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Secrets of Success

Mary’s Story – Part 2

Last month we looked at a customer service dilemma.

Since I add new readers every month I’m repeating last month’s story to get everyone up to date:

A few months ago I was leading a property management team through a training session entitled Providing Outstanding Customer Service. I asked participants to share a story explaining how they successfully dealt with a difficult resident or client.

“Mary” had not only an interesting story, she had an equally interesting solution to the problem. Here is her story:

Mary works in resident relations at a Class A Planned Community. One afternoon she received a call from an irate resident. He explained that someone had planted a tree on his property without his authorization. In his opinion, it was planted in the wrong location and he wanted it moved to another part of his lawn! The tree was approximately two years old and approximately 25 feet in height.

To further complicate the matter, the builder, who had planted the tree was the real source of the problem. He had done so after the owner had moved in and had not discussed the location before he planted the tree. This was not unusual as discussing the location of trees with residents was not something that builders customarily do. From a practical standpoint, the tree could not be removed and simply transplanted in the location demanded by the resident.

Nevertheless, the owner was unhappy and it was Mary’s responsibility as the Director of Resident Relations to solve the problem.

Mary had a dilemma. Pulling up trees could create a precedent. This was not like transplanting a tulip.


Email your answers to me.

There was a terrific response though many, many people were simply “stumped” (no pun intended) as to what Mary could have done.

Sample responses included:

“I would tell the tenant to go after the builder.”

“I would offer to plant another tree on the property.”

One reader wondered: “I guess showing up with a chain saw is not one of the multiple choice answers?”

Another reader came incredibly close to Mary’s solution:

“I would tell the resident that the tree was planted there by mistake; it is a very rare, exotic, and expensive tree that should have been planted on another resident’s lawn. Knowing that the tree has “value” might change the irate resident’s mind to have it removed.” (Good job Ron!)

Here is what Mary actually did:

“You don’t like this tree?” Mary asked the owner. “I love this tree. It looks great here.” “This tree must have cost a fortune! It’s so beautiful and tall.”

“However, if you’re really unhappy, we’ll be glad to move it to the common area.”

“Wait a minute,” interrupted the owner. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I said I didn’t like it here. “It’s my tree and it’s staying.”

Mary “agreed” and the problem was solved.

When I heard Mary’s solution I was tempted to compliment her on her knowledge of sophisticated closing techniques but she would not hear of it.

“I really wasn’t trying to use a technique.” She explained. “I really did love the tree and I really was prepared to move it to the common area if he was unhappy.”

There are endless numbers of books on techniques and scripts to use when dealing with dissatisfied customers.

As Mary demonstrated communicating an honest, sincere desire to please is sometimes all that is necessary.

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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488