Legendary Customer Service in Real Estate
Whatever your business, slow markets or a sluggish economy can make things tough.
It’s natural to respond in fear and shift into self-preservation when that happens.
And it’s the worst thing you can do.
For one thing, it reveals that deep down inside, you believe you can’t make it. Which is a problem, and probably means you’re self-sabotaging in other ways to.
It is also really bad for business.
People operating in a fearful state of self-preservation often cut marketing dollars and put a stop on any investment in their own education.
Flipping on the autopilot and just trying to hang in there is a weak strategy for any business.
Even when money’s tight or when things aren’t selling as quickly as you’d like, it’s still important to invest in your business, your marketing, and yourself.
In fact, during market lulls may be the most important time to do that!
While everyone else is hiding under their desk, hoping the same old strategies will keep them safe, you will be perfecting your skills and understanding of the very things that distinguish your business from the rest.
You’ll lay down a power card while everyone else is lying down.
You’ll pay handsomely with time and money to learn new skills. As you apply what you’ve learned, you’ll surprise your colleagues.
Here’s another point.
Keeping up with the latest trends is critical to your business, no matter what the market is doing.
Even now, where and how people shop for homes is changing. It’s critical to be aware of it, and then know what to do about it. As a real estate agent, I need to know where people are shopping, and how to get in front of them.
When times are tough, don’t hunker down and hope for the best.
Work to understand the trends in your industry. It will require an investment of hundreds of hours of reading and listening to podcasts and attending seminars and workshops. It will also take time to practice using the related new software, platforms, and technologies you’re bound to discover.
Then get out there and be surprisingly generous.
I’ll bet you’re still wondering how this helps one to win clients.
Here’s the thing.
With your keen understanding of the market and trends, (and after some practice and troubleshooting) you’ll know where the clients are and how to get in front of them. Once you’re in front of them, your reputation as a knowledgeable and generous professional will attract people.
I know because it’s how I am attracted to businesses and leaders and authors and speakers.
I also know because as I’ve been generous and applied what I’ve learned, colleagues, competitors, and even clients notice. And they seek me out to ask questions.
Strangers will walk up to me and say “Hey! You’re Tina! I read your blog.” Or they’ll hire me because they found me easily exactly where they were looking. (You know where that is, right?)
What about you?
How do you weather slow times in your business or industry?
This job is so personal. We see the inside of people’s homes – from their bookshelves and master bedroom to how they and their children behave. We act differently in our own homes than we do in public, don’t we? Real Estate agents get to see the inside of someone’s home and life like most people never will. We’re the outsider on the inside.
It’s a unique perspective to have.
There is so much pleasure in glimpsing the personal lives of people. Hang on – I`m not talking some kind of creepy voyeurism here. What I mean is that I love seeing those couples that joke with each other, and respect each other. It’s a joy to watch their children play together, help each other, and be awesome. (The opposite of how movies and commercials depict children.) I also delight in the whole process of helping these wonderful people find their dream home.
The thing about pleasure though, is that it often mixes with pain. Sometimes what`s behind the scenes is painful. Homes get sold because of divorce, death or financial desperation. People struggle so hard sometimes, and it’s difficult to watch -especially from that up-close view we get sometimes. Those are the moments I sometimes wish I didn`t care, and could heartlessly go about the business of buying and selling.
Do you ever wish you could stop feeling pain? If so, I just want to encourage you with what helps me in those moments. It`s okay to feel sad. More than that, it`s actually necessary -how would we know joy without sorrow? They are inseparable.
“And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
-Khalil Gibran, “On Joy and Sorrow“
What also helps is, after I give myself permission to feel the sadness of it, I then make myself find the joy. What am I thankful for or glad about. And I move forward with both tucked in my heart. If you are discouraged or sad this week, know it`s okay. Sad is allowed.
The secret is not to stay there.
What helps you step out of sadness?
It’s funny how blind we can be to our own bad habits, isn’t it?
I didn’t realize that, for years, I’ve had the nasty habit of acting like a paramedic. I don’t mean I carried around a medic bag or offered to check people’s vitals, as fun as that might be… It was more a habit of allowing other people’s emergencies to become my own.
