They say moving home is one of life’s most stressful challenges. When customers decide to relocate from one place to another, they are putting their trust in the place they are moving to. For many, that also means putting their trust in a property management company.

Mick Lohan

Mick Lohan, director of client relationships & mobilisation at FirstPort

These companies should respect that trust by engaging directly with the customers living in their properties, and as early as possible. After all, it should be clear to anyone in the industry that the hands-off approach to property management isn’t working.

Customers expect more from their property manager – and it is right that they should. The reason is obvious. No one wants to deal with a faceless block manager; they want to deal with a person who cares about their community. A good previous experience or a recommendation makes a real difference in their decision to buy or rent.

This is the direction the industry is moving towards and the companies that don’t adapt won’t survive. A good mobilisation process, which starts well before the customer is involved and is aimed at helping clients deliver good schemes ready for the customer, is all important in achieving this.

So, what should this mobilisation process look like? And why is this customer-focused approach so important?

At FirstPort, we’ve developed a seven-stage mobilisation process that addresses the common property management issues clients often face. The first step is adopting a partnership approach with them at the earliest point in the process to understand their vision and service requirements. To make it easier for the client, appointing a single point of contact is the next step because mobilisation involves so many different people and teams.

The management team needs to imagine exactly how customers are going to live on a site, so that they can know exactly what to expect. Where will they park? How will they collect their rubbish? Will there be enough lighting? Asking these questions as early as possible is the best way to avoid any headaches later down the line.

Understanding the development

FirstPort has been doing this for 40 years and mobilised more than 4,500 units across the UK in 2018. Clients won’t necessarily understand the practical side of things so we are there to advise them early on.

Systems need to be put in place and the key to doing that is training. The sales team for any new site needs to know exactly what the property management company stands for, what it does and what it doesn’t do. They need to be able to explain as clearly as possible what service charges are for and what they cover.

After that comes due diligence. This is about more than performing the legal minimum. It’s about making sure that all the necessary technical information about the site is stored centrally and is easily accessible.

Green park village

FirstPort mobilised more than 4,500 units in 2018, including Green Park Village by Berkeley Homes

Once the more procedural stuff is out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about how to welcome the customers to the site. This is where far too many property management companies fall flat. Yes, property managers are there to solve problems, but they are also there to advise, assure and listen.

So, while it’s important to be knowledgeable, it’s also important for them to be approachable and empathetic. Recruiting the right people and teaching them the right approach is the key to this.

Only when all of this has been done is a property management company ready to hand over the site to the team on the ground. This is the perfect opportunity to check again that every question has been asked so that there is a system in place to deal with any conceivable problem.

With enough planning and preparation, the handover itself should be smooth and simple. Going the extra mile makes all the difference here. This means sending a handover letter to all of the customers on the site. Keeping them in the loop in this way lets them know that they’re valued.

Reviewing service levels

The handover isn’t the end of the road though. The site needs to be reviewed and revisited regularly to ensure that service levels are being met.

The thing that glues a properly executed mobilisation process together is a customer-focused approach and this is at the heart of building a great brand reputation for both the property manager and the client. At every stage of the process, everyone needs to remember that the aim is to create a place that customers will be proud to call their home.

This should be obvious and yet companies still don’t pay enough attention to it. Our focus is on ensuring that the customer journey is as smooth as possible. We’ve recognised the need to formalise our mobilisation approach and early client engagement is essential to ensure a successfully mobilised scheme. Where we do come across issues we have the team in place to resolve the matters in conjunction with the client.

Without an effective mobilisation process centred around the customer, clients and property management companies wind up with problems that shouldn’t need to exist. Solutions that are straightforward to anyone who has imagined their site from a customer’s point of view are much more complicated for those who have not.

No one wants to deal with a faceless block manager; they want to deal with a person who cares about their community. A good previous experience or a recommendation makes a real difference in their decision to buy or rent

At FirstPort, we’ve always believed in creating communities at the developments we manage. Our team is part of that community. They’re not just there to fix things when they go wrong, though that is extremely important. They are there to hear concerns and to be a person who residents can turn to.

That’s why we have casual get-togethers on our sites wherever possible, where our team and customers can talk about issues they might have and also about what they like. Putting on a barbecue for your community and giving them a chance to talk to you at length isn’t a radical idea. It’s just our way of trying to be as transparent as possible.

It’s a community that exists online as well as face to face. Recognising that virtually every aspect of 21st-century living is becoming digitised, from banking to shopping, we’ve also created YPO (Your Property Online), so that customers can manage their property, get in touch with us 24/7 and stay updated on what’s happening in their neighbourhood.

The communities we have built and help to maintain are a testament to what we do. We are proud to say that the clients who choose us do so because of our transparency, experience and customer-focused attitude.

As a result of all that, we make moving home just that little bit easier for customers.

First Port Logo

About FirstPort

FirstPort is the UK’s largest residential property manager, overseeing 185,000 homes in England, Wales and Scotland across over 3,900 developments. It is the market-leading operator, with four decades of experience and 3,000 employees working with developers, investors, freeholders and more than 200 resident management companies.