Collaboration is not really a term often used in the lettings sector; it’s more often used as a buzzword in the corporate setting that rarely applies to inventory clerks; or does it? Do inventory service providers collaborate effectively and what are the 5 skills that promote working together?
What does collaboration mean to inventory clerks?
If you think about it; we all collaborate in one way or another in order to get things done yet I doubt that we even think about it in those terms. We speak with agents to find solutions when jobs need to be rebooked, we collaborate with other providers when using Workstreams to outsource reports, and are in collaboration with other contractors such as cleaners when getting a property ready for let.
These are all forms of subtle collaboration that we carry out daily (mostly without even thinking about it) and which may not seem connected but all contribute to the end goal; to enable tenants to move in, around and out of the private rented sector (PRS).
But it is how well we collaborate with each other that has the greatest potential to impact our collective, desired outcome.
The role of the inventory clerk is a vital yet somewhat under-appreciated job when it comes to the provision of property reports but is one that involves a lot of collaborative working.
The inventory reporting market is a business to business service in which the clerk’s primary obligation is to the client, be that a landlord, property manager or a lettings agency. But unlike many other B2B functions such as accounting or legal support, the job takes clerks out of the office environment into people’s homes and instead of calculating figures or drafting clauses, inventory providers are making dynamic assessments of people’s homes, landlord’s assets as well as often being asked to provide an objective opinion on how tenants treat the rental property.
All these processes require skills to ensure they are efficient, effective and, more importantly, enable the private rented sector to function.
5 skills that promote working together
There are certain times of the year where properties are turned around at lightning speed to achieve multiple checkouts and check-ins often on the same day. If the inspection includes the tenant being present, then time is of the essence as questions, queries and disagreements are likely to slow the process and impact on further reports booked.
Working with the tenant, agent or landlord includes communicating at a very early stage so each knows what needs to be done, when and any room for maneuver is identified to enable flexibility.
For example, you may discover damage or deterioration at the checkout which no one else has spotted which may impact the incoming tenants but needs rectifying before the new tenants arrive often a matter of hours later. Although not ideal; this is a common occurrence so a clear line of authority needs to be established early on in the working relationship so that you know who to contact first to get the issue resolved.
Thinking on your feet is a key attribute for any clerk as agents and landlords rely on your skills and expertise to make quick decisions and know what to do when a problem arises. Working collaboratively ensures that your service is seen both as effective, reliable and efficient.
This is a skill that every inventory professional employs almost on a daily basis. No two jobs are ever the same as they are often impacted by the needs and issues of other services in the lettings chain all vying for the keys or a time slot to carry out their inspections, cleaning or safety certificates.
Cooperation is therefore vital in order to be able to stick to the schedule and have the property report compiled and submitted in good time for the time check in to take place. Equally you need to work with the tenant when it comes to regular inspections. This will involve a lot of admin: calls, scheduling, re booking and or negotiation when it comes to failed or missed appointments. All this requires patience and efficient processes with a collaborative approach to get the report done.
The collaborative relationship begins as soon as you are appointed by the landlord or letting agent. Entrusted with a significant amount of responsibility; as an inventory professional your judgment and keen eye for detail is relied upon to provide evidence on damage, fair wear and tear, maintenance issues and, potentially, apportionment and or compensation.
Accuracy is paramount, but so are the diplomacy skills applied when managing the relationship between the agent, landlord and often the tenant. Collective collaboration means working together by communicating with all stakeholders in order to achieve the common goal – letting the property and ensuring a safe and happy tenancy.
Where directly appointed by a landlord, a helpful, tactful, empathetic approach is important. Their property is a business asset, pension fund or (for some) a sole source of income but is not one that is under their daily control so the reports or services carried out on their behalf makes you as the inventory provider a key channel of contact with the object of their investment or income source.
Demonstrating a readiness to work collaboratively will help to establish a relationship of trust which is so important in this type of service. For example: letting the agent or landlord know if there is an issue whilst still at the property so they can then source the trades needed to rectify the problem such as the need to install a malfunctioning smoke alarm at the property.
Effective communication and knowing who to speak to or with first is a key component of the inventory clerks role as often you are the last person in the property before the tenant is handed the keys so any issues are more than likely to be picked up at inventory stage but with little time available to resolve them.
It is an inescapable fact of the job that you will be perceived by many tenants as being on ‘the other side’ simply by attending to carry out a property inspection, as you are often deemed as putting the landlord’s interest first. Although incorrect, this is also unquestionably true.
Appointed to do a job, your report’s purpose is to protect the landlord’s asset, their property. So you can’t allow yourself to be distracted from that imperative and so it is inevitable that, at some point, you may be subject to such comments and assertions that some people will place on you. However, providing a professional service involves carrying out your instructions to the letter while doing everything you can to promote harmony between the various parties.
This is where collaboration becomes so important and as with all forms of communication, there is always room for improvement and opportunities to learn from each other. That could be from the agent about a piece of legislation you were not yet aware of; from the landlord when discussing options around working with other aspects of their business or the tenant learning about their individual pain points and how you could then develop your service to be more inclusive and broaden your reach within the industry.
The importance of collaboration
Collaboration is derived from the latin word; “collaborare” – “to work together” and is seen as a positive word that implies that by people joining together they can make possible that which cannot be accomplished alone.
In the inventory services business; our environment demands collaboration because we could not operate without the help and support of all the stakeholders in the lettings process.
This is equally true of Inventory Base. We provide the resources for inventory clerks, including property management software, Inventory Base Academy clerk training, outsourcing and access to our Facebook support forum.
We have extensive experience in the industry and are here to support inventory professionals across the country, so that your contribution to the private rental sector is present, visible and considerable. We offer practical solutions as well as professional advice.
Collaboration is a fundamental principle of what we do and is an essential quality for anyone in the private rental sector. By enabling everyone involved in the lettings process to work on the same goals, using proptech as the tool to meet industry needs; our software-as-a-service ensures that collaboration between all parties is frictionless and focused.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller