(This is Part 4 of a five-part series. See Part 1: Customer experience vital to successful real estate biz; Part 2: Top real estate agents dig for clues to consumers’ hearts; Part 3: Lock in consumers with great real estate advice and Part 5: Service trumps discounts in real estate.)

Most agents do a good job on providing their customers with a strong customer experience. Where many drop the ball, however, is by failing to continue to provide this same level of service once the transaction has closed.

Perhaps the most difficult task in the real estate business is staying in regular contact with both existing and past clients. Seventy-four percent of all buyers and seventy percent of all sellers would use their real estate agent again. The truth about what actually takes place is one of the saddest statistics in the business – only 27 percent actually do because their agent fails to stay in touch with them.

The five strategies below outline how to continue to give your clients a superb customer experience after their transaction has closed.

1. Take an hour each day to call past clients just to say “Hello.”

Sellers typically list their home with the agent they have seen face-to-face most recently. Real estate has always been about personal connection. To remain top of mind with your past clients, allocate one hour a day for calling people in your referral database. One agent who uses this approach sets out to call 50 people every day between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. He usually reaches four or five. He doesn’t call to ask for referrals. Instead, he merely stays in touch just as a good friend would check in periodically. Because he takes a strong interest in the personal lives of the people he represents, they consistently send him referrals. The result: “I have more business than I know what do with!”

2. Make face-to-face contact four times per year.

It takes up to 80 percent more effort to generate leads from cold sources as opposed to warm sources. Ideally, you should see every member of your referral database face-to-face at least once quarterly. To do this, stop by for a few minutes to drop off a real estate-related item. For example, at property-tax time, drop off a Competitive Market Analysis to help property owners determine whether they are eligible for a reduction in property taxes. At the beginning of the year, provide an annual report that contains all the sales for the last year. Pick something distinctive about the neighborhood such as a park, school, or monument and make that into the color cover for the report. You can customize it further by including phone numbers for local services, theaters and restaurants. If you have obtained an aerial view of the area, this another great item to drop off. For each person you see, always remember to thank them for their past business and ask if they know of anyone else who is thinking about buying or selling a home.

3. Hold an annual client appreciation event.

The goal in holding a client appreciation event is to create an experience your guests will talk about for a long time to come. When you express gratitude for their support of your business, it strengthens your connection and generates more referrals. Some fun ideas for client appreciation events include an evening of magic, a trip to an important baseball or football game where you provide the bus, the tickets and the refreshments, or the complete movie event where you rent an IMAX theater or do a theme dinner that coincides with a special screening of a movie.

4. Use technology to stay in touch.

If you have the new Red Tablet PC, write clients a handwritten e-mail when you think of them or see something that might be of interest. You can always send this as a regular e-mail or as a handwritten note. If you have video e-mail, send them a personal greeting on their birthday, anniversary and other holidays. Another way to stay in touch effortlessly is to use MyHomeManagementClub.com. The system contacts everyone you enter into the system three times per month with money-saving information, scam watches, and tips for being a homeowner rather than transaction-related material. A number of database management products such as Sharper Agent and Top Producer also have programs that allow you to stay in touch easily as well.

5. Make sure referrals receive a stellar customer experience.

When you receive a referral, immediately contact the person who made the referral to thank them for contacting you and send a handwritten thank-you note as well. Rather than waiting until the transaction closes, show your appreciation by dropping off movie tickets, brownies or a Starbuck’s gift certificate. Stay in contact with the person who made the referral by keeping them posted of their referral’s progress. While it is inappropriate to discuss the exact nature of what may be happening with the referral, you can say you are actively searching for a home or actively searching for buyers for their property. If the person who is referred to you does not hire you, be honest. Call the person who made the referral and let them know their referral hired someone else. Drop both parties a thank-you note expressing your appreciation. If the referral results in a closed transaction, follow-up with both parties and express your gratitude with a gift or other token of appreciation.

Following these five steps will keep your referral pipeline running strong. If you would like to know more about how the Customer Experience Expert concept impacts commissions, see next week’s column, “Does Service Trump Price?”

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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