the spot.  If it was my apartment community and I was paying $800 in monthly rent, you can be sure I would be shopping around a few months before my lease renewal.

So what could “New Management” have done differently in this situation.  First of all, they could have notified their membership by mail and posting on their bulletin board (which I read every time I’m there) of the policy changes and put a date on when they would be enforced.  That way, they’re not coming into the place like a bull in a china shop.  Most customer service driven management companies already do this.  They could also use more experienced personnel to deal with membership issues.  It was clear the young man asking for my billing information was new and had little customer service experience.  These were two situations that could have been easily avoided by planning ahead to make sure there was a smooth transition with experienced personnel dealing with the customers.  

These are definitely things to consider when we “take over” management at an apartment community.  Quite frankly, good residents don’t care about “our company policy”.  They just want to be treated fairly and be given proper notice of any changes.

Employee Appreciation Isn’t Just Fluff

It’s no surprise that studies show a link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.  This is often a result of employee appreciation.  Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an employee appreciation event for a company in Metro Detroit.  Their theme was modeled after the Olympics.  Their opening ceremonies featured the staff of each apartment community entering the field with their flags to the song they selected to represent their team.  My favorite happened to be the team that came out to “Welcome to the Jungle”!

The rest of the morning was spent warming up for the events.  Hula hoops, bull riding, human bowling, giant tri-cycle races and even sumo wrestling to name a few.   While the teams were warming up a crew of caterers were manning the bar-b-q.  After lunch, everyone enjoyed competing in events and winning medals.  The community with the highest medal count at the end of the day won prizes.  The medal count included medals from leasing competitions and maintenance competitions that were ongoing leading up to the final event.

The best part about this was to see everyone enjoying themselves.  You could tell they enjoyed the event. With any luck they would go back to their respective communities the following day and take this energy with them, and as a result their residents would receive a higher level of customer service.  The question is how long does the impact of an event like this last?  How can it be maximized?  

My answer is simple.  It depends on your corporate philosophy.  This event needs to be part of a supporting cast of training, team work, strong leadership and much more.  It cannot be the one day a year you show appreciation.  I know we all know that, but sometimes it takes a back seat to daily operations.  Make some time to evaluate it and make any changes necessary.  This white paper may help your company with some of the characteristics necessary to achieve such a corporate philosophy.  If you are short on time skip to page 5.

But what do you do if you’re not a decision maker or contributor to the corporate philosophy?  How can you effect change if you are not satisfied?  Come back next week to find out.

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