EPMEPM: Customer Service

What Customers Really Want

How can we truly provide service excellence if we don’t really understand how our customers think? One of the easiest ways to understand what makes them tick is simply to ask. Steven Brett continues his customer service series.

You should identify those times in the life of the customer when the service they receive from you is critical and survey them immediately afterwards. Remember, going the extra mile in customer service is of no use to you or your customer if you don’t first understand what your customer values.

Moving beyond the basics now, we have identified our customers and we know where we make contact with them. We know that service excellence comes from the top of the business and permeates through every member of our team. We also know that our business’ reputation for customer service excellence has far reaching implications including business growth, profits, and staff attraction and retention. I’m now going to delve a little bit deeper and actually get into the psyche of our customers to get you working harder at making their life easier.

Asking for feedback made easy
Few firms have begun to consider how they can test for the emotional elements of the customer experience, despite the rise in technologies that allow all businesses, large and small to do this. Using technologies such as online surveys gives real enterprise feedback to management. The web-based applications can survey your customers at a time when they are likely to have experienced your service. For example, you may wish to survey all your new landlords just after they receive their first end-of-month statement from your business and find out exactly how they felt about the service. This can enable businesses to really plug-in to their customers’ experiences and resolve any issues before the relationship has had a chance to break down.

Get your timing right
The grandfather of business management, Peter Drucker, put it best when he wrote, “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It’s what the client or customer gets out of it.”

To take this one step further, you should identify those times in the life of the customer when the service they receive from you is critical, and survey them immediately afterwards. It could be at the end-of-financial-year statement run, or when you’re doing a tenant changeover in their property. A pro-active campaign delivered here will be positively received by both ends of the customer satisfaction spectrum. Those that had a bad experience will see this as a chance to help you improve so they can gain better service, and those that had a good experience will see this as a chance to thank you for your efforts. I have personally had interactions with a business (not in Real Estate) that sends me a short on-line survey after every transaction. Now that’s pro-active!

Why complicate the matter?
Results from such surveys globally have identified amongst other things that too many businesses are still making the customer transaction unnecessarily difficult. A classic example is of course the introduction of the IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition) receptionist. I recently experienced this system on a service call to Telstra. I found it very annoying and frustrating and had to hang-up and redial three times to get through to someone who could assist me. When I had decided to call the service line, I was in need of help, I was not unhappy but by the time I actually got onto a person, I was quite annoyed and upset. What the IVR had done was to make the customer transaction unnecessarily difficult.

A customer’s patience is variable and can be worn down very quickly. Someone who might wait two hours in a queue for tickets to the footy final, may feel that twenty minutes is too long to wait for a return phone call. As our society becomes more focussed on consumerism, this is only likely to get worse with more and more people claiming they are ‘time-poor’. Our society has become so ‘time-poor’ that the fastest growing industries have become lawn-mowing, dog-washing and online shopping. Can you imaging your Grandad paying to have his dog washed?

You can use this trend in your survey questions to research if you are inadvertently making your customers’ lives more difficult. You may be surprised at the ways you are making things more difficult for your customers. For example, you may have:

  • An impossible to understand fee structure
  • Poorly laid out or difficult to understand statements
  • Your youngest or most inexperienced staff members handling your landlord queries
  • Your receptionist over-quizzing your customers before putting them through
  • Out-dated payment methods.

So think about how your customers interact with your staff and your business in every way. Survey them every chance you get to find out what they really think, and then put this information to use in your business to create customer service excellence. Remember, going the extra mile in customer service is of no use to you or your customer if you don’t first understand what your customer values.

Steven Brett, National Sales Manager, Rockend is a well respected Real Estate practioner 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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