For the Love of Coffee: A Lesson in Customer Service.
A few days ago I met a friend for coffee at a local diner. I arrived early and the hostess offered me a seat. I leisurely drank my coffee and checked my email, when a message popped up saying "I'm inside." Glancing to my left and right, I confirmed what I already knew: I was at the wrong diner.
I flagged down the waitress, told her my friend wasn't coming and that I needed to settle the bill. "Don't worry about it," she said, as she could see that my early had just turned to late. I left a full cup of coffee and a grateful tip and was on my way.
Once I arrived, I realized I had never been to this diner and could not believe that it was my recommendation! I apoligized for the mixup and we quickly got into conversation.
Our waitress showed up and asked what we wanted to order. We had not looked at our menus and both responded that we were just going to have coffee for now. With eyebrows raised and mouth agape, our waitress responed "So, you're not going to order anything? Well, ok..." She shuffled away in obvious disappointment. We looked at each other in disbelief. Did she just do that?!? About twenty minutes later, we decided to order some breakfast. We had a lot to catch up on, so we ate, drank more coffee and chatted away for about another hour.
He's not Checking In on Us, He's Making us Check Out!
In about another twenty minutes, the owner stopped at our table. We thought he was coming to check in on us. No. He came to tell us it was time for us to leave! Did we just land in some kind of long lost Seinfeld episode? Was John Quinones hiding behind the dishes ready to jump out saying "What would you do?" Who ever heard of being bounced out of a diner?
He went on to say that he has time limits on his tables and we had exceeded ours. We looked around this diner of empy booths and shook our heads. My friend retorted audibly "I'll never come to this place again."
As we dutifully put on our coats, the waitress, seeming weak from the whole experience, rolled her eyes and in a nasaly voice said "thank you ladies, we really appreciate your business." Really? "You do? "Did we do something wrong?" I thought. "You're welcome," I said with a forced smile; my friend had one foot already out the door.
Great Service Does't Cost Much. Bad Service Costs a Lot!
These two experiences, being back to back, led to my tale of two diners. For the cost of a cup of coffee, the first waitress let me go guilt free, leaving me with a good, lasting impression of her and the diner. I will certainly return. The automony she exercised to make that call probably came from the top. Likewise with the behavior of the second waitress.
The second diner lost a lifetime of sales from me, my friend and potential sales from others. We are always talking about networking; that second diner could have become our monthly meeting place. Not now. Pardon the pun, but they really left a bad taste in our mouths.
I know this isn't a new concept, but the experience caused me to reflect on a good lesson: leave your sour grapes at home! Complain to your spouse, friend or colleague, but don't show people how disappointed you are when you are not the one to get the listing, have your contract accepted or experience any other negative event.
If you lost a listing, thank the seller for their time and consideration. If they interviewed more than one agent, it was likely a difficult decision for them. Ask them why they didn't choose you or what you could have done differently to earn their business. Wish them good luck and move on; let them go without the guilt trip!
You are Your Brand.
I have been given second chances when I wasn't the first realtor hired or my buyer's offer wasn't accepted. I've also been in the position to go back to a buyer's agent when the first offer didn't work out. It's quite natural to make the first calls to the agents who bowed out gracefully than the ones who gave you a hard time.
As I write this I think about times in the past where I wasn't on my best behavior. I wish I could go back and change what I said or how I said it. But I've learned. The real estate industry-and life-has many ups and downs. We are being tested daily. More than our marketing materials, head shots or our mastery of real estate data, our everyday actions are the calling cards we leave behind. When we think about a career vs. a single sale, it is our actions that will differentiate us from our competitors in the long run.
So, before you react to your next disappointment, take a deep breath, count to ten and think about the tale of two diners!