We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vince McGlone, CEO of Tenant Calls, a virtual assistant company for landlords and property managers.
Vince has been in the call center space for over 20 years. He opened Tenant Calls because he realized there was a need to support landlords and property management companies with call center or virtual assistant (VA) support.
You can see the full interview on YouTube here. We have also highlighted the specific places within the video for each of the questions below so you can easily access the information.
What does your virtual assistant team do for property managers?
Link to video section: [0:46]
Tenant Calls offers 24/7/365 virtual staff augmentation services in the form to process all types of phone calls. They act as the front desk for property management companies.
Some of the typical reasons property management or landlord hires Tenant Calls is:
- tremendous cost savings versus having full-time staff
- less oversight or handling of latenesses or call-offs
- daily overflow for leasing calls, non-urgent calls
- Support for when the office staff is out for lunch, or in a meeting, or on the property showing an apartment, etc
- after-hours emergency maintenance triage
How long has your company been doing this work?
Link to video section: [4:34]
Vince has been doing call center support for over 20 years. Over time they realized the need for growth into different industries with property management being one of them. They also recognized the need for separation of staff within their organization to support different industries.
Will my tenants know the difference between talking to someone in my office versus someone overseas?
Link to video section: [6:00]
Vince shared that in his experience, being upfront and transparent with callers always helps to make the conversation more efficient and to the point. Some clients do not want their tenants/prospects to know they are using VA service. However, tenants are perceptive and therefore, tenants will recognize it is a VA service or after-hours support staff. From his perspective, it is more important to be honest and help the caller relay their message to the landlord/property manager, rather than the landlord worrying about the perception of being in the office.
The fact is in this day and age where no one has patience and everyone wants immediate gratification. Their philosophy at Tenant Calls is being polite, truthful, professional, and direct.
Ultimately, a caller just wants to be heard and be provided a definitive answer, even if the answer is, “I have your message and it will be forwarded to the office.” Just this response to the caller provides some comfort.
How is your virtual assistant team trained to do this work?
Link to video section: [9:50]
Our staff is trained on the basics of customer service with our overall performance being solely dependent upon how detailed the property manager is. The more information was given the more accurate template we can create to support the specific property. However, the most basic skill each employee needs is common sense. The software Tenant Calls has created helps with
Our team has agents that have been with the company for over 15 years. They have seen nearly everything.
Agents are monitored on a regular basis by management. And scored accordingly so we make sure all our VA team is operating at the level we expect.
How long has your average employee been with the company?
Link to video section: [12:23]
The average employee has been with Tenant Calls for 8 years. However, there are two employees that have been with the company for 20 years. The long tenure of employees does two things. First, it drives down the training costs for the organization. Secondly, it improves the customer experience as these tenured individuals have depth in their experience.
How is your virtual assistant team trained to help my team specifically if I have a certain way of doing things for certain tenants?
Link to video section: [13:15]
We do our best to accommodate everyone. In the end, it is more about utilizing our software as efficiently as possible. We can generate alerts per account per client or maintenance person. In some instances, we can help. And in other instances, we cannot support the client based on their demands. This is particularly so if their demands fall far outside of the way we typically service clients.
The strength of our software really comes into play when a client is expecting a specific call. The client can alert our call center they are going out to lunch but when a specific call comes in, it should be routed to the client. We can create alerts in realtime to deal with these situations.
How long does it take to get set up in your system?
Link to video section: [15:59]
Our record is 30 minutes for the most simplistic form. But for most companies, you are probably looking at two days.
We have done a good job with our software. We have created templates. Our template encompasses over 50 general situations, such as no heat, no hot water, lockouts, noise complaints, etc. Then each situation (and sub-situation) needs to be set up specifically to our client’s instructions. Once the client goes live, it still may take 30-60 days to fine-tune everything.
Some clients have universal corporate policies and other clients have specific instructions per property owned which creates an infinite amount of possibilities for our staff to process.
Do I have access to see the activity that is happening at any given time with this team? Some sort of dashboard?
Link to video section: [18:18]
We have a web portal that shows messages and on-call schedules. Anyone can log in there and see their messages. In addition, within that same portal, people can log in and change their schedule if there is an emergency that comes in. Ninety-nine percent of clients do not log in and access the web portal.
The fact of the matter is that we provide their activity in near real-time. So we classify messages as urgent and non-urgent. Urgent messages can be batched in real-time and emailed out, or in 15-minute increments (or whatever the client decides) and they can be emailed out individually or in a batch. Emergencies are sent out in real-time through secure text messaging, or whatever the client wants. Despite the fact that the web-portal exists, most clients don’t use it.
How am I charged for the services of your virtual assistant team?
Link to video section: [22:15]
Our pricing is based on a consumption model. We have never implemented a per-minute charge, like many other companies, unless our clients demanded it. Under 5% of our clients want this.
Instead, we use billable units or instances. Which means every call, message, or an outbound call is charged as a unit. We basically blend everything together. There is a monthly base rate which includes so many units per month. We can provide a breakdown if a client asks for it.
In the end, it is a consumption model, the more units you use, the higher your bill will be. We believe this gives the client the best service and you truly get what you pay for.
Can I change the hours of service – 24/7 or only during the evenings and weekends?
Link to video section: [26:25]
Of course, this is one of the benefits of 24/7 virtual staff augmentation.
Let’s look at the economics behind this. If we charge a client $200 per month and that is basically for 2nd and 3rd shift. And that is for 30 days a month, that equates to $0.42 per hour. You can see an amazing cost reduction if you use our VA team.
Right now, we have some property management companies that have laid off their staff and have hired us full-time. Our bill could be $1,000 a month, but if you compare that to having a person in the seat, it is an incredibly inexpensive route to go.
The only thing we ask for if there is a huge change in staffing needs, we would appreciate a call. That way our clients don’t experience an increased hold time, etc. The beauty in using a company like ours is the flexibility.
How do I report back if there was something that did not go well with one of my tenants?
Link to video section: [29:13]
Sure, this happens in two ways. Very simple, when our clients receive the emails that go out to the tenants, they indicate in the email in a different color what they would like changed in how the VA responded.
However, for the most part, we call the client, or they call us and talk to them about the specific situation with the VA team. There is also an escalation path. We have been very good at being on top of any customer service problems.
We have an internal quality control team. All our virtual assistants that handle phone calls get various bonuses. Our VA’s get an hourly wage rate plus bonuses on meeting certain things (such as being on time) plus there are quality control measures.
Then we have surveys for some clients. At the end of each conversation, our employees will ask the customer if they want to take a short 5 question survey at the end of the call. The caller will then be placed into an automated system for the survey.
Consistently across the board, our virtual assistant agents receive between on average 4.3 – 4.5 stars.
Have you seen any drop off since the COVID crisis as begun?
Link to video section: [33:44]
We have seen some clients increase in call volume and other clients have decreased in their call volume.
This week alone we lost a handful of accounts and didn’t realize it. When the clients (property managers/landlords) came back, we asked them why they left. They said they were trying to save money. But what they realized was that the quality was nowhere near what we were providing and the rates were almost 30% higher.
What feedback have you received from property managers using this service?
Link to video section: [37:15]
When you are in a relationship with a business for a long time there is a lot that is taken for granted. The best compliment we can receive is a referral from our current clients. The majority of our growth has come from our referrals. We mostly don’t hear compliments, we know our clients are happy with us when they send someone our way.
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We appreciated the time Vince took to sit down with us and share how his team can potentially help your property management team. We are always looking for ways to automate and save you money. You can reach Vince McGlone from Tenant Calls at 888.289.2202 or email them at [email protected].