If you run an estate agency business where you are forever dealing with complaints and can’t remember the last time a customer brought in a box of chocolates, wine, thank you card or a bouquet of flowers on completion, you might want to read on.
Great customer service is actually very easy. Your level of service simply needs to exceed what the customer was expecting. If you have promised more than you can consistently deliver*; you will get complaints. Even if the actual service was way above what your competitors might be offering, you will have failed to deliver on your promises and, as far as your customer is concerned, that makes you worse than the lot of them.
Key to delivering great service is to know what to promise your customer in the first place. I.e. you need to know what your customer wants. Once you know what your customers want, you are then much better placed to work out how you can deliver or exceed that level of service.
The largest single complaint about estate agents is customer contact – or lack of it. All agents promise to keep in touch on a regular basis but so few actually do. Get that one simple aspect of your business right and I guarantee that you will keep most customers happy.
So what is the right amount of customer contact? It will vary from customer to customer and throughout the sales process but, as a rough rule, sellers like to have a regular update every seven to ten days no matter what plus, immediate updates after a key event, such as a viewing or advert going in the paper etc. Once a sale has been agreed the contact needs to be increased a little more, maybe once every four or five days and again; increased when things are happening (surveys etc). And don’t forget your buyers! They will be sellers too one day and you want them to remember you for the right reasons don’t you?
So why is this so important? Surely it’s the solicitors’ job to let sellers know about the progress of the sale and, if there is no News to tell a seller during the marketing or offer process, why should I waste my time and theirs with a call to say nothing is happening? Fear! When your customer doesn’t hear from you, he assumes that you are doing nothing; that bad things are happening to the sale that you don’t want to tell him about or, that you have simply forgotten about him. As agents, we know what is going on because a) we are in possession of the facts and b) we do this every day so we know what to expect. Customers, though, a) aren’t necessarily in possession of the facts and b) don’t do this every day of their lives it is, therefore, a stressful and worrying experience.
Imagine sitting in a total blacked out room. It is unsettling and disorienting. Your mind plays tricks on you and invents threats and worries that aren’t there. Now imagine this is how your customer perceives your service. Every time you speak to the customer, the lights go on and the customer is reassured (or at least knows you are making an effort). When they don’t hear from you when they think they should, they are plunged into an even inkier worrying blackness.
The more you speak to your customer the less time he spends seeing malevolent shadows moving to cause him stress and trouble. Stress he will most certainly visit back on you at some point if you don’t take steps to keep him informed. Not knowing what is going on is often referred to as ‘being kept in the dark’ for a reason. Even if you have no News, make sure that you tell your customer that you have nothing to report, but tell him! At the very least, he will know that you haven’t forgotten about him. ‘No News’ phone calls take training to get right but they are well worth the effort for both you and your customers.
*More on ensuring customer service levels match what you can deliver in my next blog.
About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Chris lives in Penzance and is a former long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade but was evacuated back to the UK on medical grounds after just six days