It’s amazing what some companies take for granted.

It’s amazing what some companies leave on the table.

It’s amazing what some companies don’t do to blow their customers away.

It’s sad how little most companies invest in building affection with their customers. I could be talking about major real estate brands. I could be talking airlines.

It’s amazing what some companies take for granted.

It’s amazing what some companies leave on the table.

It’s amazing what some companies don’t do to blow their customers away.

It’s sad how little most companies invest in building affection with their customers. I could be talking about major real estate brands. I could be talking airlines. I could be talking about phone carriers.

My Verizon bill

After nearly dropping dead from the shock of my January cell-phone bill, I dialed 611 while pacing a trench in my living room.

As it turns out, the culprits were the hordes of Verizon folks who’d switched to AT&T over the holidays, causing my free mobile-to-mobile minutes to plummet. The result: Hundreds of new billable minutes added to an otherwise stable monthly bill.

Just like that.

Verizon could have built an alert of some kind that recognizes when we, the loyalists, are on the threshold of a violent overage. But they didn’t.

According to a summer poll conducted by M:Metrics, roughly two-thirds of people interested in buying the iPhone (the leading driver of a lot of recent carrier-switching) are not currently AT&T customers.

You would think the world’s largest cell-phone carrier, Verizon, would strike back. A warning sent via text message would have helped. A voucher against spiked minutes due to the anomaly would have been mind-blowing. But the company instead chose to do nothing.

Being stuck is not the same as being loyal

I could leave Verizon, and go where? In a sea of phone carriers, they’re all the same. One is just as bad as the next. So I’m stuck with what I have. Corporate folks, as they crunch numbers, tend to view this repeat business as brand loyalty. I disagree. And if the foundation of your business is built on that premise, I’d check it for cracks.

Had Verizon checked, it would have noticed that after getting over the shock of the bill, I had to wait over an hour to finally reach a salesperson who took another 40 minutes to investigate why my bill was over $600.

I hung up frustrated, abused, discarded.

What does this have to do with real estate?

Everything. What are you doing right now to mine the richest vein before you — your existing and past customer base? What meaning are you applying to your brand right now that could translate into genuine loyalty?

Brokers: What are you doing right now, from the top down, to relieve frustration among your customers? To embrace them? To make them feel respected rather than used? Your brands are stabbed into America’s front yard. They know your names but they don’t know you. They are hard-pressed to express your value proposition. You are like everyone else. How are you leveraging your differences, your essence, to enhance a sense of loyalty?

AT&T partnered with Apple to create that new bond. It’s working. Verizon, on the other hand, continues to push its “Can you hear me now?” campaign as it remains deaf to the gripes of its customers.

And this is my point: In the face of today’s market, with all of the issues facing the American homeowner — from shrinking equity to volatile credit markets to impending foreclosure — what new bonds are real estate brokers creating? What new offerings or alerts are brokers presenting to past customers that could not only bring immediate benefit, relief, information or counsel to consumers, but also could assign some new sense of value for brokers and their brands?

Vendors: In the face of struggle, in light of the market and shrinking sales, what are you doing right now to drive new products, services, tools and pricing back to your current broker client base? Are you reengineering your technologies? Are you enhancing your old platforms? Are you working with modern code or are you just sticking to the same old, same old in hopes that your clients just continue writing checks because you’ve mistakenly confused the futility of finding a better vendor with loyalty?

Can you hear me now?

A new cell-phone carrier will one day emerge with a Zappos-like service ethic, an Apple-like retail experience and a Starwood-like rewards program built to cultivate affection and loyalty. Or not. What interests me is what this would look like in real estate. From consumers within the industry to homeowners outside it, all one has to do is gaze out across the landscape to see the millions of unclaimed, disloyal, stuck hearts who are looking, yearning and hoping for something they can fall in love with.

Don’t wish the cycles would turn; turn them yourself.

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.

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