One of the questions commonly asked throughout our surveys is “The speed to which your maintenance work was handled.” So what exactly constitutes a fast response time? There is usually a disparity between what the office considers a fast turnaround and what a resident is comfortable with. Believe it or not, the clock starts ticking for a resident the moment that service request is placed. Whether via email, phone call or note left in the drop box, a resident sees this as the starting point, which is why it is so critical for the office and maintenance teams to be totally in synch with each other and have a streamlined process in place for handling service requests.
When I first started as a Leasing Associate, I developed a great time-management system for tackling all of the duties I was responsible for throughout the day. One of my most ingenious techniques came in the form of post-it notes. As service requests came in, I would jot them down on post-it notes and sit them to the side of my computer. Once I had a good amount of requests and time to spare, I would enter them into the computer and put the printed requests in the maintenance inbox. In some form or another, this was standard practice throughout the office – everyone did something similar for their requests.
Those of us in the office never realized the back-up this created for our maintenance teams. Imagine you are a Service Tech and throughout the day you stop by the office to check your inbox for new requests. First stop at 10 a.m. – no tickets. Second stop before lunch – no tickets. Third stop after lunch – no tickets. Fourth stop at 2 p.m. – 5 tickets. Fifth stop at 4 p.m. – 18 tickets! Who can possibly resolve 18 tickets before the end of the business day?
It cannot be stressed enough the importance of entering in each ticket as they come into the office. If a resident places a call for service at 10 a.m. but the ticket isn’t entered until 3 p.m., we have essentially lost 5 hours in which that request could have been resolved. That 10 a.m. ticket may not be resolved until the following business day, essentially a full 24 hours after the request was made. In the mind of the resident, that could equate to 2 full days.
Here’s an example:
Mr. Jones places a request at 10 a.m. Monday morning, but it does not get entered into the system until 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. Maintenance is not made aware of the request until 4 p.m. on Monday and therefore could not resolve it before leaving for the day. The work order sits until Tuesday when it finally gets resolved sometime during that day. Mr. Jones is at work when the request is completed and therefore does not realize the work was done until he returns home at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. Start time: 10 a.m. Monday…Finish time: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The back-up created by our attempts at time management affect not only the maintenance process but the resident’s overall living experience. Do you have a standard in place for your service requests? If so, does everyone on your team, from office to maintenance, know about it and most importantly adhere to it?
Lia Nichole Smith is the VP of Education and Consulting for SatisFacts Research. She has proven experience in solving training and resident retention challenges for market, affordable, senior, tax credit and student communities.