Most businesses either provide or claim to provide great customer service, and real estate professionals are no exception. We all have our own conception of just what constitutes great customer service, and most of us strive to do our best to constantly improve. Lots has been written, and lots of dollars have been spent with the goal of being the best we can be.
The most common and possibly the most effective way to improve one's customer service is to observe businesses that are really great and try to adapt their style and execution. A second, and probably less effective way is to do exactly the opposite of a business that is outstanding in their poor service. Enter newspaper circulation departments, specific to me the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Follow the opposite of these steps and you could be outstanding in the service area.
- Fail to provide the product you promised. In the case of my newspaper subscription, that means failing to deliver one in four times. I subscribe to the Sunday paper and have experienced about a 25% failure to deliver rate. Of course, that means I spend one in four Sunday mornings on the phone with them.
- Provide a customer service phone line that usually "answers" with a busy signal. Once a customer actually reaches the line, be sure that they are faced with the voice response system from hell. That will get some customers to give up and end the call.
- When they finally navigate the voice response successfully, put them on hold. Play really bad music on hold, and play it really loud. This itself may cause some customers to give up and end the call. The loud and strange sounding music may cause some customers to think they will be talking to India if and when someone actually answers. That could also cause some to end the call and solve this particular customer service incident.
- Once one of those pesky customers actually reaches a human, ask to answer all the same questions that they had to punch in to their keypad in order to get through voice response from hell. Then offer to correct the deficiency. When asked how you plan to correct the perennial problem, shrug shoulders over the phone and "explain" that the persons responsible for delivering the paper don't actually work for you, and you cannot control their behavior.
- Finally, promise to have a paper delivered in an hour or two. This will usually end the call. No delivery is actually necessary, as your shift will end before the customer realizes that there was nothing delivered.
While there is only one major newspaper in this area, there are thousands of real estate brokers and salespersons. Survival in this business means that I either have to eliminate everyone else in the business, or I have to do as much as possible to be the opposite of the newspaper. While it would be great if things moved along smoothly all the time, stuff happens. The way one behaves when something unplanned occurs is what separates the bad from the good from the great.
The newspaper has emphasized that I have to do a few basic things. When the phone rings, answer it now. When a client or customer identifies a problem, fix it now. If appropriate, explain to the client or customer what steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence.