As the market shifts and home-value growth and home sales begin to tumble, agents are wondering how to keep their businesses thriving. Is the key to success investing in a shiny new proprietary search tool? Is it in offering discounted services? Or could a slick social media marketing plan be the antidote?
Found Realty broker-owner Jena Turner and Engel & Völkers associate broker Mable Ivory, think the answer for maintaining a healthy business is offering world-class customer service.
“I make everyone feel like they’re a million-dollar client,” said Ivory, who primarily serves buyers with budgets under the $1 million mark. “Our industry trains us to only give million-dollar clients white glove service. I treat everyone really well.”
For Ivory, treating everyone well includes providing food and bottles of Fiji and San Pellegrino at listing appointments and organizing a twilight home tour with cheese and wine for a couple who were unsure about a listing (they made an offer after the tour was over).
“It’s more of an investment, but people feel special,” she said, referring to the amount of time and money she spends assisting clients. “It’s cheesy, but it’s so easy to do. And you stand out because no one else is doing it.”
Turner echoed Ivory’s statement, saying that the success of her brokerage is due to the high level of customer service her team provides, which includes fully staging every listing.
“I’m really arrogant about charging full price commissions because of the level of customer service we provide,” she noted.
To take her customer service experience up a notch, Turner revamped her transaction process and added a new position to her team. She recently hired “someone to be nice” to clients during the buying and selling process so the transaction manager can fully dedicate their time to handling paperwork.
The concierge-like role includes providing lunch for clients during meetings, delivering handwritten notes and gift cards, and doing general check-ins to make sure everything is moving smoothly.
“Those two people boss me around,” Turner said. “By doing that, we’ve seen double and triple the amount of referrals during the 30-day transaction.”
But both women were sure to note that exemplary customer service doesn’t end when the transaction does — it should continue well after the buyer or seller signs on the dotted line.
For example, Ivory helped a client plan his engagement photo shoot, helping him find the perfect photographer for the moment. She’s even kept in touch with one of her first buyers who bought a Bronx home for $200,000 nearly a decade ago. That buyer’s home is now worth $1 million.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I get to know my clients beyond the property,” Ivory said.
Turner keeps in touch with past clients by inviting them to a supper club. She has a database of clients who have provided referrals, and twice a month, she chooses a client at random for a free dinner. Each client is able to invite up to 10 guests, and Turner provides dinner and drinks.
Often, she says, clients invite her to stay for the dinner, and she’s able to connect with their family and friends.
“My spend [is] $500 per month, but I’m meeting 20 new people that I wouldn’t have met,” Turner said. “At a certain point, I feel that I’ll have to do this once a week because so many people are talking about it in our sphere.”
When it comes down to it, Mable says customer service is about investing in clients and making sure they’re happy — something that increases your peace of mind, your bottom line and lifts the reputation of the industry as a whole.
“It’s cheesy, but it’s so easy to do,” she said. “There’s research that says real estate agents are the least liked and least trusted sales professionals in the sales industry. I want to fight against that.”
“If they can’t be happy, I can’t be happy,” Mable added.