This is Part 1 of a two-part series. See Part 2: Ten steps to providing a great real estate experience.)

During the ’80s and ’90s, real estate companies were “agent-centric.” Trainers told us to put together “brag books” and impressive resumes listing how many properties we have sold. Many top-producing agents succeeded by using the “agent-centric” approach. Nevertheless, many clients heard the agent hype so often they usually tuned it out.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series. See Part 2: Ten steps to providing a great real estate experience.)

During the ’80s and ’90s, real estate companies were “agent-centric.” Trainers told us to put together “brag books” and impressive resumes listing how many properties we have sold. Many top-producing agents succeeded by using the “agent-centric” approach. Nevertheless, many clients heard the agent hype so often they usually tuned it out.

In the late ’90s, some agents began to realize being “agent-centric” was not the best way to build a successful, sustainable business. This realization resulted in the move from being “agent-centric” to being “client-centric.”

Customer service is at the heart of this shift. Everyone gives lip service to providing great customer service, yet most agents continue to focus on personal brochures, Web sites highlighting their personal photos, and telling the client, “I’m the expert!” Customer service is now on everyone’s radar, yet few deliver it at high levels. Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1

Mr. and Mrs. Buyer are relocating. The relocation company refers the buyers to Sally Agent. Sally sends the buyers information about various properties available in the area where they will be looking. When Sally first meets with the buyers, she takes about 20 minutes to conduct an interview to uncover their wants and needs. She then goes to the Multiple Listing Service to identify the properties that best fit their criteria. They spend the next six hours looking at property. Sally treats them to a lunch at midday. At 5 p.m., they decide to write an offer on one of the houses they saw. Sally does a great job of negotiating and at 10 p.m., the buyers purchase the property for $5,000 less then they thought they would have to pay. The buyers return home.

Scenario 2:

Sally receives a relocation referral for Mr. and Mrs. Buyer. After spending about 30 minutes on the phone interviewing them, Sally asks the buyers to send her some pictures of their property so she can do a better job locating what they really want. She also has her mortgage broker contact the buyers so they can be pre-qualified.

After speaking with the buyers, Sally goes to the Multiple Listing Service and pulls out all the listings that meet their criteria. Sally obtains permission from each seller to photograph their property and send the digital photos to her buyers. Sally burns these on a disk as well as providing a separate e-mail containing links to all the properties that have virtual tours. Sally prints up the listing information for each property. Her package also includes all the forms the buyers will need during the transaction, useful Chamber of Commerce and school information, best places to stay, and coupons for two of the best restaurants in the area. Sally overnights the package to the buyers. Based upon the information Sally provides, the buyers identify four properties they want to see.

On showing day, Sally has plenty of bottled water, snacks for the buyers, and games to keep their children occupied while they view property. At 11 a.m., the buyers decide on a property. While the buyers are having lunch, Sally goes back to the office to run the comparable sales and to research the property. Sally learns the property has been on the market for 190 days. She contacts the listing agent and discovers the buyers just reduced their price after her showing. Sally drafts the offer as per the buyers’ instructions, but leaves the price blank. After lunch, Sally reviews the comparable sales and the price reduction. The buyers make an offer and purchase the property for $10,000 less than they anticipated. During the offer negotiation, Sally asks the sellers to complete the disclosure statement so it can be included as part of the negotiation process. At 1 p.m., the buyers have a signed purchase contract. Sally arranges for the buyers to return to the property to measure as well as look at the area where there was a roof leak last month. In addition to the normal inspections, the buyers decide they would also like a roofer to check the quality of the roof repair. At 2 p.m., Sally treats the kids to an ice cream cone and returns the buyers to their hotel. The buyers spend the rest of the day lounging by the pool.

In each case, the buyers received good customer service. The question is what makes the second scenario superior to the first? The difference is in the “customer experience.”

The “customer experience” involves much more than customer service. The “customer experience” begins from the moment you first talk to the client and runs throughout the transaction. It includes how comfortable your car is, how good your office looks, how well you treat your clients, as well as how your clients interact with service providers you recommend.

To learn more about how you can provide a customer experience your clients will love, watch for next week’s column: “Ten Steps to Providing a Great Customer Experience.”

Special thanks to Byron Van Arsdale, co-owner of RealEstateCoach.com, whose work is the basis for this column.

Bernice Ross is an owner of Realestatecoach.com and can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

***

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