By Sam Carpenter
First, here’s overview of what an answering service actually does…and the profound disarray affecting the industry.
As a prelude, it’s relevant to mention that over 90% of property management companies employ an after-hours answering service.
For a property management company, an answering service takes incoming calls from tenants, vendors, home or apartment building owners and then either takes a message for later delivery, or in an urgent situation, connects the caller to the property management on-call representative.
Of course, the property management company relies heavily on the after-hours services of an answering service. But many property managers also engage their service to handle overflow daytime call traffic.
In summary, property Management answering service accounts:
- are small but complex,
- must have timely and critical decision-making, and
- require additional steps beyond simple information gathering.
There are approximately 800 answering services in the United States. As I write this, many are in a downhill frenzy because of COVID19 mandates and related complications. Profits are down and like so many small businesses, “it’s hard to find good help.” Industry consolidation is ramped-up and so the total number of answering service providers is rapidly decreasing. The mega-size services gobbling up the small answering services are oftentimes foreign-owned and service quality thus suffers accordingly. And so, there a lot of unhappy property managers out there right now.
An answering service is a profoundly complex business model all by itself, without added government-created chaos and uncertainty. Here’s why there is complexity in the industry, even in the best of times: to succeed as a business, a service must provide a sequential emergency message delivery protocol that is fail-safe. The demands on telephone service representatives (TSRs) are intense. There is constant decision-making within a fast-moving framework. The TSR must demonstrate one-on-one personal communication expertise including the ability to understand a wide-ranging array of cultural subtleties. A Solid command of the English language, both spoken and written, is essential (and not a small thing, that means answering service calls must be processed within the United States).
For a property management company – after-hours and during business hours – the caller must be handled with concern and empathy by a TSR who must have a firm grasp of their responsibilities to the client and who understands the subtleties of the industry. For instance, consider other answering service vertical markets: visualize a panicked mother who calls late at night to reach her doctor to see what to do about her sick infant. Consider a grocery store manager who phones their HVAC company to report a large freezer unit is down with the potential loss of a huge investment in frozen goods within a matter of hours. Or imagine the emotional plight of an elderly woman calling a funeral home in the middle of the night to say her husband of fifty years has just passed away.
You can fill in the blanks regarding the variety of issues that arise in your own property management business. The nature of the message-taking and message-delivery are no less critical.
Centratel answering service’s operating methodology is described in my book Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less. First published in 2008, the extensively updated fourth edition was published in 2021. You can buy it online at Amazon or in your local book store. If you operate or manage a business and call us to inquire about answering service, we’ll mail you a hard-cover copy for free.