You couldn’t help but like Dwayne Schneider, the Casanova-wanna-be superintendent who sauntered into our living rooms in the 1970s. Clad in a white t-shirt, blue jean vest and pants and tool belt, the slender, stylish Schneider became America’s lovable maintenance man who flushed the stereotypes of overweight and sloppy apartment repairmen in “One Day at a Time”. So much that his leather tool belt, which he purchased from one of the show’s electricians, resides in the Smithsonian.
Making your maintenance staff likable
The character portrayed by the late, great Pat Harrington, Jr., defies the image of today’s maintenance technicians. For one, his supercilious swagger might make it difficult for him to complete a work order on a mobile maintenance app. However, what resonates with Schneider is his likability. He was the huggable people magnet so well defined that Harrington won an Emmy for the role. You’d hardly think he knew his way around a water heater. Still, amid his Schneider-isms, he was believable, kind, knowledgeable, and a good listener.
People like being around people they like
Perception is reality. And residents who believe and like maintenance technicians – or other property staff for that matter – are more comfortable with their surroundings and likely to stay a while, says multifamily industry consultant Anne Sadovsky.
At a recent education conference, Sadovsky told maintenance techs and leasing agents that it’s so important to be likable. Especially today, when apartment demand is exceeding inventories and property managers are focused on retaining residents.
“When people like you, they want to stay with you,” she said.
Here are three aspects Anne offers that affect a person’s ability to be likable:
1. The way you groom
A few months ago, I spoke with Paul Rhodes, National Maintenance and Safety Instructor for the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI). He told me that in maintenance, outward appearance doesn’t always match skill or knowledge, Rhodes says. Schneider is the testament to that.
Rhodes encourages apartment maintenance technicians to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves if they would let themselves in on a service call if they were the resident. He says a neat, professional looking tech with minimal experience would entrust residents more than a disheveled and dirty Mr. Fix-It.
“You have to groom yourself to look like you care about yourself,” Sadovsky says. “How you groom and how you move shows your level of confidence, and people like confident people.”
A disheveled looking maintenance tech or leasing agent is a turnoff. People who are neatly dressed, cheerful and energetic are more likely to be acceptable and believable.
2. What you say and how you say it
Know your stuff and communicate it in a way that enforces it. Sadovsky encourages service technicians to learn everything they can about their jobs, community and apartment industry so they can talk intelligently to residents.
The way you deliver a message is also important. Striving to deliver information with authority and without belittlement wins residents over. For example, don’t say, “Anybody knows that you have to run hot water before running the dishwasher.” Instead, say, “Dishwashers work best when you run hot water a few minutes before starting.”
3. The way you make other people feel
This is the big one, Sadovsky says. People possess a lot of power that affect the way other people feel about them. Being impolite, grumpy, offensive, vulgar, crude or simply indifferent usually drives customers and residents away.
According to U.S. News & World Report, 68 percent of people who quit doing business with you say they do so because of perceived rudeness or disinterest. In other words, a sure-fire way to drive away business is to appear to not care or be a jerk.
“You can’t be successful if you make people feel bad,” Sadovsky says. Schneider would agree.