I am a big fan of superior customer service. I’ve written about it frequently (both the good and the bad). In fact I usually: 1) tend to over-tip when I get great service; and 2) have made “superior customer service” the mantra of our real estate brokerage.
Last week I flew US Airways from Phoenix to San Francisco. The flight was a disaster, from delays to partial boarding to de-boarding and finally to the cancellation of the flight.
Now flight cancellations are no ones idea of fun. Everyone wants to get where they are going, and some of course have connecting flights. It was how the gate agents handled the re-booking of flights that made for a demonstration in how not to make your customers happy.
I love to watch how both employees and customers react in these types of situations. In their defense, the airline is in almost a no-win situation. Ultimately, they aren’t going to please anyone. But there are ways they could have minimized the damage.
Here are a few things I heard:
When asked if the airline was going to compensate travelers for extra ground transportation, a gate attendant responded, “Nope, it’s not our fault. You’re on your own.”
That comes across rude and crass. Why not try, “I’m sorry sir, this is beyond our control and we won’t be providing any compensation. I understand this is frustrating, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
Same bottom line, and while they won’t like it, most will accept it and be more understanding.
Want to take the next step? Add this to the above — “We’ve got some information here about the trains and rapid transit systems in the Bay area that can minimize the impact of this change for you”.
One passenger pointed out that they had used their frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class. He was none-to-pleased when he found out he’d now be in a middle seat in coach.
He asked the attendant how he could get the miles he used credited to his account. The response? “I don’t know. You can try calling.”
A more appropriate, customer-centric response would be, “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out” — and pick up the phone and find out. The guy should have walked away from the counter not only with his credited miles, but additional miles for his trouble.
How does this relate to real estate?
There are many things in a real estate transaction that are out of the direct control of the agent. It’s easy to say, “It’s not my fault” and “there’s nothing I can do”.
There is always something you can do. Even if it is just educating and informing the client about what is happening. Remember that most people only buy and sell a few houses in their lifetime. Not knowing, or not understanding, what is going on is extremely stressful to people. Reduce that stress, help the client understand.
You may also be surprised just how much you really can do. Appraisal comes in low? Don’t just accept that and say, “It’s the appraisers fault, nothing I can do.” Pick up the phone and call the appraiser. Get an idea where they are coming from. Ask them if you can provide additional comps, or convince them the trashed out REO they are using isn’t appropriate.
As an agent, you basically have to assume every transaction will fall apart and put plans and processes in place to prevent that before it happens. Yes, no matter what you do, some deals will go south. Adopt a proactive customer service approach however, and you may find you can pull many things together, or minimize the negative consequences and keep your clients in their happy place.
Photo Credit: jm3