Everyone at Expert Real Estate Partners in Appleton, Wis., cleared their schedules and showed up with ladders, rollers, and paint brushes to repaint an entire two-story home, garage, and shed days before a closing for an out-of-state seller. A botched paint job started by a previous buyer who had fallen out of contract had left the property half yellow. “We didn’t have to do this. But when I had talked to the company about it at our weekly meeting, everyone agreed that it was the right thing to do,” says Duane Murphy, CRS, SFR, broker-owner.
Murphy believes you have to live your customer service mantra day to day and always exceed expectations. Today’s clients are looking for fast responses to questions and someone who cares, so if you manage to achieve both at your brokerage, then you’re also building a strong referral base.
San Diego-based real estate investor and educator Than Merrill believes that customer service is the most important element of any business because it builds brand loyalty. “The majority of buyers in today’s market want to work with a professional who can offer peace of mind, as the real estate industry can confuse even the most seasoned of veterans,” says Merrill, founder of CT Homes LLC and FortuneBuilders.com.
Micah Solomon, a customer service consultant, speaker, and trainer, agrees that the most direct route to build and sustain business comes from delivering world-class customer service. A single satisfied client can spread the word to hundreds or thousands of their contacts online, he adds. And due to the emotional and stressful nature of dealing with such an important transition, achieving high-level customer service in real estate is more essential than in most industries, Solomon says.
To help improve or transform the customer service at your brokerage, experts offer seven tips to start implementing in the new year.
- Answer inquiries immediately. An hour might feel like a year when communicating online or via text, Solomon says. If a prospective client reaches out for the first time and doesn’t hear back that same morning or afternoon, they may very well move on.
- Exercise unparalleled transparency. “There’s no excuse for neglecting to disclose anything,” Merrill says. The more transparent a real estate professional is when working with a client, the better. Doing so will build trust and increase brand loyalty more so than almost anything else.
- Make the client your focus. True personal service will differentiate your brand. Work to achieve the intimacy of a beloved bartender, doorman, or hairstylist—the kind who would know a customer’s preferences and the name of their children or pets, Solomon says. However, be aware that customers don’t want over-the-top, ultrachatty interactions all the time. It depends on their nature and how busy they are at the moment, so tune in to their cues.
- Show them you care. Murphy and his agents believe in building a friendship with their clients by the end of every transaction—in fact, it’s one of their core values. To enhance this, they plan five or more friend and family events each year to get everyone together and keep close ties. “Our mindset is that it’s not just about one transaction or one closing. We want to be there for our clients whenever they may need us in the future,” he says.
- Keep up with virtual reality technology. As the technology behind VR progresses, it could significantly enhance the customer’s home shopping experience, says Merrill. The client needs to do nothing more than put on a headset to either meet with their real estate professional or take a tour of a home, all from their current home or office. “We are just scratching the surface of what VR can do for the real estate industry,” he adds.
- Deliver the best customer service—out of anyone. Don’t just be the best in the real estate business—be the best compared to all industries, Solomon says. “Your clients judge you against the great service they received at a five-star hotel, the friendly service they got this morning at Starbucks, and the speed of response they just experienced at Amazon.”
- Get everyone’s name in your CRM. Murphy provides a CRM platform for all his agents and trains them on how to use it effectively. “We encourage our agents to have their entire database and sphere in the system. It makes keeping track of contact information, important dates, and life happenings so much easier,” he says. That way, clients can get birthday and anniversary cards on time, so they know you or your agents were thinking of them.
Real estate is, as they say, a people business. Poor customer service threatens the most important relationships in your business. “Without a good relationship between you and your customers, there’s a chance nobody will want to work with you down the road, effectively limiting your chances of realizing future success,” Merrill says.