Concerned your relationship with your client is on shaky ground? Here are a few telltale signs that your customers might be taking their business to another agent (and how to fix those issues).

Is the writing on the wall, and you are choosing to ignore it? Maintaining healthy relationships with clients is paramount in a multiple-offer market. How you communicate and handle your client’s disappointment can be the difference between a five-star review or the loss of a potential closing after weeks of hard work.

John Gottman is a clinical psychologist and one of the world’s leading experts on lasting relationships. According to Gottman, there are four distinct communication styles that are damaging to a relationship.

So if you’re worried your relationship with your clients is on shaky ground, here are four signs they might be shopping for another agent — and a few ways you could potentially turn it around. 

1. Criticism

Low inventory spurs many critiques during the transaction from all sides. Customers may be grading their team’s every move as they search to win a new home. Agents may be more critical of clients’ choices that may lead to several lost offers.

Agents may also be critical of unrealistic expectations of negotiations and timelines. When your clients or managing broker offer criticism, try answering with acknowledgment and then provide solutions. Treat it as a learning scenario. Thank them for calling the issue to attention so that you can work to address it as best you can.

2. Defensiveness

Are you or your client angrily defending actions, causes and results? Defensiveness is a vital sign that you and your client are not being heard in the transaction.

This is a great scenario to bring a trusted third party to help out. (Be sure to maintain as much client confidentiality as possible). Do not be afraid to ask if you are in the wrong. That trusted adviser may have the correct answer you are looking for.

3. Contempt

Sarcasm, eye-rolling and dismissiveness signify that you and the client are beginning to resent or question the relationship. This lack of respect can also be a signal of a lack of confidence.

In a digital world that uses memes as a socially acceptable way to express daily frustrations, your sarcasm game may need to be reigned in a bit. Just remember humor sometimes can come at another’s expense.

Keep things light, and look for ways to meet negativity with positive messages. Tone is hard to read or “hear” in emails and texts. When in doubt, make a live call or send a quick video for clarification.

4. Stonewalling or ghosting

This is the last sign and often the most problematic. This typically happens when a client feels the need to shut down. This may have nothing to do with you, or it may have everything to do with how the client felt heard in the relationship.

It is essential to acknowledge the behavior. Make sure you say something like, “Dear client, I’ve tried to reach you about [insert topic], and I have been unable to connect with you. Feel free to reach out to me when you get a spare moment, and here are some online resources about your transaction for you to review.”

Another helpful tip is to identify a clear “out” for either of you at the beginning of the transaction. Consult with your broker about the best way to go about this, as sometimes this is what is best for both parties in the relationship. 

One way to track these signals is to ask yourself these questions when working on your weekly client reviews. Do I feel criticized? Do I have to defend my actions? Am I resentful of the time I have to spend with this client? Do I want to avoid this person altogether?

Improving communication takes hard work and dedication. Remember to read the room often; Your personality and attention to detail are your secret weapons. If you are struggling to make all of the communications work, you may need to designate an “executive client care assistant” to help you maintain balance.

Remember, the top consumer complaints are having to wait, being unable to reach support, and having to repeat themselves. Watch for the signs and maintain your customers. 

By day, Rachael Hite helps agents develop their business. By night, she’s tweeting and blogging. Feel free to tweet her @rachaelhite.

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