Who is measuring customer experience? Leanne Howard

The customer experience will keep the industry relevant in the future. But to be truly successful in delivering someone needs to 'own it' says RER Network Head of Growth and Engagement Leanne Howard.

There’s been a real shift in real estate to focus on the customer experience. With all the new competitors and models around, the customer experience in sales and property management is how we earn our commissions in the more traditional models most of us work in.

So where do we start on this mission to be truly customer-centric? We’ve all heard ‘what gets measured gets done’. In real estate, however, the client experience is generally neither measured nor rewarded. In my 17 years in real estate, working with three major brands, until recently customer service hasn’t been part of any reward or recognition program. Traditionally we have measured success in terms of GCI, sales volume, number of properties managed and so on, with little thought to how our customers were feeling at the end of the transaction.

When I worked with LJ Hooker, one of the first strategies we took when embarking on the mission to be number one in customer experience was implementing a feedback tool. This is generically referred to as NPS (net performance score), but NPS is a branded tool not widely used in Australia. Aside from that, RealSatisfied and Customer Monitor are two systems I’ve seen work well in real estate.

Every buyer, seller, investor and tenant can be surveyed on their experience. The surveys can be used in other ways too, such as lost listings – understanding why your team member missed out on a listing is very useful, and it’s also a great way to show the client that you are keen to get feedback despite missing out.

The feedback was invaluable from day one. Not only did it provide great insights for agents and property managers, but it was also incorporated into the rewards and recognition program, with many awards for outstanding customer experience and a requirement to reach a certain standard in this area to be eligible for other awards.

There are other ways to measure the customer experience too: repeat business, referrals, testimonials, social media comments, complaints, longevity of your landlords, and so on. I’m a big believer that when you start the customer experience journey, every person in the company should have a KPI around it. This could include both internal customers (colleagues) and external clients.

A great customer experience is many things. It’s about making it easy to do business with you. It’s about ‘using good judgement, removing obstacles and leaving customers better than when you found them’. In real estate we have the privilege of connecting with people at significant, and often emotional, stages of life. We have more opportunity than most to provide a meaningful contribution to the lives of the community we serve.

In the end, yes, we are all here to make a living and the number of transactions count; but what if we all saw our real estate careers to be about serving a higher purpose? What if collectively we were all in the business of guiding and facilitating the community through their life changes and resulting real estate decisions? I’m starting to see more real estate business become purpose-driven, which is obviously great for customers – but it also has huge effects on workplace morale. I think it’s part of the human condition to need to feel connected to a purpose.

Out of your purpose should come your company promises. What do you guarantee to provide to every customer? What do you always do? What do you never do? Harcourts (for example) provide every customer with a list of promises at the beginning of the relationship. It’s a great way to set up the expectations for the client and another way of measuring how well we are serving our customers.

There are many other parts to becoming a truly customer-centric business, but defining your purpose, setting your promises and having systems in place to constantly measure how well you are meeting customer expectations is a great way to start.

Leanne will be speaking at The Business of Real Estate on the Gold Coast on 3-4 September. For more information visit thebusinessofrealestate.com.au.

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Leanne Howard

Leanne Howard is the Head of Growth and Client Enagement at Real Estate Results and Head of Marketing for OurProperty