Really bad service seems to be the norm these days, and it is often followed up with an endless stream of unwanted communiques and surveys that are apparently meant to replace what I would consider service.

  • The services we provide as real estate agents are personal and often tailored.

Really bad service seems to be the norm these days, and it is often followed up with an endless stream of unwanted communiques and surveys that are apparently meant to replace what I would consider service.

Getting horrible service from website hosts and assorted technology companies is a way of life. I can count on the companies that I buy domain names from to be more interested in selling me more than they are in taking care of what I have. They want me to be so confused that I have to call to renew a domain so I have to talk to a salesperson.

My websites were recently moved to a new host. Not my idea. One company bought another company; I got an email explaining that my sites would be moved, and they were.

I would like to say “hilarity ensued,” but I don’t have a sense of humor when it comes to my business sites.

It was all so predictable. One site was terribly slow after it was moved, and another was missing entirely.

When I complained about the slow site, I was given a list of items that needed my attention.

I ignored the list because I know better. I reasoned that nothing had changed except that the site was moved. Eventually, the site magically started loading faster.

My experience is typical.

When I have a problem with the technology that I use for my business, the provider is quick to assume operator error — or they try to convince me that what I am complaining about is a “feature.”

Moving beyond technology woes and sales pitches

It is fall, and my furnace should be serviced. It gets brutally cold here in the north land, and there isn’t much in life that frightens me like a furnace that doesn’t sound right in the middle of a sub-zero winter night.

Yet I hesitate to make the call because it will lead to numerous future customer service calls, which will be unwanted interruptions that I don’t have time for. After the service, there will be random follow-up for a couple of months and offers to provide more services.

Maybe I’ll try a new company this year.

My idea of amazing service would be for someone to come out, look at my furnace, make sure it is all right, fix it if it is broken, give me the bill to pay — and then leave and never call, write or show up unless I need them again.

I have actually asked for this type of service, but the company I normally use cannot provide it.

At the bank, each time I try to make a change to an account, they try to sell me another account.

I am not making this up: I have three checking accounts, two savings accounts and an HSA with one bank. It is the same bank that has been in the news recently and one of three banks that my family has accounts in.

After a recent visit to the bank to make a deposit, a banker called me on the phone to thank me for coming in and making a deposit.

If he only understood how much I hate being interrupted by a phone call and how badly I do not want to talk to the bank, maybe he would understand that he is providing the opposite of customer service.

Even hospitality needs to get a clue

Earlier this week, we spent a few nights in a hotel. Every time we walked by the front desk, we were loudly and cheerily greeted by someone who seemed to expect an answer. If we were having a conversation and hotel staff walked by, someone interrupted us to ask “how ya doin’?!”

There won’t be a question in the huge customer satisfaction survey that addresses pesky, perky hotel staff.

Sure, they were friendly and made us feel welcome — but they could have done it quietly.

It isn’t my responsibility to improve customer service for every or any company I deal with by filling out a survey that only addresses what the company can best use for marketing.

What they currently consider customer service and what I consider customer service do not seem to be related. In fact, I would be happier with a lot less of the customer service I have been getting.

Back to real estate

This is all a reminder to me that I need to make sure I am providing the service to my clients that they hired me to provide — and that they actually want.

Before working with a client, I ask a lot of questions and do a kind of assessment — almost like a survey, but not a survey.

The services we provide as real estate agents are personal and often tailored. Sure, I have systems and routines, but they can easily be modified.

I market my company as being client-centered, a concept that we are working hard on. It isn’t always easy to separate what we want to do with what needs to be done.

It’s important to ask people how they prefer to communicate. Maybe they hate phone calls and would rather use text messages or email. Maybe they hate email and would rather talk.

A survey after the fact can add insult to injury, and asking questions before we provide the service can head off problems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in real estate.

I remind myself that I work for them.

Customer service isn’t at all about me or my company, and it isn’t just a marketing opportunity, which is why I’ll probably never implement a “customer service” program — because I have been the victim of too many of them.

We need to treat our clients with respect, like real people who matter.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of

Email Teresa Boardman

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