I have never heard of a scenario where customers and sales have decreased because an estate agent has actively invested in its staff. Quite the opposite in fact. It doesn’t matter how online-focused an estate agent is, the industry is too emotionally driven to ever rest on its laurels when it comes to customer service delivery.
The emotion is real. A Which? survey showed that seven out of 10 (70 per cent) respondents said selling their house was stressful, and 69 per cent said the same about buying a house. When emotions are running that high, customers really do have to be handled with kid gloves – but this is where some estate agents fall down.
Estate agency directors ask me about quick and easy ways can be implemented to improve customer service. The reality is to improve customer service quickly you must improve it slowly, and with constant reviewing to keep people sharp.
That might be off-putting to some estate agents, but the long-game wins. Developing a culture of excellent customer service will eventually mean the competition doesn’t even come close. Warren Buffett said that he is unlikely to remember the price of a car he bought a few years ago, but he will always remember the experience with the person who sold it to him. “Either I felt very good about the person who dealt with me, or I thought the next time I will go someplace else.”
The first trick is to get the right people in place, skills can be taught, attitude – a kind heart and the will to learn – cannot.
‘The estate agent’ is the interaction that a client has with the people who work there. For stressed-out buyers and sellers, the quality of the conversations, the phone calls, the emails and the meet-and-greet sells the business. They’ll remember the friendly phone conversation, the reassuring smiles and extra mile taken to help them.
If the estate agent is the interactions, then the business is the people. You’ll often hear business gurus lament that ‘people are the key to success’ – no estate agent that has ever won awards and a reputation to match will ever disagree.
THE KIND HEART
The first trick to creating such customer service is to get the right people in place. Skills can be taught, attitude – a kind heart and the will to learn – cannot. Developing a culture can be difficult to put into practice but once in place, should be unshakeable.
Developing a positive culture happens naturally once everyone has the same objective i.e. clients must be happy, as it is evolved from the ideas and behaviours of those working there. A conscious effort must be made to treat everyone like a million pound customer when they get in touch, from the briefest email to the longest meeting.
This culture also acts as a safety net for any eventuality or risk of client disappointment. If the client is being handled by a manager who isn’t available, the other members of staff will treat them as if they were their own particular clients, making them feel that they are the estate agents most important customer.
It only takes one person being less than friendly, or apathetic towards a client to have a detrimental effect on the attitudes of the team. This is where choosing staff carefully pays off.
Once you have a team of people fanatical about delivering high levels of customer service and a positive culture in place, it’s time to start training for specific skills in client handling. Multi-award winning estate agent, Karl Tatler Estate Agents, says that hiring people with the necessary behaviour and attitude towards the customer is key; the process of training and then coaching all staff which has taken the business to where it is today.
Karl Tatler, Managing Director, says, “Having the customer at the forefront of every decision we make is critical, we constantly review and evolve how we work in order to ensure our clients always receive the best possible service. It’s hundreds of minute tweaks all the time, there is no quick fix to great customer service. This has served us well over our 19 years, with nearly two thirds of current clients being either returning clients or clients who have been recommended to use us.”
This method of maintaining and developing customer service has also made the estate agency a dynamic model, which is particularly pertinent during these times of the rise of online estate agent.
“We’re always innovating, never complacent, but to be effective, we need a strong team of people who can adeptly handle our customers so we can concentrate on growing. To do so we need the training and coaching to run behind the innovation. That connection is important.”