Great customer service is a major differentiator for successful real estate businesses. In today’s somewhat depressed marketplace it is now time for the true value of superior customer service to come to the fore. Story by Steven Brett.
What is great customer service? How do you measure it and how do you grow it in your business? I am certain you will have heard some of this before, but I also hope that you will become inspired to step up and be counted in this most important area of your business.
Starting then at the beginning – Do you really know if your business actually provides great customer service? Maybe you think you do, but how do you really know? Recognising poor customer service is quite easy. I’m sure every one of us has experienced the kind of customer service that I’m talking about. In fact it was an example of such service over a decade ago in the purchase of my first home that inspired me to enter real estate. I’m sure you don’t need me to describe the details, we have all experienced it. But, what about great customer service? You could probably recount the service you received at the resort on your honeymoon, or perhaps a five star hotel on a holiday to remember, maybe even a special meal at an expensive restaurant. More often than not, however, it is our hairdresser or morning coffee barista that provides us with great customer service.
So, let’s take a closer look at what these businesses do to create the feeling of great customer service.
Knowing who your customers are
Think about your hairdresser, your barista; they know you, they know what you want, they know how to keep you coming back. Applying this to real estate then, we can gain useful customer information through four key questions:
1. Who are your chosen customers? Modern real estate businesses have an articulated customer profile that spells out precisely who the businesses’ chosen customers are. Maybe your focus is home unit investors, maybe residential first or second home buyers. Like many agents, the stock in your location will determine what you sell but it is your choice as to who your customers are. Likewise with property management, you chose who you work for. Start by writing a description of your ‘perfect customer’. What do they look like? How do they act? What do they say? Once you have a description of them, you’ll begin to recognise them everywhere and when you can identify them, you can attract them.
“And please, believe me when I tell you, getting your vendor to give you a testimonial letter is not an indication that you are meeting their needs.”
2. What do they need and expect from you as a service provider? This may sound simple enough, but have you ever asked your customers, especially one of your chosen customers, what they need from you and what they expect from your business? You may be surprised. Canvassed property sellers time and again list ‘communication’ as the number one thing they need an agent to provide in the marketing and sale of their property. Landlords respond the same way, accurate and timely communication then is the key.
Steven Brett, National Sales Manager, Rockend, is a well respected real estate practitioner 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.
“Property sellers time and again list ‘communication’ as the number one thing they need an agent to provide in the marketing and sale of their property.”
3. How are you doing in meeting their needs? It may sound obvious, but you do need to measure how your customers find your service if you are going to be able to improve it. Once again it comes down to asking your customers to find out if you met their expectations. You need to ask them and you need to listen to their answers. Devise a customer service experience survey for your business and send it to every customer, score it, measure it and set yourself a benchmark to attain and then maintain. International business educator and speaker Stephen Covey says there is only one question that you need to have on your feedback form and that is ‘Would you use or recommend our services again?’ And please, believe me when I tell you, getting your vendor to give you a testimonial letter is not an indication that you are meeting their needs.
4. How are you going to keep them as customers? Now that you have identified your chosen customers and have a good idea of what they need and expect from you, a measure of how you are doing will begin to highlight the areas in which improvement is needed. Mapping any path requires firstly knowing where you are, then identifying where you want to be and then plotting a course from one to the other. Ongoing and continual measurement of your customer service level can only result in an improvement. Keeping your chosen customers can sometimes mean letting go a few of your less desirable customers. This may seem the wrong thing to do right now, but once you’ve decided who your chosen customers are and you begin to attract and work for them, you will not give these others a second thought.
Great customer service is never an accident. It takes a formal plan and some hard work to achieve and it takes dedication and commitment to maintain. Accept the challenge, become an exponent of great customer service.