The Five Kinds of Upset Tenants
You Won’t Like Them When They’re Angry.
If you work in any public-facing role in any company that deals with a lot of clients or customers every day, it’s only a matter of time before you come across some truly irate individuals. It doesn’t matter if your product and your customer service are literally the best in the industry — there will be someone who has a bad experience related to what you’re offering.
So how do you deal with upset tenants? By shutting your mouth, listening, and figuring out what the real problem is. Until you get that far, you’ll never be able to solve it. In order to do that, though, you’ll need to learn about the five kinds of upset tenants and how each one works.
The Injured Party
This is in many ways the least desirable kind of upset tenant, because they’re nice and they don’t want trouble, but something has gone so wrong that they feel the need to speak up — sometimes loudly. The Injured Party wants empathy first and foremost: they want to know that you feel for them and someone cares. Then, they want the problem fixed forever. Fortunately, because they’re ready for you to listen, they’re one of the easiest to deal with as long as you can actually fix the problem. If you can’t, be ready for them to turn into one of the other four types in a heartbeat.
The Ventilator just wants to vent: they’ve got problems, and they want you to listen. But unlike the Injured Party, the Ventilator doesn’t actually want you to listen, so much as they want to talk. They’ve got something to say, and it will be heard! (Well, actually, all of these types of people want you to listen, but the Ventilator is more about getting his time in your spotlight than he is about having you empathize.) The important part about hearing out a Ventilator is that you do not start planning your response while they’re talking — that’s only going to lead you to interrupt them to make a counterpoint, which will make them feel like you don’t care. Don’t interrupt them! Listen until they stop talking, then reply to the entire spiel. You don’t have to address every point, just give them assurance that you ‘got all that’ and you’re on it.
The Hyperventilator is constantly in a tizzy. Everything is the worst. Thing. EVER! and it’s up to you to understand that no, their molehill really is a mountain and it should be the most important thing on your agenda. You know you’ve got a Hyperventilator when the thoughts in your head are things like, “hey, it’s OK, this is totally not a big deal,” or, “seriously, that’s why you called me out here?”. As before, the key is to agree. Even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, assure them that it IS a big deal, and you’re doing everything you can to address their concern.
The M*****F***** is easily identifiable because profanity slips out of their mouths as or more often than verbs and nouns. They may come off as aggressive or merely crude, but in either case, it’s critical that you do not react to the sailor talk. It will only add fuel to their fire. They use that kind of speech because they’re trying to get a reaction out of you — they’re trying to get your attention. They often are also trying to goad you into responding in kind so they can claim you are unprofessional. Treat them like an Injured Party and ignore everything else.
So named for two reasons: one, they like to try to throw questions at you fast and hard like a cop giving the third degree, and two, they really want to get all up in your face when they do it. The Grill’s goal is to scare you into giving them special service. Most often seen with totally bogus or at least fairly questionable grievances, and often wants you to magically fix the problem without noticing anything else about the home while you’re there. Much like the M*****F*****, the Grill is best treated like a Ventilator that someone left the volume turned up on; if you show any sign of being affected by the intimidation, it’ll only get worse.
With any of the types, it’s important that you maintain your professionalism and don’t give them anything to use against you. If the conversation turns very unproductive, you can tactfully tell them something professional like, “I’m sorry, but this is not a productive conversation. Please call back when you are calmer so we can move forward, I’m hanging up now.” In our experience, most people will call back and actually be much calmer. Those that don’t will often ask for a supervisor. If you’re face-to-face with someone you can also use this same tactic and walk away from them.
Another tactic we’ve successfully used is to tell the upset tenants that we’re going to record the calls — and actually do so. Our system has a computerized voice that clearly states, “This call is now being recorded.” Most people suddenly calm down once they hear that voice. Some hang up. The few that keep going on actually give you “ammunition” to use against them. . If you’re face-to-face with someone you can also use this same tactic by pulling out your cell phone and using a voice recording app (pre-installed of course).
Developing the skill of listening to someone’s complaints and treating them seriously while you ignore those parts of their behavior that you don’t care to acknowledge is a very difficult skill — but it’s one of the most important tools to have in your arsenal.