It’s one thing if a friend or family member has immediate needs – being there for each other is just part of being friends and family. It’s quite another if it’s a client’s -or worse, a strangers – “emergency”.
Strangers have called demanding an immediate property showing for example, and I’ve hopped and dashed to serve them like crazy. After all, that’s what excellent service is, right?
Thanks to a good friend, I realized that it is unnecessary to bow to other people – strangers in particular – who demand emergency-response time just because they said so. If I am expected to behave like a paramedic, I am not being respected. I don’t want to train myself to work with people who don’t respect me.
I’ll run, dig, hunt and serve like crazy. Stellar customer service is my thing – it’s what I’m about.
But I’m not a paramedic, and I’m trying to remember that that’s okay.
Where do you draw the line between excellent service and giving too much?
Sometimes it’s the expectations of clients that need tweaking. Other times it’s the perception of Real Estate agents that needs a reality check. But sometimes we agents need to shake off our own expectations.
In this industry, working hard is great. Working even harder and faster though, is super effective. Maybe it’s not just our industry, but our cultural belief that the busier someone is the more accomplished and successful they are. Either way, there is a definite pressure for more -more clients, more sales, more team members or staff to help us work even more. Even when I think I can’t take it another day, and I’m worried I might burn out from this crazy pace, the answer suggested is to get more -more staff, more technology…
As I’m working toward getting a day off (Yes, it really is that hard to get a day off!), I’m allowing myself to dream about what I would do with it. Some dedicated, hard working people have suggested that, with my ‘extra’ day, I could accomplish even more – market more, serve more clients, and make more money. And it’s true.
I don’t want to be busier or have more responsibility though. And it feels like confessing a secret to say so because, as much as we talk about wanting to ‘enjoy the moment’ and ‘live simply’, we really do prefer to dash around, and respect those who do. But I do not want to run faster and work harder – actually, I’m not sure it’s humanly possible! I want to rest occasionally, to recharge so that I can serve my client base with the highest quality of care possible and do this long term.
So what would I do with a day off? Mmm, I would play in the flowerbeds – that’s rejuvination right there. I might go on a lunch date with my hubby, or have coffee with a friend, knowing we would not be interrupted by showing requests. Oh. I know. I would leave my phone at home. Yes I would.
How about you? If you had … a maid let’s say – how much time would that save you each week? More importantly, what would you do with that extra time? Would it free you up to make more money? Take on an extra project? Sun bathe on the beach?
Work’s high pace has made recent months a blur. But things are clearing up, and not at all like I would have thought.
This industry demands 7-day-a-week availability. It could make me cuckoo sometimes if I had time to go crazy. I thought the answer was to hire the standard team of employees – admin. assistant, data entry, photographer, ad writer… I didn’t like that idea though – all the commitment of maintaining staff, the pressure of making sure there is enough work to keep everyone busy seemed like heaping another huge thing on my plate. So I dropped the idea and continued to feel stuck.
Then I delivered some papers to my new bookkeeper, suggested an idea to my graphic ‘designasaur’, and I realized a ‘team’ really doesn’t have to look a certain way. These two business people are helping me with my business while running their own. Borrowing their professional skills, I get much more done – and get it done well! I can delegate some of my tasks to them and trust their best efforts will be on it. Ooh. I think I’m on to something here.
I need more! By surrounding myself with more professionals like this, the workload is shared and I can specialize. I can also then give my clients more focused attention. It means I might be able to hand off work for a day and.. oh, I don’t know, have a day OFF? More professional ‘on-my-team’ people means less harried distraction. It means less time dedicated to tasks and more time for people. After all, (say it with me)
“It’s a people thing.” – Tina Plett
I’ve been a reflexologist. I’ve also been a hairdresser. Check out my handiwork here.
Sweet eh? Hey, it was the 80s. That was high style at the time, okay?
Even back then, I was sought for my quality customer service. Clients stayed loyal, and were like friends – they shared their hearts with me, and I took seriously the responsibility of speaking into their lives.
