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Taking care of people: Joy Salazar

Many people believe property management is focused on looking after buildings, but Joy Salazar begs to differ. “Property management is all about people,” she insists.

Joy Salazar, President of First Oceanic Property Management

“It’s not just the building and the four walls. It’s really the people living inside that building. We need to not only take care of what’s outside, but also who lives there, stays there and works there. That is what it is all about.”

As President of First Oceanic Property Management (FOPM), Joy is dedicated to ensuring her company delivers a high level of personalised customer service. “That is very, very important to us – we take care of people,” she adds. “Our customers want to feel like we are personally looking after them.”

From the moment Joy joined Megaworld Corporation in 1997, she says she knew it was a “golden opportunity”. After more than 17 years as First Vice President and Head of Quality Control Management, she moved across to Megaworld’s property management arm FOPM in 2014.

“Property management is all about people. It’s not just the building and the four walls.”

“When I became President of FOPM, I knew my success would depend highly on my ability to lead, move and set a new direction in a Megaworld affiliate with more than 500 employees,” she reflects.

Joy credits Megaworld Chairman and CEO Dr Andrew L Tan and COO Lourdes Gutierrez-Alfonso with having a huge impact on her approach to business. “I consider myself fortunate to have worked with these two prodigious game-changers in the property development industry,” she enthuses.

“They encouraged me to make it my personal mission to develop a strongly motivated and customer-centric organisation. I envisioned FOPM to be the top-of-mind property management provider servicing and meeting expectations of our residential, office and BPO customers.”

Joy Salazar, President of First Oceanic Property Management

According to Joy, property management should aim to deliver quality work and living spaces. She stresses this is no easy task for FOPM, given the company manages a large and diverse pool of property assets across the Philippines, including more than 135 condominium associations, office and BPO property accounts.

This equates to about seven million square metres of residential and office floor space, which provides homes for more than 100,000 residents and work spaces for a workforce of more than 200,000 people across Metro Manila, Cebu and Iloilo.

“As we auspiciously celebrate our silver anniversary this year, the challenge becomes greater in our commitment to quality, our values and our speed in property management services to our broad portfolio of end users,” Joy says.

“To achieve this, FOPM created a service philosophy anchored on a firm appreciation and understanding of the needs of our customers. We have created and implemented an operating system to meet these needs.”

As part of the company’s ongoing dedication to customer service, Joy and her team identified the core needs of their homeowners, tenants and guests. The result was the SPACE experience, which aims for customers to feel secure, have prestige, feel affection, enjoy the convenience and have an economic edge.

“From the customer’s perspective, I realised that there are common elements that make an extraordinary living and work space,” Joy explains.

“The ideal property provides for the absolute security and safety of its occupants. The prestige and stature of the property reflects upon the aspirations and successes of its residents and tenants. The property embodies the affection and attention of management for their family, loved ones and service help. The perfect real estate provides for a comfortable and stress-free living or work space. And, finally, the property represents a viable and increased investment fold for its unit owners and tenants.”

Joy Salazar, President of First Oceanic Property Management

In order to make the SPACE experience a reality, the FOPM team set out to develop a robust service platform that could deliver property management services consistently, reliably and at a reasonable cost.

The result is CHEFS operating system, which is based on five key service engines: customer service, housekeeping, engineering, finance and security. “Service quality standards, especially in property management, are an elusive notion,” Joy says.

“Service systems are, of course, never perfect and will always be a work in progress. But with more than 100,000 unit owners, you are required to meet 100,000 different service quality standards for living and work spaces. I saw the challenge in developing and empowering FOPM to meet these high expectations of our customers.”

The SPACE experience will be further enhanced by a digital platform called Integrated FOPM Automated Experience (iFAE). Currently in development, iFAE will allow customers to converse with the company through their computer, tablet or smartphone and make it easier for them to pay bills via online global payment platforms and banking partners.

Joy adds that concierge and amenity services will also be “just a screen-swipe away”. While keeping up-to-date with the latest technology is essential for any business, Joy believes good old-fashioned service still goes a long way.

“If you don’t communicate, if you don’t talk, that is something that you miss out on,” she says. “The technology now has become so one-dimensional that people are still looking for someone they can reach out to and connect with. We want to be there when that is happening. We don’t want to lose that touch. We want to make ourselves available. Not through technology, but because you can come to us.

“That’s one of the things that makes FOPM different. We put in a concierge service, rather than a front desk. So customers don’t need to go into a property management office to issue their concerns. The concierge is just like at a hotel – you walk in and they will look after you. They will look into your concerns, and we want to respond right away. That’s how we want to be different.”

Joy says the real estate industry is yet to recognise the full value of property management services. “Quality does come with a certain cost,” she points out.

“Quality does come with a certain cost.”

“I like to compare residential condominiums and office and BPO facilities to hardware, and property management to operating software. To deliver the ideal living or work space, unit owners need to invest in both.”

The company values its relationships with its partners in the industry, particularly those who share the same passion for customer service. “This is something that’s very important to us,” Joy explains.

“Where property management is concerned, I have to focus on who helps the property most. Without the best housekeeping or security service provider, we couldn’t run the property efficiently. We believe we are only as good as the team we have on site.

“We believe we are only as good as the team we have on site.”

“We feel that this is one of the key successes that we have; building long-term partnerships. Not only with our service providers and partners, but also with the people who we employ. This is our team. We can’t work without the team. They need to embrace what customer service is all about.”

In the past five years, FOPM’s portfolio has doubled in size, and as Megaworld expands its 23 township developments (a 24th is underway in Cainta, Rizal), Joy predicts this growth will accelerate in the future – and she couldn’t be more excited.

“Megaworld allows its officers to grow in its wing and I’m very lucky to be one of those,” she says. “It started 30 years ago with Megaworld, and we appreciate where we are right now, still contributing to the growth of the company.

“Dr Tan sees property management as the future of Megaworld in terms of sustainability and growth. It’s good to know that when you buy a property in Megaworld, you are in good hands. We want to keep that vision. With all the communities that Megaworld builds, all the pioneering and the innovation that they do, we want to play a big part in that by making sure that we are here to take care of your property long-term. That’s really our goal. After that, we’re really just very happy to service people.”

Nurturing talent

Pointing out that “service companies are only as good as their people”, Joy says FOPM offers employees extensive training and development opportunities. The in-house CHEFS Training Centre provides advance training and skills certification to staff. “We build and establish long-term relationships with the talents that we have, the team that we have,” she says.
“We even have a management training program for deserving fresh graduates, who are trained in the art and science of property management. Those are our two initiatives in talent development. We think this is particularly important because property management training is something that you don’t often see in the industry. We feel that we have developed a simple training program that will prepare our property heads and building engineers to succeed in this environment.”

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