Best standards of customer service behind Principle’s success

The rapid expansion of Principle Estate Management over the last two years has been driven by the company’s dedication to providing the best customer service in the industry.

Principle, based in Birmingham and looking after properties across the UK, has grown from a standing start in spring 2018 to a portfolio today of more than 5,000 units across 200 developments.

Joe Jobson, a director at Principle, said the company’s position as the country’s fastest growing residential estate management is all down to the values that drive its relationships with every client, tenant and resident.

He said: “From the very beginning we have not only been keen to become a national provider of property management but also a business which provides exceptional levels of service.

“This has meant building a customer service team that only accepts the highest qualities, and Michelle Cox, Principle’s customer service manager, is committed to ensuring that all customer service executives and property managers have the tools to provide the best possible standards.”

Mr Jobson said the crucial ingredients that sets Principle apart from other agents was its provision of:

  • clear communications channels
  • a free resident portal
  • named contacts for each property
  • pre-approved contractors
  • qualified members of staff, and
  • a regularly reviewed customer standards charter.

He said: “Our communications take place using all available channels as needed, from traditional post to e-mail, from newsletters to telephone conversation, and via our dedicated resident portal.

“Not all agents provide such portals, and some that do add additional fees for using it, but Principle’s is included within our service at no extra cost.”

Principle’s portal provides customers with a self-service facility that can be accessed 24/7 and, when customers log in, they see a certain amount of static information, such as budgets and accounts, negating the issue that some agents face in charging fees for providing copy accounts.

In addition, Mr Jobson explained, customers can check the status of outstanding maintenance work and make service charge payments.

He said that a smart factor behind those communications was having named property managers and customer service executives for all managed properties, ensuring customers can contact and speak to people with the necessary knowledge and skills to quickly deal with queries.

Once any needs are identified, Principle only uses pre-approved contractors with an approval process based on experience and qualifications, locality to developments, relevant insurance cover and health and safety standards and risk assessments.

Mr Jobson said: “Our approved supplier list is maintained through our Qube app and allows us to monitor contractor performance. Importantly, unlike some agents, we do not charge our contractors to be registered on our system.

“We don’t employ in-house maintenance contractors and all works are outsourced to independent contractors, using local providers where possible, as we believe that external contractors at an arm’s length basis is the correct way to arrange maintenance.

“In-house maintenance often leads to mistrust of the agent who can be seen to be making additional profits from a captive audience, especially where the basic management fee is at a lower level.”

Principle also works with a utility broker to ensure it gets the best energy rates for its clients and leaseholders.

Mr Jobson highlighted Principle’s belief that employees need to be trained and qualified in their particular roles to deliver the highest possible service.

He said: “This means we provide courses for our staff to achieve the best they can, not only for themselves and Principle but for the residents they provide services for.”

Principle commitment includes training to enable qualifications through exams set by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Institute of Residential Property Management.

The company holds regular seminars and webinars for both its office and site staff, helping them to achieve professional development targets.

Mr Jobson described how Principle’s high standards of customer service had been maintained throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

All the company’s property management and office accounting software, document storage and telephone systems are cloud based, and all staff have laptops, which meant the switch to homeworking was seamless.

He said: “Michelle Cox has made full use of technology such as Microsoft teams to hold daily meetings via video conference with her customer service team, ensuring any potential issues are sorted promptly.

“We also have fully functioning conference call facilities that we’ve been using for client meetings.

“And the full utilisation of our customer portal with secure access has provided a noticeboard service for important updates on problems like a lift being out of order, and the ability to submit maintenance requests directly to the customer services team.”

Mr Jobson added: “Principle’s provision of a customer service charter that is reviewed periodically enables us to regularly update our high standards, making sure we continue to be best in class.”