What can Zappos teach the world of real estate?

Services for Real Estate Pros with Globrix

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.

Be contactable
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.

Comments (14)

Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

OMG Poppy!  Zappos is my FAV--and you know why--because of their customer service!  GREAT point and great post on a fantastic company!


Jun 12, 2008 04:14 AM
Poppy Dinsey
Globrix - Anaheim, CA
London, UK

Debe - Glad you liked it! Zappos don't ship international (for a good reason, the service wouldn't be good enough) but I'm a big fan of them too :-)

Jun 12, 2008 04:17 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

That is SUCH a shame because their delivery is quite speedy and if you need to return, that's prompt and painless also!  They truly do provide the best customer service of any online store that I've ever used--and I keep going back because I know that I can count on them!  (Plus they sell my size that is hard to find locally)!

Debe in Charlotte

Jun 12, 2008 04:31 AM
Thomas E. Elder
Mortgage Broker Compliance Consultants - Forest Hill, MD
Founder, Mortgage Broker Compliance Consultants

All we have is customer service.  That is what helps to expand our brand.   I am certain that people could get a mortgage anywhere, but they choose my company because of the experience that they or someone they know had.   Great post.  Have a great weekend.

Jun 13, 2008 12:24 AM
Kevin McGourty
Realty ONE Group - Phoenix, AZ

Look on the bright side of a market slowing down -- it will get of the riff-raft agents that are not going to be able to make money with marginal work.

Jun 13, 2008 10:33 AM
Justin Williams
Independent - Virginia Beach, VA
Loan Officer

Very True indeed, sometimes Customer Service can make or break a business.  I know I have been very picky  when choosing where to shop lately, for example I had great customer expierence with the Home Depot down the street compared to the lowes next to my house, I will go the extra mile to just shop at Home Depot because of the customer service, both stores keep in mind sell the same things anyways.  Good Post

Jun 14, 2008 04:48 PM
Eric Kodner
Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes - Minnetonka, MN
Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island

Poppy, without providing excellent customer service, there's little or nothing to distinguish what we offer from the work of others.

Jun 14, 2008 04:56 PM
No Longer Active in Staging. No Longer Staging
Hickory, NC

Poppy - we can ALWAYS step up our service, it needs constant attention.. Thanks for the post - now I need to go buy some shoes ;-) God bless,

Jun 15, 2008 08:01 AM
Kerry Lucasse
eXp Realty - Urban Nest Real Estate Group - Atlanta, GA
Your Urban Nest Atlanta Real Estate Consultant

I have been a raving fan of Zappos for years and buy 90% of my shoes on their site.  I never thought of the correlation between real estate and their amazing service, but thanks to your post, I do!

- kerry lucasse

Jun 15, 2008 12:22 PM
Poppy Dinsey
Globrix - Anaheim, CA
London, UK

Maryland Mortgage Experts - Thanks! You're right, there's a lot of choice out there so it's service that will bring repeat business.

Kevin - I agree, the good side of any market slow down is that it gets rid of those that were just riding along in the good times.

Justin - Thanks :-) I'm also just as picky and go to the places where service is better, even if it's more expensive. And you can bet bueyrs and sellers are doing the same thing.


Jun 15, 2008 09:28 PM
Poppy Dinsey
Globrix - Anaheim, CA
London, UK

Eric - Exactly! Have a great week.

Cheryl - Glad you liked the post, happy shoe hunting :-)

Kerry - Thanks for stopping by, Zappos certainly have a lot of happy customers!

Jun 15, 2008 09:30 PM
Sabrina Kelley
ERA Herman Group Real Estate - Woodland Park, CO
Woodland Park Colorado Mountain Homes and Land

Thank you so much for pointing out that it is what we can do for the customer.

I will always expend more money for great service Poppy.

As a connoisseur of elite service I understand how to provide the same level of excellence in my Real Estate profession as I would expect from other professions.

Jun 16, 2008 01:25 PM
Poppy Dinsey
Globrix - Anaheim, CA
London, UK

Sabrina - Thanks for stopping by, the phrase 'treat others as you'd wish to be treated' should always be applied professionally...it's not just something we teach our kids at kindergarten to get them to play nice together! It sounds like you give your clients fantastic customer service, have a great week :-)

Jun 16, 2008 11:11 PM
C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

Poppy D, awesome talking points! I love the Zappos analogy. When people love the customer service, it will bring them back in every time.  I agree with Justin as well. I tend to go out of my way to shop where I like the service, rather than stay close by and shop in some stores near my home.

Jul 05, 2008 09:17 AM