Center for REALTOR® Development Podcast

By the Center for Specialized REALTOR® Education

Creating the Customer Experience

Overview

Great customer service is one of the key ways we can set ourselves apart from other people in the industry. Everybody wants (and expects) a great customer service experience. Pete Blank joins Monica on the show today to talk about his customer service background working for Disney. They share ideas about customer service through a discussion of the seven guest service guidelines Disney uses, and fit them into the real estate industry.

Now that so much is available online to consumers, customer service in real estate has become that much more important. The face-to-face connection is something clients value and the way we present ourselves and our product contributes to the customer experience. This is similar to the idea at Disney that employees are always in "the show." For real estate, this would involve staging, materials, etc.

At Disney, they teach that the relationship between you and the customer has to be number one. Pete discusses a little bit about these guidelines and relates them to the real estate industry.

The first one is to 1) Make eye contact and smile. This is perhaps a bit easier in the real estate industry as much of the contact is one-on-one, but make sure you're always presenting a good front when you're meeting with clients, or in a situation where you may be around potential clients.

The second is 2) Greet and welcome each and every guest. This one is also applicable for when you are out and about. When you're out in public in your community, it's important to consider that you may be around potential clients. Note how you want to present yourself to someone who knows you're in real estate but you may not be having a direct interaction with. You are your own brand.

The next guideline is 3) Seek out guest contact. This one is related to the second guideline in the fact that you may always be around potential clients. In terms of real estate, so many people own homes or want to own homes. There is a general curiosity about the market. As an agent, you can try to share some market research when you're out in public (in appropriate situations). This will help you be top-of-mind for people that you've helped previously or they've heard of you through this sharing of knowledge in different environments.

One of the most important reasons is 4) Provide immediate service recovery. Pete shares a story about something he experienced during his time at Disney. What's important here is if a client brings you an issue, we try to fix it with service first. Rather than offering a discount or some sort of bonus item during the time of the transaction with your client, we look for a way to placate the issue with service first. This will make your client feel valuable.

These standards (the rest to follow!) are non-negotiable. Big businesses may already have these established, but if you are a solo entrepreneur starting your business, take some time to write down some non-negotiable standards for yourself that you will use to serve your clients.

Getting back to the guidelines, number 5) Appropriate body language at all times. As with any industry, when you see employees who look disinterested, this can skew your whole perception of the business. In real estate, this could you be how you look before you meet a seller for a listing. You don't necessarily want to be wrapping up previous business when your new client shows up. Your body language should show your client that they are the most important thing during your meeting.

Number 6) Preserve the magical guest experience. We don't want clients to see the nitty-gritty of how things work. This would involved keep the "backstage" parts of processes out of the customer experience. Monica mentions that in real estate there is a line between letting the public know what you're doing (how much time it's taking, etc) and also sharing too much. The important thing is how you're sharing this information. It's okay to express the work you've done, but it's not okay to complain about the process, especially to your client. As a real estate agent, you can provide your clients with some information about all the different things you do for them, so they know you are creating value for them.

The last service guideline is to 7) Thank each and every guest. At Disney when you leave for the night, people are stationed on the way to say thank you for visiting and provide salutations. In real estate, the close of the transaction is not always the end. You want to make sure you close the transaction with a thank you. This differs from agent to agent - some may prefer different gestures of gratitude.

An important part of the close of a transaction is a review or a post-event survey. Some things to keep in mind are the length - you don't want it to be too long or too involved; testimonials are usually a good bet because customers can put their own stamp on it. Even calling it a testimonial rather than a review, may get better results and more response. If you have an exceptional experience with a customer or someone involved in completing the transaction, you may want to consider a well-placed gift.

A new development in the industry is working with real estate teams. Many teams don't have the same longevity as Disney employees, and it can be a challenge to keep up team encouragement. One of the most important things when working on any team is to set up some expectations for team operations, communication, etc. The other aspect is personalities; when you get the team together, take some time to do an activity to get know your team members outside of the business transaction.

The final topic Pete and Monica discuss is getting third-party vendors who share your customer service values and habits. This comes down to setting expectations and maybe also having a brief training with your third-party vendors so everyone is on the same page about the customer experience.

One of the main focuses of the Disney model is savoring the experience. Once the experience is over, we want our clients to look back on it fondly and appreciate how simple it was. As a real estate agent, you want to try to create an experience that clients will look back on and tell others about.

About Pete Blank

Born and raised in St. Petersburg Florida, Pete and his family visited Walt Disney World Resort every year since the park opened in 1971. One day, while walking down Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom, he told his parents, “One day, I'm going to work here.”

In 1989, while attending the University of Florida, he spent a summer as a Disney Cast Member making memories for guests while working in the Magic Kingdom parking lot. That three-month adventure confirmed what he believed… that this was the right company for him.

After a stint as a television sportscaster, he returned to Disney in 1994. Over the next 13 years, he managed various areas of Disney's theme parks and resorts, where he learned what it takes to run a world-class organization.

Pete was blessed to spend the majority of his time working at Disney University. While there, he led the Traditions program, which is known worldwide as one of the premier employee orientation programs. He also facilitated college-level courses to thousands of Disney College Interns and was a Segment Learning Manager for Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, and the Disney Cruise Line.

Today, he is the Training and Organizational Development Manager for the Personnel Board of Jefferson County in Birmingham, AL. In this role, he manages a department responsible for providing leadership and management training to over 7,000 local government employees across 23 agencies. His training team has won multiple awards, including Training Magazine’s Training Top 125, HR.Com's Leadership 500, and eLearning's Top 100.

In addition, he works with organizations and associations all across the U.S., helping them achieve their goals in the areas of leadership, employee engagement and customer service. Some of his clients include  DirecTV, Southern Company, LG, Regions Bank, and Coldwell Banker.

His first book is Employee Engagement: Lessons from the Mouse House. His next book, Pick Up the Roach! Why Great Leaders do the Little Things, is due out in 2019.

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