The Butterfly Effect

For every action, there is a reaction. Douglas Driscoll, CEO of Starr Partners asks the question, “As real estate agents, do our actions lead to the desired reactions from our customers?”

It is said that it can take a lifetime to create a great reputation, whereas it can take just a second to shatter it.

One small misdemeanor is often hugely exaggerated in the media, resulting in the rest of the industry being tarred with the same brush.

What exactly is the butterfly effect I hear you ask? It derives its name from the studies of the chaos theory, where the phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of an event in another location.

Real Estate has always been, and always will be a public-facing industry, meaning that we are under constant scrutiny. Given the large sums of money involved in a property transaction, emotions can become confused, occasionally leading to the general public judging us unfairly. One small misdemeanor by a competitor is often hugely exaggerated in the media, resulting in the rest of the industry being tarred with the same brush.

It is said that it can take a lifetime to create a great reputation, whereas it can take just a second to shatter it. Let’s face it; excellent customer service is the lifeblood of any successful real estate business. The best people in our industry understand that customer service is actually an integral part of their job, and not an extension of it. They realize that the most vital asset is the customer, as without them they would have nothing. They also realize that by exceeding a customer’s expectations they will reap the rewards through word of mouth referral.

A study carried out by the Harvard Business School in the 90s, suggested that a typical dissatisfied customer would tell between eight to ten people about their experience. The recent exponential growth of social media means that the effects of the butterfly effect in modern business are now seemingly boundless. It has become almost impossible to measure the ramifications of your actions. How many people are out there are singing your praises? Inversely, how many are out there making detrimental comments about you or your company? If you are unsure, then a sensible step would be to implement a social media intelligence program, using any of the myriad of free tools available. These provide an invaluable insight and a tidy encapsulation of what is being said about you across the social media landscape.

As an industry, we have a habit of reacting adversely to negative comments or criticism. In an ideal world, we would all do a wonderful job and have our customers constantly praising our service. In the real world however, this is often not the case, as things have a habit of going wrong every so often. How we react in these testing times of adversity can potentially serve as a barometer for our future commercial success. Studies show that 70% of complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the matter amicably. By intervening and dealing with a complaint in an appropriate manner, you can alter the nature of any on-going repercussions, turning a negative into a possible positive.

Unlike most other components of a real estate business, customer service can be very difficult to measure. The other difficulty is, knowing exactly what constitutes good customer service. At present, most agents follow the traditional path of requesting a testimonial from a client. Although testimonials should feature prominently in the promotion of you or your business, they are not always an accurate indicator of customer service. Starr Partners have recently devised a customer service satisfaction survey, which provides our offices with an accurate gauge on their customer service satisfaction levels. We are equally interested in hearing the negatives, as we are the positives – if you don’t know if something is broken, then you can’t fix it!

The butterfly effect does not just relate to how we interact with the public, it also extends to the workplace. Understanding shared social processes in groups is becoming increasingly important. These shared social processes can serve as a conduit for a variety of group interactions and dynamics, important to getting work done. How many times have you had a colleague come in to the office in the morning happily humming a song, which you are then unable to get out of your head for the rest of the day? The emotional contagion within the work environment should not be underestimated. The transfer of attitude and emotions between colleagues can directly affect group dynamics. Studies show that a positive emotional contagion can lead to lower levels of conflict, enhanced cooperation, and most significantly, improved productivity. In layman’s terms, a happy workforce is a productive workforce.

If understood and harnessed correctly, the butterfly effect can make a significant impact on your future success, both personally and professionally. Ignore it at your peril.

Never again will you underestimate the power of a butterfly flapping its wings!

Douglas Driscoll

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