Why we need to look outside the real estate industry for customer service lessons

There is something about watching mere mortals attempting to renovate what appears to be the ‘unrenovatable’ (and yes, I’m sure that’s a word) in a matter of weeks, with limited to no experience, whilst living through the unlivable.

Now that I think about it, watching reality renovation shows for someone who has never renovated is akin to being an armchair sports person. We are all brilliant at reading every play when we have a helicopter view of every person on the field, a standard resting heart rate and a beverage in hand in the temperature-controlled conditions of our lounge room.

Then one day you take to the field, or in the case of renovating you step on site, and eventually you are hit by that moment where you finally understand what it feels like five minutes before room reveal – oh my goodness!

In recent weeks we came to the end of our own renovation reality show. Well, let’s be honest; as  anyone who has done a renovation will attest, it hasn’t come to an end but it reached the point where we could stop paying rent and move back in.

It was 4:30 am the morning of move in; the trucks of our ‘stuff’ were to arrive, much of which was in storage and I had not seen for 10 months (the story of culling is for another day), and we were heading to site for 5 am to make sure the floor that had only been sanded the evening before was dry. And whilst they were all dry, redoing them has been added to the list; think corroded rollers leaving residual fibres embedded in the polish, not unlike the fluff on your windows after wiping them with paper towel. Happy camper – not! On we soldier yet again… time is ticking.

By 7am we had four cleaners, three builders, two painters, an electrician, plus two nervous owners awaiting the removalist van at 8:30. By 9:30 we had three removalists, and if you add the plumber, a silicon trade plus the shower guy, you have a pretty good impression of what the place looked like throughout the day. Oh, and don’t forget the well-intended family members and neighbours dropping by to help.

All we needed was Scotty Cam to call in and some judges to arrive, and we would have surely combusted into a hot mess.

It stands to reason that renovating a 130+ year old house will have its challenges: water, drainage, footings and wrong measurements. Of course, with any build there are the standard tradie slip-ups, neighbour disputes and my changing my mind at times. So what it takes to complete a renovation of this size, where at the end you are inviting your builder and his family over for a BBQ because you’re missing your daily chats, provides some fantastic lessons in life and business.

In what has been the most challenging year of my life yet, I have learnt about myself, my relationship and my business from a place I had not envisaged 12 months ago: from someone affectionately known in our family as Paul the Builder. (If you ask my four-year-old, Paul is responsible for every build you see in Sydney.)

Paul reminded me that, not just in real estate but in business everywhere, we all want our service suppliers to provide the same thing: to understand our vision, become our partner in the process, keep communication at an all-time high and look for the small things that could make a massive difference. For us, this cost the sum total of $50 – the removal of a 30 cm wall nib which single-handedly transformed the feel of the house.

We don’t want to feel like a problem, like we are too much trouble; we want to be kept away from problems yet aware of process and progress. Paul, despite his heavy load, ensured he delivered on all of the above, including the technical side of our build, as expected  – I think sometimes we forget the automatic assumption that we can do the technical.

In reading my description of room reveal day, you may have had faint heart palpitations just thinking about the ferocity that was seething through the house. In reality, it was a really calm environment. Paul turned up with coffees and croissants for the crew, and everyone moved to a rhythmic beat towards the deadline. It was Paul’s beat: a technically proficient business operating from a place of authenticity, love and care.

I hope your clients can say the same of you.

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Fiona Blayney

Fiona Blayney is the founder and director of Real+, an industry first Property Management learning platform. For more info visit realplusonline.com.au.