In my blog ‘step into the light’, I talked about how to ensure that your customers are delighted with your service all the time, every time. It’s not impossible as many successful agents (and happy customers) will testify. But take a hundred customers and ask them what they regard as good customer service and you will get and equal number of different replies. But in a busy estate agency office, without the luxury of hundreds of expensive staff members to make constant customer contact calls, it’s simply not possible to tailor your entire service to every individual is it?
In fact; it is. If you manage the whole process professionally and set realistic expectations with your customers early on, you will be well on you way to delivering exceptional customer service
Staffing and time management: You certainly don’t need a staffing profile that resembles the extra’s list from Ben Hur but, you do need well trained and intelligent staff who are free to act and think for themselves within clearly defined boundaries. Ensure that you have a set system for checking that the contact is taking place and that good work is recognised. Diarise time when customer contact can take place and make sure it happens.
Office systems: Whether you run a card index and paper diary system or the latest cloud based estate agency software; it is a simple task to ensure that each customer is contacted as regularly as you want them to be (which should be as regularly as they want to be).
Customers: Manage the whole process. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Let them know what you can. Ask your customer how often they want to be contacted from day one and stick to it. If it is every day then do so. Very few customers actually like this level of contact after a very short time of having it and a regular re-check with the customer about contact frequency will keep them smiling and you sane. A gentle suggestion that, perhaps, every week to ten days is enough for most people during the marketing phase may actually be appreciated. Tell your customers from the outset that they will be contacted regularly, what that actually means (once a year is regularly after all!) and that they can change that frequency if need be. Make sure that the customers file notes reflect this agreement and that reminders are set in the diary system. Always increase contact when increased activity is taking place that might affect the customer (viewings, offers, adverts etc). The customer will be expecting it no matter what you have agreed. Maintain this service up to completion day and beyond if required. Don’t just forget it all after an offer has been accepted ‘because that’s the solicitors’ job’.
You! As the owner, you should do the occasional courtesy call to each customer to ask how they are getting on and are they happy with the service. Can they suggest improvements? What are you getting right? Has anyone of your team really impressed them? How? Is there anything concerning them about the marketing of their home/ can they think of something that you are not doing that they would like to see done? Your customers are a gold mine of who and what is right and wrong with your business. Finally, thank the customer for their using your firm/ branch and for their time in talking to you.
On exchange of contracts: Congratulate the owner for selling their home; after all, they played their part too and, even if they didn’t, they almost certainly believe they did! Send out short and simple customer questionnaires to buyer and seller asking for feedback and to rate your service (useful in so many ways). Congratulate the buyer. It’s a day when the massive stress levels and worry of the past few weeks can finally be reduced a little. Give the team members who worked hardest on the case a pat on the back as well. A genuine ‘well done and thank you’ costs nothing.
Completion: A week or so before the big day, gently remind buyers that completion rarely happens at 9am and that they may not be able to have the keys until after lunch and to plan accordingly. Explain why this is and remind the seller of this too if they are buying another property (chances are the other agent wont have told them this). Agree with the seller when and how the keys are going to be handed over and take the opportunity to ask if there is anything they need a hand with. You might not be able to but a genuine offer of help will nearly always be appreciated.
Key hand over. Thank the seller for their business and if they know of anyone else thinking of selling in the area. If they have been pleased with your service, you will be surprised how often this brings results. Congratulate the buyer and wish them well in their new home. Thank the solicitors if they have been good too. They have made your life easier, the sale smoother and they will help you again.
About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and 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 for estate 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 Linkedin Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, he lives in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, his two dogs and his elderly Uncle. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. He is currently mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.