Let me preface by stating that I am not an expert. I have a simple goal to try to help agents develop a business plan, nurture their sphere of influence and encourage stellar customer care. I worked in real estate for seven years before making the move to train and teach full time. The life lessons I learned in that time have been priceless. Last summer my son and I rescued Izzy from a local shelter, and I recently realized that she is the perfect analogy for the lessons I have learned about customer/client care.
I wanted a small, older dog. My son had other plans; he instantly bonded with a black and white pitbull mix named Izzy. My heart dropped a little when I read the index card on her cage: “Izzy has been returned a few times and does not get along well with cats.”
Some 45 minutes later, I found myself driving home with the kid and the dog sleeping together in the back seat. (FYI: If you need help with your negotiating skills, I suggest role-playing with a 7-year-old boy who needs a dog.)
Lessons learned from Izzy
1. Have you left the gate open?
It is critical that agents take time to build their database. Many agents lose valuable referral business because they have “left the gate open” and did not have a customer care system in place. Your database is the fence for your clients. If you have not built a solid fence, you cannot get angry at friends, family or Internet leads from portals if they walk or run away from you.
2. Everything is scary.
The list of things my “big” dog is afraid of is longer than the things she is not afraid of. I quickly learned that Izzy was not socialized properly when I brought her home and everything terrified her. The crate, getting groomed, loud noises, the dark — you name it; it scared her. Customers purchasing in a recovering market might also feel that everything is scary. We are seeing a resurgence of boomerang buyers, buyers who might have lost their homes a few years ago due to the recession. It is critical to have educational materials on hand to reduce the fear factors and bust common myths.
3. Trouble: It happens.
Izzy is very busy. If she does not have something to do, she will find something to do — and this something is often “trouble.” Your clients and customers will sometimes find themselves in “trouble” now and then. Sometimes it is entirely because they didn’t know or they couldn’t help it.
Clients will make mistakes. They will bounce earnest money checks, and they will go buy furniture or a new car. Sometimes they reveal they have tax issues, or they will just quit their job on a whim. Or the trouble might be more technical, such as backing out over malfunctioning interior door knobs.
Review lesson two: Then, if “accidents” still happen, remember it’s part of the job. No one said that it was perfect. Remember to factor in a few losses because nothing is guaranteed until you close the deal.
4. Focus on the good
There are days when nothing goes right. Izzy gets scared of someone coming in the front door; she pees on the floor; she knocks over the trash can as she races around the corner; she chews up a new pair of sandals after destroying and escaping her crate again; and then she vomits the chewed-up sandal parts on my lap.
For the new agents reading this, I’m going to get real. This job is hard. This will be the hardest job you have ever had. If you are having a bad day, you need to resolve to have a better one tomorrow and focus on the end goal. When you have a super client who is appreciative, file those moments away for when you need a reminder of why you sell. The best agents I work with absolutely love what they do. They love to search, show and sell. Their passion keeps them going. Focus on the good and providing good service. That is the best client/customer service you can offer.
As spring is finally breaking, I am reflecting on Izzy’s progress. She is not a “perfect” dog, but she is getting better. I am now able to take her on walks, and she doesn’t drag me across the road or pull me to the ground. She is having fewer accidents. She has learned to respect baby gates and has gone 90 days cold turkey without chewing shoes. She puts her paw over my hand when she sleeps at night, as if to make sure I’m still there.
Remember that clients and customers are not perfect. Nor should you expect them to be. We are a service-based industry, and I think sometimes agents get so caught up in making the sale and “locking” people down that they forget the basics of customers service.
The bottom line
If you want to stop losing business and stop “buying new business,” revamp your customer care system. Kindness is a no-brainer investment, and patience pays dividends.
By day, Rachael Hite helps agents develop their business. By night, she’s tweeting for listingdepot.com.