By Harry Scoffin
In an unregulated sector where developers and freehold investors call the shots in the management of apartment blocks, managing agents habitually ignore the voice of the disempowered flat owners who pay their wages.
There is some smoke-and-mirrors marketing guff about leaseholders being “customers” whereas, of course, the managing agents’ customer is the entity that appoints them. But that’s about it.
No surprise, then, that without a commonhold system that puts the service charge payers in the driving seat, most managing agents do not actively court honest feedback from leaseholders and other residents.
Dis-satisfactions surface on social media, sometimes very ill-informed leading to an “all managing agents are awful” narrative. Managing agents sometimes respond; occasionally doing so with m’learned friends issuing take-down notices.
But hats off to Premier Block Management (“pbm”), which has been signed up to LKP’s customer focussed accreditation scheme since 2012.
pbm is now encouraging leaseholders to leave public reviews on Trustpilot rival, Feefo.com, to show that its commitment to transparency and resident collaboration goes beyond breathless website spiel or a press release.
Premier Block Management Reviews
Premier Block Management Reviews. Find out what genuine customers have said about pbm-property.com. Real reviews from real people.
pbm chose Feefo.com for its unique approach to collecting verified reviews from real people.
A pbm spokesperson said:
“In an industry where our primary focus is problem-solving, making such a decision is very brave and risky … but we wanted to provide this point of honesty and transparency compared to other companies.
“So we opened Pandora’s box and asked our clients to talk about us openly regardless of whether it was good or bad. We think criticisms would help us improve and grow and the good comments to understand what clients valued the most.
“The best part came when we began to receive waves of comments from our clients, congratulating us, thanking us for the service received, feeling relieved to work with a company like pbm that solved their challenging situations efficiently, quickly, with a personal approach and the most important with a smile.”
The adoption of this ‘masochism’ strategy, where one gets visibly beaten up and takes the thrashings in good humour so as to improve the service, has a few risks but we will see what happens.
Opening for scrutiny on Feefo.com has been inspired choice in an unregulated industry where the vast majority of companies do not use such a water-tight review system, and some even go as far as ‘fixing’ the opposition.
Hertfordshire-based pbm, founded in Elstree in 2008, is a small company that has 12,000 flats under management.
Here are a couple of consumer facing activities by the pro-freehold owning landlord managing agents that badly backfired:
Last year, Inside Housing magazine uncovered the alleged gaming of another consumer reviews website by employees of a leading freeholder-cum-managing-agent:
Developer sent ‘cease and desist’ letter by Trustpilot over five-star reviews
There is now a warning on Ballymore’s page
LKP reported that a property manager at one of the country’s biggest managing agents, FirstPort, used an alias to gain access to the closed Facebook group of the National Leasehold Campaign, whose founders are LKP trustees, and glean information from its 20,000 plus members.
Congratulations for taking this step. You will always get the odd serial complainer or just unacceptably high expectations poster who will leave a bad review, but transparency always pays off. If they monitor the comments and respond others can see they are taking action and this will only help. Having said all of this, these rating sites are sometimes there because there is a lack of existing mechanisms for customers to be able to contact the management company directly. In so many cases, it’s is often small things that get out of hand by a lack of response by the management company which understandably angers customers when they look at the likes of Amazon whose customer service is very responsive. Having had direct experience of one of the big managing agents who avoided any phone contact and manipulated can only applaud this. However, other managing agents manipulate online their review ratings to make themselves look better than they are and this devalues the effectiveness of this. TrustPilot is open to massive abusive sadly by companies who inflate their ratings and remove bad reviews.