One of the core functions of affordable housing management is excellent customer service. Resident relations are vital to effective and quality affordable housing program management.
Quadel Program Manager Gloria Pounds is a human relations specialist and a skilled housing practitioner who understands the challenges of serving diverse populations. She shares her thoughts about how PHAs can improve their relationships with program residents below.
Be Firm, but Polite
Quadel trains its customer service team members on program policies and regulations to ensure the highest degree of program compliance and performance. But, they are also trained in communications skills such as de-escalation and such issues as cultural sensitivity and fair housing. Pounds notes while enforcing policy and procedures is of utmost importance, how information is communicated to tenants matters, too.
“Tenants often see themselves as numbers and no one is interested (in their concerns). You get better cooperation from tenants when they know that you are truly concerned,” Pounds said. “However, you must be firm and polite. Be fair in administering policy and procedure. Don’t show favoritism or make promises you can’t keep.”
Remember Real Life Happens
Pounds noted tenants may face various kinds of life challenges no matter where a PHA is located. Residents may experience unstable situations such as employment, safety, finances, and mental health. It’s important to recognize outside circumstances when communicating with tenants to ensure they feel heard and understood.
“Make sure you ‘know your audience’ and listen to the tenant. Mostly, tenants just want to be heard, so let them have their say,” Pounds said. “Resident concerns can change daily as they relate to individual tenant needs, but it is important to recognize untreated mental health issues and not mistake them for anger. Daily greetings to tenants when you see them go a long way.”
Get Resident Feedback
Quadel tracks customer service data in its management and interim management engagements. This data is analyzed by managers and used to adjust customer service and resident relation plans as needed. Quantitative data and anecdotal feedback from tenants allow PHAs to understand where they could improve.
“Keeping tenants abreast of issues or concerns (is important). PHAs can implement resident focus groups. In these, you can ask them about anything they might want to change at the PHA,” Pounds said. “Above all, its resident relation team members should remain non-judgemental and respectful when communicating with tenants.”