Real estate referrals: Lifestyle expertise, little ‘extras’ drive word of mouth

Top-notch customer experience is key to referrals

Outbound, or traditional, advertising has lost much of its effectiveness. When it comes to choosing a real estate agent, word of mouth (i.e., a personal referral) still carries the greatest weight. The issue is how to provide your clients with such a terrific customer experience that they will be eager to tell others about your services.

Here is a 10-step plan to help turn your happy clients into raving fans:

Word of mouth image via Shutterstock.
Word of mouth image via Shutterstock.

1. Start with yourself

Are you happy, energized and excited to see your clients? Are you well-groomed and do you always act professionally? Is your car sparkling clean? Are you always on time for your appointments? These factors are cornerstones when it comes to creating a superb customer experience. Clients enjoy working with positive, energetic and knowledgeable agents. If you are stressed out, grumpy or constantly complaining, your clients will probably have a poor experience and will not recommend you to others.

2. Build connection

When you first start working with a client, your goal is to make them feel that they are your most important clients ever and that you are committed to helping them achieve their goals. To do this, ask plenty of “how” and “what” questions to uncover what they value, as well as important facts about their lifestyle. Furthermore, be 100 percent focused on them, not on your text messages, Facebook notifications or other distractions.

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3. Provide little “extras”

Before taking buyers out to view property, determine what types of drinks and snacks they enjoy. Have these available. If they are Starbucks fans, pick up their favorite coffee drink and have it waiting when they walk into your office.

Before taking buyers out to view property, determine what types of drinks and snacks they enjoy. Have these available. If they are Starbucks fans, pick up their favorite coffee drink and have it waiting when they walk into your office. If your clients have children, give the kids a coloring book or some games to keep them occupied during your appointment. If your clients enjoy a certain type of music, use iHeartRadio or Spotify to create a station based upon their favorites and play it when you are driving to your appointments.

4. Be the neighborhood expert

It used to be enough to know the inventory and the prices. Today’s consumer wants much more. They want to know about the lifestyle — schools, places of worship, recreation, and a host of other factors. A great way to provide this service for your buyers is to create a welcome kit packed with this information. Coupons from local stores as well as information on appliance and other utility rebates will also bring a smile to your clients’ faces.

5. Start on time and end early

Men and women differ in their attitudes toward time. Men are more likely to feel they have limited time and are more likely to become angry when appointments run late. To address this difference, always tell your clients your appointment will take 20-30 minutes longer than you anticipate. By allowing extra time, you avoid having to apologize about traffic or other delays. You also seem more efficient. Best of all, most clients are delighted to finish early.

6. Digitally educate your clients about the market

Rather than taking your sellers out to see the comparable sales, create a document or slideshow that shows the interior photos of competing listings. You can also use this for relocation buyers as well. You can send the interior photos or videos digitally using Dropbox, or you can send them a TravelDrive with the information. This helps your clients refine their search parameters more quickly while also saving you time and gas.

7. Get the story

Why is a seller moving? How long has the property been listed? Is there an urgent reason the buyer or seller must take action now? The more you know, the more powerful you will be at the negotiation table. Also, the better the price, the happier your clients will be with their customer experience.

8. Are the other people involved in the transaction top notch?

Is the receptionist in your office pleasant to clients? Is the reception area clean and attractive? How does the rest of the office look? Are the other agents the high-quality professionals you would want your clients to meet? If there are problems with your receptionist, route your calls directly to your phone. If the office is less than stellar, meet clients at their home for coffee, or at your home office. If the agents and the office do not make you proud, consider finding an office that does.

More importantly, what level of service do your clients receive from mortgage, escrow, title, inspections and other ancillary services? If they’re not top-drawer, keep searching for the best of the best in your area.

9. Outline options and then let your clients decide

Rather than telling your sellers the price where they should list their property, give them the best information about current market conditions, how long it takes to market the property at higher price points, and then let them decide. The same is true when negotiating offers. Outline options and let the clients decide their course of action. Remember, it’s their house, their mortgage and their decision.

10. Focus on the customer experience, not the outcome

Shift your focus from your commission to making sure that your clients have the best possible experience through every part of the transaction. If a transaction falls apart, remember that you were there to help them make the best possible decision for their situation.

When clients realize you only want the very best for them, you create the type of experience that converts them into raving fans who will refer you business for years to come.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.


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