By Dale Swanton
It’s no secret that the best salespeople also tend to be the best at customer service. After all, good customer service leads to happy and loyal customers, and happy and loyal customers lead to repeat and referral business. Referrals are crucial to long term success in real estate, yet many agents aren’t building the referral base they should. This is at least in part due to poor customer service. It’s no longer sufficient to just get the job done and expect clients to think of you in the future. You need to exceed expectations while also making the process as easy and seamless as possible for the client. Here are three ways you’re failing at customer service and what you can do to improve.
1. You’re Not Following Up After the Sale
Imagine you just closed on a deal. Your clients are happy with their purchase, you’re happy that you got a commission check, you shake hands, and part ways. Your job is done, right? If you answered yes, then you aren’t just doing a disservice to your clients, but you’re also leaving money on the table. Don’t believe me? Try estimating the customer lifetime value (CLTV) for a few of your past clients. This is a predictive measure of the income generated from a client over the lifetime of your relationship based on factors such as number of referrals given per year, age of the client, and average number of years they stay in a home. You’ll be surprised by how much additional income a single happy client can generate.
What to do about it: Call your clients a week after they’ve moved in to their new home for no other reason than to see how their move went. Also, put a plan in place for staying in touch with your clients after closing. Ideally, aim to contact them monthly, but no less than quarterly. This should be done in perpetuity. A quick call on the anniversary of their purchase and a handwritten holiday card at the end of the year are two great contacts to make. Consider also inviting your closest clients to lunch or coffee a few times a year or even holding a client appreciation event.
2. You Don’t Genuinely Care About Your Clients
That may sound harsh, but don’t forget that buying and selling real estate is often a highly emotional time for your clients. Being empathetic to their situation by putting yourself in their shoes will go a long way towards building customer loyalty. It also helps to learn as much as you can about your clients, so you can put a personal touch on your interactions. Too often we focus on the features the client wants (e.g., four bedrooms, two bathrooms, big backyard) without focusing on why they want them (e.g., they have a growing family, want to adopt two dogs, and want space for everyone to play). The why may not be important to you, but it sure is to your clients. Understand their why and that seemingly difficult client will turn into one of your biggest advocates.
What to do about it: Many agents are naturally empathetic, but not all are great at showing it. Putting a personal touch on your relationship can make it seem like you really care about them. Create a spreadsheet database of all your clients. In addition to contact information, include column headings for personal information such as kids names, pets names, occupation, hobbies, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Reference this information in your interactions with them. If nothing else, your clients will appreciate feeling like they’re your only client, even if they’re just one of many.
3. You’re Not Responding Fast Enough
Consumers are more demanding than ever, in part due to the ease with which information is available. One negative consequence of having all this information at our fingertips is that it has eroded our collective patience. Waiting an hour now seems like waiting a lifetime. Couple that with the fact that there are thousands of hungry real estate agents out there, then there is little reason for today’s consumers to sit around and wait for you to get back to them.
What to do about it: Stay as connected as possible and get in the habit of checking your email and phone often. While it’s a great policy to ignore your phone while out with a client, this practice could cause you to miss opportunities. It’s okay to be busy, but you should still acknowledge someone’s attempt at getting in touch with you. One great way to do this is by downloading one of the many apps available that allow you to automatically send responses to texts (somewhat akin to an out of office reply on email). And don’t forget to turn off read receipts on your text messages, nothing is worse than not responding when the person on the other end knows you saw what they just sent you!
Good customer service is an important part of sales success. Today’s real estate practitioners should focus not just on getting the deal done, but on providing the best possible experience for their clients. That includes responding quickly, putting a personal touch on their interactions, and staying in contact years after the sale. Do these things and you’ll be well on your way to building a successful referral pipeline that will keep your business going for years to come.
Dale Swanton is an associate broker and manager with Coldwell Banker in Pittsburgh. He has served on the board of directors at the REALTOR® Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (RAMP) since 2017, is the 2018 chair of RAMP’s YPN Committee, and has taught continuing education classes for the association. Connect with Dale on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or on his website.