It is widely known that real estate agents are categorised amongst the least trustworthy of professions within Australia. So how do we turn this stigma around with our clients? How do we establish a relationship of trust so that we can build loyalty amongst our client base?
No one has all the answers, but since changing my approach to clients I have successfully achieved 100 per cent client retention for going on 12 months and have managed to grow our business exponentially through personal referrals.
Mid-last year, kickstarting my fourteenth year in real estate, I was back on the tools after a stint in corporate real estate. It had been a good seven years since physically managing a portfolio and here I was once again, dealing with tenants, owners and tradies as a one-man-band establishing a rent roll from the ground up.
I was not necessarily nervous about meeting KPIs around growth of the portfolio as I am an experienced BDM. However, I was nervous about delivering exceptional property management services to ensure that the clients introduced to our business were retained.
Starting with no properties under management and seeking to organically grow the portfolio myself, I needed to make sure I was super-organised (ideal weeks are great) to ensure management tasks didn’t slip through the cracks whilst I was introducing large volumes of new managements to our department. That was the first step.
I was always conscious of the reasons why I get a management in the first place – the last agent hadn’t conducted routines on time, the owner didn’t know when the lease was renewed and so on – so I made sure these tasks were done on time and, of course, done accurately.
Being well-organised includes allowing enough time in your day to communicate with all your clients – tenants, owners and tradies. To create a solid business relationship with these groups, I concentrated on doing three main things:
- Communicating proactively, not reactively.
- Providing solutions, not reporting problems
- Communicating consistently, transparently and simply
A very basic example is that when a maintenance issue was raised, the tenant would receive daily communication from me whilst we worked to resolve the matter and book in the job. When reporting the job to the owner, I didn’t just report the issue; I provided them options in order to resolve it and just asked for their approval of one of the solutions put forward. When the job was completed, I advised the owner and sent through completion photos of the job for their records.
I humanise client relationships rather than hide behind real estate talk.
I concentrated on also ensuring I humanised my client relationships rather than hide behind legislative terms and real estate talk. I speak to my clients exactly the same way I would speak to my colleagues, my friends and my family (without the rude jokes and swear words). I didn’t give preferential treatment to owners; all tenants, owners and tradespeople dealing with me receive high levels of service, and consistent and transparent communication. As Eminem would say, “No lies, no gimmicks”.
I tell owners exactly where I’m at with any matter I’m dealing with on their behalf.
If I make a mistake – and we’re all human and definitely make mistakes – I ensure that I am accountable.
Upon reporting matters to owners, I ask their forgiveness and provide them with a solution moving forward (if I haven’t managed to already solve it).
I also live by the mantra that ‘you can’t win them all’. There will be clients who are completely unreasonable, even at your very best attempt to keep them happy, and those people should be left alone – perhaps in isolation, with others of their kind, on an island far, far away. Before we ship them off, we have to ensure we are not weakening under bully pressure, keep our composure and keep doing what we’re doing. I don’t believe in catering the way you do business (especially if you do business well) to the minority of painful people we inevitably will come across in our position. Hold your ground.
In summary, transparency creates trust. Trust creates loyalty. Loyalty creates retention in our businesses. Humanising relationships takes the real estate agent out of their mindset – so they’re only dealing with ‘Jess’ rather than ‘the property manager for my property’.
Kill them with kindness and consistent communication. Out-communicate the competition. Start the day with a smile. Answer the phone with a smile. To end the day, relax with a glass of wine.