Defining excellent customer care seems like a no-brainer. We assume the generics: constant communication, a sense of hand-holding, going above and beyond for the client. For the customer though, data suggests they’re looking for something else entirely.
So, let’s frame the picture and dive into what really creates positive experiences for homebuyers and sellers.
Is Your Customer Service the Wrong Kind?
In 2013, CEB Global conducted a massive survey into the world of customer service. What they found startled them. People did not become more loyal, nor did they refer the business more, when the company exceeded their expectations. In other words, going above and beyond – giving them the white-glove treatment – didn’t increase referrals or loyalty.
What they discovered was customers were looking for an effortless experience.
When it comes to customer service, people are looking for help to fix an issue. In real estate, that means helping buyers find the right home. It means helping homeowners sell quickly and for top dollar. They only turn to their agent when they need help. They already have tons of tools at their disposal, i.e. real estate websites, sold listing data, comparative market analyses.
When contacting an agent, their mindset is: Please just solve the problem and let me get back to what I was doing before.
If you follow up with those homebuyers and sellers a couple years down the road, how much more business are they bringing you – the ones where you exceeded expectations? Data suggests they have the same economic value as those where you met expectations.
Homebuyers are looking to move into a new home. They want their agent to help and make the experience effortless. They don’t need to be “wowed” to refer your business or talk about the positive service. They just want their expectations to be met.
The Cost of Bad Customer Service
In a world where competitors are only a click away, customer service really is the ‘new’ marketing. So much of the real estate industry is dominated by referrals, reviews, and general word-of-mouth. Any wrong hiccup could cost you both current business and future business.
News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as praise for good service experiences. Telling their stories (even the negative ones) has been made easy with real estate portals like Zillow/Trulia’s agent reviews and other websites like Yelp. Each rating impacts your SEO, which further influences the willingness of others to do business with you.
Losing any referral will cost you. Consider this statistic from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:
Remember, for every customer who takes the time to comment, 26 other customers remain silent. If you hear about one negative experience, do everything in your power to remedy the situation. It’s more valuable to keep their business than to let it go.
How Technology Can Help Customer Service
Expectations have risen over the last decade. The power of the internet and mobile devices has created an environment where people demand personalization. As we noted before, CEB Global found the more customer touches someone has with business representatives, the more disloyal they become.
Reducing the amount of communication for real estate shoppers starts with technology, and the data they offer. Measuring online user behavior has never become more important to the strategy of customer service. Think about Homebuyer John. Which scenario do you think he would gravitate towards:
- “Hey John, my name is Bob. I’m a real estate agent, so how can I help you?”
- “Hi John, I noticed you were looking at homes around 300k. Is that correct? I’ve got a few properties that I think would be great to see.”
By knowing which real estate someone is interested in, by looking at their behavior, you can immediately start a conversation they want to talk about. It’s a conversation that doesn’t require effort explaining what they’re looking for. Instead, it’s natural, effortless, and leaves a positive note in the person’s mind.
The Key Factor in Customer Service
Reducing effort on the consumer side is your trump card to excellent customer service. It’s the area that won’t cost you an arm-and-a-leg to provide, and it’s the place where people stay happy (enough so to write about it). Those who can improve the effectiveness of their customer service and match it to today’s needs will ultimately win out over competitors.
Abraham Lincoln said: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” If you’re dedicated to helping people find their next dream home, focus on delivering the customer service people expect. Doing so will generate referrals, 5-star reviews, and provide brand lift.