EPMEPM: Customer Service

Find Out What your Customers Say About You – And Use it to Grow Your Business!

Every business owner, sales consultant and property manager knows that finding and signing new vendors and owners can be an expensive process that requires focused sales effort. It also becomes much harder when a market is under stress as the real estate sector can expect in the coming year.

Unfortunately Australia is not immune for a real estate business to survive and prosper during the hard market there are many key factors to consider, but a critical element is to prove that you are the best and most capable supplier and in practice, customers are the best way to deliver that message. It’s not something that will happen overnight and it won’t work if it’s all based on marketing spin, so the earlier you start on developing a focus on customer service and the importance of referral or repeat business the more secure your business will become.

Positive customer testimonials to demonstrate that the service you provide is better or cheaper are essential. However far more important is to clearly articulate in your business plan, in communications with employees and to the wider community what your business is about. Is it local knowledge? Being the biggest? Is it trust? Gaining the best results? Or price?

Competing as the lowest cost provider will win new business in the short term and if you have scale and automated processes, it may be the best competitive strategy, producing a healthy profit. However, in a service oriented property industry, competing on price means one thing if the margin is too small; less service and ultimately, self service and customer dissatisfaction.

So if you set a fair market price, it’s essential you can demonstrate the value of your service as perceived by existing and prospective customers. Words that are often used to describe service quality or value include: responsive, attentive, open, reliable, trust, empathy and tangible. If your customers use these words to describe the way you deliver a service to make them happy and satisfied, you can use their goodwill to promote your business and what you do best in the local area.

John Goddard joined Rockend as its first external CEO in 2004. In the past four years he has leveraged the unique family environment at Rockend to double client numbers, develop leading products and to build an effective team. Today Rockend is widely recognised as the customer service leader in real estate solutions.

Good testimonials that last over a long period are critical to demonstrate a difference. Having formal measures of customer satisfaction are also most valuable. Consider establishing monthly e-mail/web based surveys that request customer feedback from 50 to 100 owners selected at random or by surname. Ask no more than five questions and ask for their assessment of your performance from 0 to 5, where five is excellent. You can quickly build up a profile on issues, or strong performance areas. Consider undertaking telephone based surveys (not at 7.00pm) where using a well structured script you engage the owner (or tenant) to answer similar questions and cover anything on their mind. Both approaches work to get feedback, but telephone polls always get a higher return. Analyse the data and present it in a manner where independent analysis would confirm your findings. Remember that when you use even simple statistics, you are open to critics who may want to test your claims. So only use the data in an appropriate manner in newsletters, correspondence with owners or in promotions of your service.

Remember, with quality data that rates your business in the 4+ category and supporting testimonials, you are well equipped to prove the value of your service and why you are the best supplier. If you really are the best, you will grow to point where you effectively ‘dominate’ your market. At that point never lose focus on the importance of great customer service!

Being the best is critical in the hard market, so don’t wait for others to react, make sure that your plan for the new financial year places great importance on customer service – referral business – testimonials.

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John Goddard

John Goddard is the former CEO of Rockend since 2004. He is personally committed to life-long learning and encourages all Rockend staff to take control of their personal development, both through work and personal learning.