Our reality TV culture has only increased expectations for immediate responses to all of our demands. Very few professions can continue to respond at the same pace as they did forty years ago. Those of us in service-related industries are pushed the hardest. And while automated attendants have growing capabilities to handle this environment, human interactions are still very necessary.
This demand for instant satisfaction comes at a price many aren't willing to pay, both in salary and in sacrificed private time. The problem is this: How do you expect to have a fully competent professional agree to 24/7 access at minimal rate wages? Obviously, the answer by many industries is to outsource to other countries with lower living standards. However, for those services requiring frequent personal interaction, such as in the medical or legal fields, you as the consumer can only push so far before the quality of service suffers.
The same holds true in the community association management industry. While some parts of the United States understand and pay for quality management with salaries in the six-digits, other areas view management as an administrative only function. In these suppressed regions, managers make half what their counterparts earn elsewhere, and turnover is horrendous. Many new managers leave the industry within a year, and those that remain behind often are living in financial slavery. The growing resentment and stress lead to behaviors that result in poor quality service, only reinforcing the cycle of keeping quality management out of the local market.
This must stop. While very little is new under the sun, here are specific steps to manage our fast-paced world, and retain a growing pool of professionals:
Turn off the email. The worst thing is walking out the door at the end of the work day stressing over some last-minute message that ruins your evening. At least an hour prior to departure, turn off your email and work on projects. Ditto with phone calls. And don't check your smart phone for messages after work.
After-hours on-call. Set up a rotating shift to handle evening and weekend demands. It's better to have a few weeks of year where you have to handle all messages for the firm, if it means peaceful sleep for all those other weeks.
Everything has a price. You don't have to say 'no' to your client, but do set a price. Sure you can stay for a long meeting, for an additional charge. Sure you can take on a project, for an additional charge.
Evaluate your clients. Healthy growth requires pruning. If a particular client is placing your reputation at risk, or is refusing to heed your advice, terminate the contract. There is plenty of other business to be had, with those who will respect what you bring to the table. If a client is soaking up lots of time, increase the rate. In one instance, a client agreed to doubling the management fee in order to keep a quality manager in place. It can be done.
Refuse abuse. The client is NOT always right, and if the staff knows that the firm stands behind it, retention rates will soar. A manager needs to know that it is okay to escalate a situation to higher management without being penalized. Don't sacrifice a manager to retain a problematic client.