Hot Lemon And Honey: Ingredients For Customer Service


These days it’s often easier to recall the instances of receiving poor customer service than the times you’ve been impressed by excellent service. It’s often the little things that make the biggest impact, and they don’t cost the earth either. Story by Catherine DeVrye.


Think of people, outside family and friends, who have contributed in some way, large or small, to make your life – and your real estate career–more pleasant. It could have been an encouraging teacher, a boss who believed in you, an elderly aunt who expanded your horizons, or a colleague who willingly helped on a project outside their job description.

It could have even been a complete stranger– a burly truck driver who, in spite of a tight schedule, stops to change a tyre for a stranded motorist; or an insurance agent who calls a widow long after her husband’s death, just to say hello. It might be a mobile phone dealer who loans his own phone to a tradesman relying on communication; or a manager who arranges childcare for a single mother in need of an operation; or a chemist who delivers a prescription to a pensioner after hours.

After all, none of us are really in the transport, insurance, retail or health care business. We’re all in the people business! And, top realtors know that people buy goods and services from those they like. In every one of those true examples mentioned, repeat business flowed to those who did that little bit extra. By helping others, we help ourselves, even if it’s just feeling better about ourselves. As a realtor, what can you do to help your customers in these uncertain economic times, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate listing?

When we think of helping occupations, our minds traditionally turn to the caring professions of nursing, social work and emergency workers. But, every career has the capacity to care; to combine the head and the heart; to feel we’re making a difference to both our own pocket books and filling pockets of need in others, through random acts of kindness and beauty.

When I started speaking professionally, I believed I could make money and make a difference. However, like most small business owners, I was often plagued with doubt. One such occasion followed a five hour flight when I arrived at the hotel with no voice. Scheduled to speak to 400 real estate agents the next morning, this was indeed a predicament!

At check-in, the receptionist started her standard greeting, outlining the five star facilities but I cut her short, with little more than a whisper, to say that I wasn’t well and simply wanted to get to my room immediately. I promptly unpacked, showered and curled up in bed, feeling somewhat sorry for myself away from home, when I heard an unexpected knock at the door. Room service. I croakily informed him that I hadn’t ordered room service. “Yes, Ms DeVrye, we know you haven’t ordered room service but we also know you’re not feeling well, so have brought some hot lemon and honey with our compliments.”

Sure enough, on a silver tray, was exactly what I would have wanted if I’d been home. In addition, there was a hand written note from the chef offering to make chicken soup and another note from the concierge, with some vitamin C tablets and an offer obtain any additional medication from the pharmacy in town.

As someone who spends over 80 nights per year in five star hotels, I know that sort of service isn’t standard, nor in anyone’s job description. The receptionist put herself in my shoes and coordinated others to deliver outstanding service. I felt better already and naturally, any traveller would remember that experience long after they’d forgotten the marble in the foyer!

My voice marginally restored the next day, I addressed the realtors and used this real time example of going that extra mile to truly care about the customer. I’d arranged for the receptionist to attend the presentation and when I later checked out, she said she felt somewhat shocked by the spontaneous applause from the audience. “Just to know that you felt better, made me feel better about my day. I didn’t expect any thanks. By doing that little extra, she gained extra satisfaction for herself.

I’m pleased to report that the real estate company adopted ‘Hot Lemon & Honey’ service as their annual theme, achieving record profits that year. And, ‘Hot Lemon & Honey…Reflections For Success in Times of Change’ subsequently became the title for my book, which I’m honoured to have endorsed by the late Sir Edmund Hillary and Jack Canfield, author of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’.

Remember this receptionist, and all the other folks mentioned in this article, when you get up and head off to work in your real estate office each day. Because, in spite of the frustration we all experience in our daily tasks, isn’t it reassuring to remember that we too truly can Make your life worth living as your living is being made.

Catherine DeVrye is the author of the #1 best seller ‘Good Service is Good Business’ ‘Hot Lemon & Honey’ ‘Who Says I Can’t’ and ‘Hope Happens!’ With books translated into over a dozen languages, the past winner of the Australian Executive Woman of the Year Award speaks internationally on customer service, managing change and turning obstacles to opportunities.

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