Above and Beyond: The New Customer Service Normal

In the past a basic level of customer care was considered adequate for both landlords and tenants. Now, thanks partly to social media, a little more effort pays dividends. Natalie Hastings explains why.

Long overdue and very welcome, the real estate industry is starting to finesse its reputation with a combination of compliance and an earnest focus on the service they deliver to their customers.

For too long, real estate businesses small and large have got by on minimum standards when it comes to their client care: compliant to a level, but rarely demonstrating true gratitude or attention to detail. However, market forces paired with technology and swiftly apparent client feedback on social media have forced the real estate industry’s hand – and for good!

Eager to benefit from the positive marketing and word-of-mouth referrals that delivering quality client care offers to businesses, agencies of all sizes and categories are now going ‘above and beyond’ to retain and impress their clients. In fact, it’s the new normal.

Here’s why spending time (and money) on honouring your clients makes sense and needs to take priority within your agency.

As we all know, landlords are loyal – to a point. They will excuse lacklustre service and communication for some time, often because the thought of changing agencies is too stressful and time-consuming. Don’t be fooled by their reticence, as it won’t be long before some canny BDM from a competing agency prospects them, offering both attention to their concerns and a lower fee.

Compliance (merely managing the property and all that entails) will not keep clients with you: impressing them, paying attention to them and honouring them with intelligent gifting, events and culture will. Our landlords and tenants are looking for appreciation, not just property management. In their minds anyone can manage a property and take their monthly tithe.

Your rent roll will continue to bleed listings to agents who offer lower rates for apparently the same service if your strategy doesn’t extend to including customer service worth talking about. It is always galling for a property manager to lose listings to substandard competitors, but if your landlord doesn’t understand the difference in service or feel wedded to your brand, the war is already over.

When it comes to client gifting, by and large the real estate industry is sub-par. We all know about the luxury vouchers, opulent bouquets and additional gifts that car dealerships present to their clients, rain, hail or shine. Real estate clients often spend far more with us than they might at their auto dealer, so why are we collectively so slack?

Time management and remaining compliant comes into the real estate industry’s lack of focus, but so does a certain kind of narcissism. Client gifting does not mean corporate branded keyrings, ugly cheap mugs, T-shirts or caps. These items are almost meaningless as clients won’t use them. Ultimately they are for your agency’s benefit rather than your clients’ gratification. And yes, clients include both landlords and tenants, as having both of these groups raving about your service to their communities is worth every effort.

Think of new ideas that are more meaningful and match your budget – and leave those branded novelties and cleanskin wines alone! Consider magazine subscriptions, candles, locally roasted coffee for tenants – and diarise gifting at certain times in your tenant-agent relationship.

Likewise, honour your landlords – and not just on anniversaries. The ‘just because’ gift delivered to work is often the most impressive. An overnight getaway to a valuable client, a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a delectable package of candles, gardening at their home, a dinner at a local restaurant, a book you know they’ll enjoy. It is the detail and bespoke nature of these tokens of gratitude that matter.

Importantly, make sure you have all appropriate social media channels ready and waiting for your fans and influencers to share their appreciation for your outstanding service! It’s no longer good enough to shy away from social media because of fear of criticism and if our clients aren’t saying it to our face, they’re expressing it in a forum we’re ignoring at our peril.

It is easy to get lost in the complexity of your everyday role as a property manager; there’s so much to look out for. That’s where the leader of your organisation or franchise group needs to step in and support your attempts to step it up.

After all, going above and beyond is the new normal.

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Natalie Hastings

Natalie Hastings is the Managing Director of Hastings + Co. For more information, visit hastingsandco.com.au.