My clients at the salon did not necessarily know I was having a bad day. My reflexology clients were unaware that I was going through some rough times at home. Our time together was about them. I put myself aside to serve. That is customer service. It’s sadly becoming a rare thing, this serving attitude. But, good news for us who win clients by going the extra mile – there is not alot of competition at that level, but there is a whole lot of customer loyalty. But we have to work to get there.
It doesn’t seem to matter what industry a person works in, principles of stellar customer service apply. The kingpin though – the thing that holds it all together – is consistency.
Anyone can give fabulous service to a customer once. Everyone can serve happily and willingly when they feel great and their customers are easy to love. But when service becomes inconvenient, or the clients are unlikeable, most businesses (and their staff) forget about customer service.
What does this look like practically?
Do what you say you’re going to do. Every time.
When you’re on the clock, put your client’s needs above your own. Every time. Even when it’s inconvenient.
Give the same level of service to all clients. Ugly, beautiful, smelly, rural, city, rich, poor, foreign, … doesn’t matter. Treat them well. Consistently.
For me, the most difficult time to do this is when a difficult client demands the extra mile. I give it, but it’s a whole lot easier to serve someone appreciative, isn’t it? But in the interest of consistency – integrity really – I do it. And I do it with a smile on my face.
What’s the hardest thing about being consistent with your clients?
What can you change to improve your level of consistency?
Real Estate agents suffer alot of disdain and catch alot of annoyed glances for keeping their phones on.
In the bathroom (Admit it)
In the doctor’s office
At a wedding
At a wedding reception recently, we sat around ornately decorated tables. Glass shimmered, centrepieces sparkled, and guests chattered, waiting for braised chicken to arrive. Then my phone, laid discreetly on my lap, buzzed. With bowed head, I checked the text message. My client needed to meet with me that night to sign papers. My stomach growled as I imagined the braised chicken and buttery herbed potatoes I would miss. Then a voice growled from behind me. “You’re at a wedding” He rumbled. I looked up just in time to see the scowl before he turned and walked away, shaking his head.
Even if it’s on vibrate, people seem annoyed that Real Estate agents dare to work. Maybe it’s the misconception that we’re a greedy bunch who care only about money. Whatever the reason, people don’t seem to get that the Real Estate business is a 24-7 one.
The constant advice to “Just turn it off” and “take one little evening off” while it sounds sane and good… doesn’t work for several of reasons. The laws that dictate how quickly we must reply to clients, sign offers and submit paperwork are just one reason. And it’s a good one. We don’t want to lose our license just to have a night off.
But, if that’s not enough of a reason for you, here’s another one.
Let’s say you called a Real Estate agent on a Friday at 6:00pm to view a house on Sunday.
How would you respond if they didn’t reply until Saturday at 4:00? Really. Think about it. Would you have waited until then, or would you have called someone else so you could at least have a chance at that Sunday showing?
Or what if their answering service informed you that they don’t work on weekends, but they’ll be happy to get back to you on Monday? What would you do?
I know exactly what you would do. You would call someone else. Everyone would. Because making you wait is pathetic service, and unacceptable in this industry.
So, this week if you see an agent on their phone, please don’t choose to see a money hungry beast. Don’t see disrespect. Choose to see someone who cares about obeying the laws that govern their industry. See someone who is willing to be available to their clients as much as humanly possible, so they can deliver stellar customer service. See the level of commitment to their job and clients. Most of the time, that’s what it’s about. The ones who don’t care – those are the ones with the answering service who get back to you in a day or two.
I’m so glad we had this chat. Thanks for listening.
…I’m going to go and return some calls now.
“When I think of kick-ass write ups, I think of you.”
That’s what one agent told me recently. The compliment had me reeling a bit. I actually went back and reread some of the descriptions to see what he was talking about. As I looked them over, I discovered three things I used to make those property descriptions so awesome.
Three Secrets to Writing Awesome Property Descriptions
1) Open by Overcoming Objections
For example, side-by-sides are viewed as low-end starters. This view keeps most people from even considering it. So, in my ad for a side-by-side, the first thing I said was, “Rethink the side-by-side”. Those 5 words accomplished two important things.
a) acknowledged the existing objection
b) aroused curiosity by implying another way to think about it.
