It comes with no surprise that great customer service is a bar set high for real estate agents these days. Websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com have outfitted a new generation of buyers and sellers with tools only agents could get a few years ago. This new era of real estate in the information age has put customer service under the microscope and remains the biggest factor for buyers and sellers choosing an agent.
We all know the basics. Be friendly and responsive. But data suggests that the modern customer wants more than what we stereotypically suggest as customer service.
In 2013, CEB Global conducted a study that drilled down to the core of what people want in sales service.
What they discovered was customers were looking for an effortless experience.
The data suggests that consumers aren’t overly loyal to those who “go above and beyond” but rather to those who eliminate friction in the buying process.
Creating an effortless experience should be the main goal of your customer service efforts.
Below are some simple ways you can identify where friction in your service may be and steps to eliminate them to create the smooth experience customers rave about.
Storyboard your process.
Start by zooming out on your sales process from start to finish. Think through some of your most recent sales and consider all the steps taken from initial inquiry or referral to closing day and beyond. Document the process. Be honest about mistakes and try to consider the customer’s perspective. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. Michelle Salatto of Zurple Real Estate software has “Empathy” as top on her list of customer service rules.
“No matter the circumstances (first time buyer, investor, downsizer, re-locator) a real estate transaction is a big deal and it’s always personal. Whether you have to deliver bad news or you feel like a client is being a pest, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Empathy not only helps you to relate to your clients, but feeling empathetic will also help guide your ability to communicate, problem-solve, react and at the very least make the customer feel understood.”
Be proactive not reactive
This is perhaps the biggest shift in the new era of customer service. We traditionally think of great service as bending over backwards at any request. While that is certainly not an outdated principle, it’s no longer the full story. Customers want to have their needs met before they arise.
A solid storyboard allows you to spot opportunities to do that well. By taking the time to outline the customer process you can identify where common confusion arises and address it before it starts.
Leave no stone unturned.
Consider all of the angles. In sales and marketing, any interaction with a customer is called a “Touch point.” You may identify more touch points than you think. These touch points are opportunities to shine. If you’ve created an inventory of them and have thought through ways you can make them special or convenient, you are on the right track.
For example, The Ritz Carlton Leadership Center points out how giving forethought to your customer interactions can create unique opportunities to serve them well.
“Real estate agents should also create unique, memorable and personal experiences for their clients. In order to do this, you must engage with your clients. Learn about their hobbies, their children and their pets. Small acts of kindness can make a big difference:
- While house hunting on a hot day, bring a cooler of cold water bottles for clients.
- Send a birthday card to their pet.
- Point out where the local dance studio is located if their child is a budding ballerina.
- After you make a sale, consider giving a personalized closing gift. One real estate agent gave clients a glass box with their new home etched into the top.”
The goal is to eliminate as much friction before hand, not just accommodating when it occurs. This new paradigm in customer service takes forethought and hard work. For those up to the task, success seems inevitable.