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Communication is a Two Way Street

Communication is a two way street

There’s no point asking customers about your service if you’re not prepared to listen to their answers – and address their concerns. Great customer service begins with great communication. Story by Steven Brett.

 

In almost every survey I’ve ever read in connection with customer satisfaction in the real estate industry, the overwhelming majority of customer complaints centred on communication, or lack thereof. Yet if you ask agents today, they will tell you that they are communicating well, that they have a good communication strategy or that their customers don’t complain.

What I would say to these agents is, You simply cannot please all the people, all of the time. So, if your customers aren’t complaining, you may have a problem.. An associate of mine is an executive with one of the major television stations and he told me once that when they “put to air” something new, something different or something a bit risqué – the switchboard “lights up like a Christmas tree”. When I suggested that this might indicate the new program was not suitable for the audience or the time-slot, he said “No, no, no.” He then went on to explain that they have a very large audience, between half a million and a million viewers; that there will always be a level of complainers; and that if they didn’t call, he would have no information on which to make real decisions. In fact he said that if the network didn’t get complaints, they knew something was wrong.

I know of a real estate office that has such a rigorous client feedback strategy in place that they survey their vendors at every stage of the sales process, but even they would not get any complaints if they asked the wrong questions or used an inappropriate method of communication to get the feedback.

Technology is changing the way great customer service is delivered every day. We are now using methods of communication that simply didn’t exist a few years ago. Failing to grasp the opportunities and threats that this technology is presenting could mean failure for your business. The opportunities seem boundless with customer interactions now taking place via IM/webchat, e-mail, SMS, Facebook, Twitter and third party web-based applications and portals that provide a communication link between agent and customer. These are just a few of the technologies changing the agent’s landscape significantly because they change the way we communicate with our customers.

But with the opportunities also comes the threats that these existing and emerging technologies bring. An agent that fails to grasp the technologies may fall behind, but there is a far greater threat. An agent’s choice or ignorance to technological changes in the past meant that they had to catch up at some stage in the future. Today, an agent’s ignorance could destroy their business. Customers will sometimes feel the need to complain; that we have established. If they do not feel their agent has given them the opportunity to give feedback or that their feedback was rejected or ignored, they can now go to an online service rating website and tell the world of their experience with your agency. In fact they can go to many websites and reach far more potential customers than you can imagine.

It’s not all bad news, though. Exponents of great customer service understand that even those customers that complain can become their service advocates. I personally know a great customer service exponent that relishes a complainant even more than a happy customer. He just loves to turn them around. There is never any doubt in his mind that this complainer will become a walking, talking advertisement for his company. His confidence comes from his knowledge that his company does provide excellent customer service, so all he has to do is quickly and satisfactorily resolve their problem and then he goes one step further. He over-delivers to undo the perceived ill; it’s that simple.

Managers and principals of excellent real estate businesses understand that there is a tangible link between great customer service and the bottom line of their business. Mastering customer service excellence is understanding that customers who have a great experience are more likely to continue to use your company and more likely to recommend your services to others.

The future will be different, it is a constantly changing marketplace that we work in. Be aware of the technologies that are shaping the way generation next will see the world. Talk to the youngest members of your team, even your children, and listen to their input but be prepared to learn. There is no use in asking how they communicate with their friends if you aren’t prepared to really listen to their answers. Last week whilst on the road, interstate, I received a message on my mobile phone handset that was typed on our television in the family living room by my 14 year old son whilst playing on a games console. It read “G’day dad!”

Remember great customer service is never an accident. It takes a formal plan and some hard work to achieve as well as dedication and commitment to maintain it. Accept the challenge, become an exponent of great customer service.

Steven Brett, National Sales Manager, Rockend is a well respected real estate practitioner and highly regarded industry trainer. He has worked in residential and commercial sales, strata and property management and is known for his expertise in business management and sales practice. Steven currently leads the new business team throughout Australia and New Zealand tasked with driving Rockend’s continued growth.

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