On the face of it, you wouldn’t really expect an online shoe shop to work. Shoes are one of the only items you ‘need’ to have tried on before you can confidently make a purchase. If you buy them online you run the risk they don’t fit, if they don’t fit you have the hassle and cost of sending them back. I will never get over the day I had to return a pair of Gucci boots that I’d bought online and couldn’t get a replacement. Yet Zappos has become a very successful online shoe shop, so successful that they now sell clothes and other accessories, oh and they’re on track to hit 1 billion dollars worth of sales this year. So how does this relate to the world of property? Granted, like any woman I could make shoes relate to pretty much anything, but the Zappos story should be truly inspiring for anyone working in real estate.
Do you sell property, or do you sell good customer service?
Zappos don’t see themselves as an online shoe store, they see themselves as a service company that happens to sell shoes. You don’t have to give a hoot about shoes to work there, but you have to be passionate about customer service. Zappos has become the darling of American brands not through big glittery advertising campaigns, but by friends telling friends how quick their shoes arrived. Real estate is a service industry, for an estate agency to have long term success you need to have impeccable customer service.
This past weekend I got to hang out with Tony and Alfred (CEO & COO at Zappos) and the topic of customer service came up. I told Alfred about the experiment I did last year on estate agents and email leads, he was shocked to see how lazy agents were at communicating via email. Granted the experiment was small and quite a while ago now, but users still regularly contact Zoomf saying they requested a viewing with X Agent and never got a response.
Zappos are contactable 24/7, if you have a problem with your order at 4am then a real life person in Vegas is happily waiting to help you. It’s not feasible or necessary for an estate agent to be contactable around the clock 365 days a year, but it shouldn’t be a battle for a tenant/buyer/seller to get hold of one. Some agencies are very good at doing Sunday showings and meeting clients in the evenings out of standard office hours, yet there are others who don’t even have voicemail. If you put a contact email on your website, someone needs to be monitoring that inbox like a hawk. If an email comes in for a property that’s no longer available, let the potential client know. I say potential client because if you promptly email back that the property is no longer available, then they’ll be pleased you let them know and more inclined to see what other properties are on your books. A courteous ‘property no longer available’ email template only takes a few minutes to set up.
It’s more important now than ever before
In a perfect world, consumers (of any good or service) would get fantastic service all the time. Sometimes, it’s not until things get tough for the providers that the service gets attention. We’ve been living in a world where agents don’t need to answer that ringing cellphone or upload a picture of that apartment, the property market’s been booming with sales practically completing themselves. If there’s ever been a time to start looking at customer service it’s now. With all the anxiety surrounding the market at the moment, people aren’t so quick to sign on the dotted line. Take it as an opportunity to shake up the way you deal with clients, be the estate agent who’s presence is felt on the internet through blog posts and twitter feeds rather than featuring in I hate X Agent forums.
According to Plebble.com the organisation with the worst user ratings in thie United Kingdom is not BT, British Gas or the government, it’s an estate agency. Real esate agents get a lot of unfair criticism, there are plenty of agents who work very hard to build a positive brand, but there’s also plenty of rotten eggs which taint the industry’s image as a whole. If you’re an offender, do your clients and your business a favour by addressing the issue of customer service, and then let satisfied customers do your advertising for you.