2) Surprising Statement to Draw Them In
I sold an igloo with this fun secret. During the longest, hardest winter our region has seen in over a century, I was marketing a dome-shaped house. It is the only one like it in the area, and had been on the market for months.
So, to refresh interest in the property I started advertising it as an igloo. Yes I did. It was unique, fun, interesting, and it worked!
The basic secret is to throw your readers off balance just enough to make them wonder what on earth you’re up to.
3) Emotional Appeal
And I do not mean manipulation. This is about helping someone find the house they are desperately searching for. Help them see how this fits their lifestyle, their dreams, their goals. It’s about them.
This is where it often falls apart for the men. Sorry guys, but it’s true. Listing property facts won’t win a woman’s heart. And, if you want someone to fall in love with a property, you’ve got to speak to their heart. Telling readers about a large living room and large kitchen with a large deck and large yard won’t win anyone over. Telling the family that will one day live there that the neighborhood is filled with the laughter of children though, gets a little closer to what they hope for.
Sell them their dreams.
Do you have any secrets to add?
What was one of your best opening lines on a property description?
I’d love to read it!
If Real Estate photos are the first impression, a bad photo is the equivalent of putting your foot in your mouth.
It’s no way to say hello.
I hear you asking,”How hard can it be to take a photo?”
Allow me to demonstrate.
Behold the work of an amateur as held up against the work of a professional photographer:
Amateur Bedroom Photo
Professional Bedroom Photo
Amateur Livingroom Photo
Professional Livingroom Photo
Amateur Bathroom Photo
Professional Bathroom Photo
Amateur Kitchen Photo
Professional Kitchen Photo
Amateur Kitchen / Dining photo
Professional Kitchen / Dining Photo
And now you know why I hire a professional photographer for my listings.
Their high quality equipment, artful eye and honed skills are so worth it!
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It’s a question that burns in the mind of many an entrepreneur: How can I generate customer loyalty? Points programs and rewards, freebies and other ‘added-value’ may help. But it’s not enough. Think about it. Who are you loyal to? Why? Chances are the ‘Buy 7 Get the 8th Free’ promo won’t keep your business if your experience is tainted by poor product or service.
“No matter how delicious the food, no matter how safe the jet travel,
if it’s presented in a way that doesn’t show care for the customer,
it’s not going to be a hit.” –Forbes
There is one simple yet difficult key to cultivating customer loyalty. Be hugely customer-centered. Devote your entire business to their happiness. That’s what it takes.
3 Secrets to Boosting Customer Loyalty
1) Recruit the right kind of customer from the start
Know who your ideal customer is – their dreams, interests, personalities, lifestyles – and then work to attract them. My customer base is largely rural home owners for example, so I don’t focus on timeshares or high-rise condos. Knowing your customer is the first step to finding them.
2) Treat that ‘right customer’ like royalty once acquired. Once you’ve found your ideal client, cultivate that relationship. Go over the top to serve them. Make them feel like the most important customer –your only customer. Woo the daylights out of them until they’re so in love with you that to go anywhere else is unthinkable.
3) Devote yourself to high quality service. There is wooing and then there is marriage. This is the marriage part of customer service. This is where you commit to high quality service as a lifestyle – a part of who you are. The heart of your business. This is the difference between winning and keeping a client. “Excellent customer care is the most important method for improving customer loyalty.” – Data Base Marketing Institute
This stuff is so simple, and so effective. It’s also difficult because it’s not natural. It’s not what we learn in our marketing courses and sales seminars. We’re told buzz words and hanging a carrot on a stick is enough. Sales are the ultimate goal and we are trained to pursue it single-mindedly. But it’s not about arm twisting and manipulation. It’s about integrity. Relationship. It truly is a people thing.
“True customer loyalty means
making the relationship more important than making the sale.”
– Yes Sales Recruitment
What is one method you use to recruit the right customer, or keep your existing clients?
Or, what is one new method you would like to try soon?