Opinion

Peeking under the hood of your consumer experience

Why your CX could be the biggest challenge that your business is facing

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I don’t know about you, but I am getting really tired of hearing about all the external challenges to the real estate brokerage business.

One day it is NAR, the next day it’s the portals, and then let’s not forget the issues surrounding the “to rate or not to rate” debate.

In my opinion, our biggest challenge as an industry comes from within the industry. I think we all need to take a lesson from the song “Man in the Mirror” that Michael Jackson made popular. As an industry, we need to take a good, long look in the mirror and at what we do and do not deliver to the consumer in terms of a predictable consumer experience.

Today, Realtors have 1.2 million ways of delivering a residential real estate experience. That equates to just that many variations of the consumer experience. Each experience differs by the independent contractor’s determination of what is needed (or not needed) to get the job done. Agents essentially create the standard for their own consumer experience and deliver it as they see fit.

The real challenge is that little to nothing is delivered to the consumer using a road map for a proven, predictable or replicable experience. No brand, no franchise, not even NAR assures a minimum standard of service for a real estate transaction.

And that is not good if you are trying to build a successful business. At the core of every successful business is, first and foremost, an amazing consumer experience, which I call the “CX.” Consumers gravitate toward those companies that have designed and deliver a consistent, great CX. This holds true in any business, and believe it or not, it’s especially true in the real estate business.

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I know what you are thinking, but I’m not referring to just the consumer’s experience on a website, something virtual like a user experience or user interface. A great CX is actually much bigger and far more complex than that.

I am referring to the way your company, your entire brand, interacts with the consumer, and not just an online user on your website. The importance of understanding the needs of the consumer and mirroring those needs in the consumer experience is the key. I strongly believe that the delivery of an improved CX is the key to the future of any residential brokerage business, and quite possibly the future of the entire residential real estate brokerage industry. At the very least, it is the key to creating a sustainable competitive advantage.

If you follow the lead of those who have provided an outstanding CX, you will find businesses that have captured consumer mindshare, and that is where you will find market share. Market share is consumer mindshare converted into business. Reducing this to the obvious would be to recount the experiences created by Nordstrom, Apple, Ritz-Carlton and Virgin Atlantic. All of these companies would certainly be on the list of those that deliver a great CX. It is this experience that they deliver, which can be replicated over and over, that creates loyal consumer mindshare.

Your company has what it needs to become a raving advocate for the consumer, a huge fan of transparency and a strong supporter of a predictable transactional experience.

So I will now ask you the obvious question: What’s in your CX?

Imagine you have assembled your leadership team at your brokerage company and asked them that same question. What would they say? What process would they define? Or better yet, what should they be saying?

Let’s list the key components of an amazing CX:

  • Predictable events
  • Ability to be replicated
  • Known deliverables
  • Consumer choice
  • A fully measured outcome

Now put your consumer hat on for a minute. Think of a great consumer experience, online or offline. What made it great? Were any of the components just listed considered in your evaluation of that experience? My bet is yes, so let’s try an example in business and see what makes up an amazing consumer experience. Let’s take a flight on Delta Airlines.

  • When you called to make a reservation or went to the airline’s website, how was your experience? Was the process standardized and scripted?
  • Were you provided with certain products and services each time you flew on the airline? Baggage handling process? In-flight entertainment options? Choices of seating by legroom? Preferred frequent traveler treatment?
  • Were you given choices for the level of service to be delivered? Coach? First class? Preferred seating?
  • Did the airline send you a survey that asked you about your overall travel experience? Did the survey solicit input about both your good and bad experiences? The feedback you provide along with the airline’s willingness to improve the CX could determine whether you fly on that airline again.

Now let’s take a look at traditional real estate services. The biggest dilemma we have in real estate is that there is no norm for the real estate transaction. Everything we do is basically random. But on your Delta Airlines flight, what would you think if only the ticket agent, the flight attendant or the pilot had control of the CX? What if on certain days you could use automated check-in, but on others you had to fax in your reservation to get a seat assignment? What if one day there were assigned seats and the next it was a free-for-all? What if pilots only used checklists on certain days when they felt it was appropriate? What if drinks were served only when flight attendants wanted to serve them? What if your baggage was delivered within 20 minutes of landing one day and three days later on a different occasion?

What would Delta Airlines stand for as a brand if this described its CX? How would anyone define their CX if it differed with every flight or by every crew? (And who would ever fly that airline if that were the case?)

Let’s face it, consumers do not enjoy being surprised, because when the element of surprise is involved, it usually involves nothing good. Most surprises in businesses are caused by those things that are missing in the CX.

Someone took a shortcut. Someone tried to save a dollar. And that is a real challenge for all brokerage companies today.

The result is that, as an industry, consumers don’t see us as predictable service providers. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s the nature of the business, and you can’t expect anything different when you’re managing independent contractors.”

My response? “You might be correct, but that still doesn’t relieve the consumer pressure on your company for an improved, more streamlined CX.”

Next time, we will examine ways for you to improve your CX and discuss how others in and around the real estate industry have effectively captured consumer mindshare by applying and offering an amazing CX.

Kenneth Jenny is an expert in the residential real estate brokerage industry and real estate marketing.