Lead Customers or They Will Lose

The fact is that the customer isn’t always right.

I used to file my own taxes, spending hours upon hours each season researching rules. I just didn’t see the value in paying someone else until an accountant could prove he was worth the cost. But once I felt I could trust my tax advisers to be the financial gurus, I gladly handed the whole process off to them and got on with my life. And of course, I gladly paid for the privilege; a knowledgeable accountant is worth every penny.

When people lack expertise in certain areas, they want to follow a leader. Despite this, one of the most prominent myths in the business remains that customers want to lead the process. That’s probably because if you asked potential buyers if they want to be in charge, they would likely say yes.

But it’s just not true. In reality, customers want and need you to lead. They require our expertise and are grateful when they get it. When we view ourselves as facilitators to the process rather than leaders we hold back, delay delivering bad news, and avoid difficult conversations because we are afraid of coming across as too pushy or self-serving. While we may think we’re doing right by customers, we’re not doing anybody any favors.

We must change the way we think in order to change the way we behave. Clients want to know their representatives know the process inside and out and care about finding the best solution to their problem. Customers want and need a strong and consistent leader. We’re the ones who have done this before. We know what we’re doing and must step into our leadership roles.

Follow two key steps to lead and keep your customers:

1. Remember who the expert is.

The fact is that the customer isn’t always right. The consumer isn’t responsible for driving the customer experience; we are. Obviously this isn’t about being rude and kicking customers out of your line, but if you acquiesce to every need and demand of the customer, you won’t be able to create a consistent and delightful experience for them.

Particularly in real estate, clients spend endless hours online researching neighborhoods, appliances, mortgage rates, and more. All that time staring at a screen is exhausting. And they don’t want to have to figure it all out on their own. They don’t need to know everything. Instead, they need to know you know. When they are confident that you have everything under control, it takes off pressure. Leadership builds certainty.

Whether they are remodeling their home or watching it being built, customers feel they are in good hands when agents demonstrate authority. Be the expert, and make it your goal to provide value that is greater than the paycheck you will earn and the money they are paying. Customers will be relieved to have found a “human Google” in their knowledgeable company representative. To find solutions, act like a detective, uncovering clues about what will improve each client’s situation. You almost certainly know options they are unaware of.

2. Determine the flow, pace, and direction of each visit.

Leading doesn’t mean doing all the talking. In fact, it’s the opposite. Ask the right questions and then truly listen to and understand their responses. Anticipate customers’ needs and lead them to solutions for their particular problems. This approach will help you identify the right destination and walk them toward it.

As the leader in the relationship, company representatives must determine the flow, pace, and direction of each interaction. To establish yourself as a leader, talk about what comes next every time you’re with them. Say things like, “Here’s what we are doing now. Here’s why we are going to do it. Once we accomplish this, we’ll talk about what’s next.” This shows you know what’s coming and gives you credibility. Look ahead constantly so you can give updates before they even think to ask.

Holding back information, advice, and opinions doesn’t benefit customers. Have some courage and facilitate the journey. Overcommunicate. Make it as easy as possible on your customers so they don’t feel the need to babysit the process. They in turn will feel safe, confident, and certain in their decision. We don’t want to pay someone to do our taxes and then still feel like we need to have our hands in the process the whole time.

If we let customers take the lead, we get left behind — and they lose out on getting the best experience. But when we think of ourselves as leaders, we provide the certainty and leadership customers need. When we lead, everyone wins.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John C. Maxwell

Want to learn how to lead your organization towards a customer-centric culture? Sign up for Jason Forrest's Human Performance Unleashed: The Event in Fort Worth, Texas, August 1–4.