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It IS All About Me. Deal With It.


Me. Me. Me.

Until I became a real estate agent, I never paid close attention to my customer service experiences. I mean, I would know if I had an exceptionally good or bad experience, but beyond a brief note of that in my head, I never paid that much attention.

After about 3 years in real estate, and countless classes and books and observations about interacting with people in a customer-service way, I started looking at how I spoke to people and listened to people in a whole new light.

I started really listening to people – not just waiting for my turn to talk.

I started trying to remember little things about people – instead of thinking about myself while they talked about themselves.

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Now, 7 years into this business, I have learned to SHUT UP in a way I never thought possible. I have learned that people tend to like me NOT for what I tell them about ME, but what I let THEM tell ME about THEMSELVES.

It all came full circle last week when I was on the customer end of a major purchase. Derek and I got rid of our 4-Door Dodge Ram Gas Guzzling Monster Car Payment and went on the hunt for a 2001 Jeep Cherokee that we were going to pay cash for.

I had already been noticing my restaurant and retail experiences and making notes of WHY I was happy with service and WHY I was not happy, but this car buying experience was quite an eye-opener.

Our search started with an internet scam, which made me realize that a lot of people cannot trust what is on the internet unless they can attach a live, human being to the transaction process. In the wonderful world of real estate, blogging is good for that.

We wound up driving around to different dealerships and came across 5 different types of customer service:

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  1. Please-Let-Me-Further-the-Bad-Reputation-that-Car-Salesmen-Have: One person followed our car from the moment we entered the lot until we parked and almost opened our door for us (of course, after we took the “long way” to customer parking). Not once did this person ask us what we wanted or why we wanted it. They just jabbering on and on about their new financing programs and how cheap the 2008 sedan would be every month. We let them go on for a few minutes before WE had to tell THEM what we were looking for and that we were not going to finance anything. Thank goodness they didn’t have what we wanted. I would have hated for that guy to have gotten a commission from our purchase.
  2. Hello? Anyone out there?: One dealership had a couple “interesting” Jeeps and we wanted more information on. No one was there in the lot so we headed inside. There were 2 people on the phone, so we waited for a few minutes. No one even acknowledged us, so we went back outside and walked across the street to a different dealer. Nothing there so we walked back. Finally, we got a guy to talk to us. His first words were, “I can’t talk to you. You went across the street. I SAW you.” I am sure he was joking, but I had to tell him that MAYBE if someone was HERE to answer our questions, we would have stayed? They said that they had a Jeep we wanted at their other location but 6 other people wanted it. Lies AND scare tactics. Blech.
  3. You are not important and I will NOT get off my phone while showing you cars: I am too busy and too important for you.
  4. I am not really listening to you: This guy told us his whole life story and I could barely get a word in edgewise to ask important questions about my big purchase.

Ultimately, I become OH SO aware of how consumers are thinking …

  • This is about ME and how I am going to spend MY money on something that is going to be a MAJOR part of MY life.
  • I do not care about YOU. I just care about how YOU can help ME make the best decision in the quickest amount of time possible.
  • I want to feel/think that I am actually important to you.
  • I want YOU to KNOW and understand MY wants and needs.
  • I want you to make comments and actions based off of wants and needs that I have told you.
  • I want you to ask me questions so I can better understand my own wants and needs better.
  • I want you to be slightly intuitive and read my face and body language as well as actually LISTEN to my words.
  • I want you to give me my space when it is apparent that I need to “talk it over” with my significant other.
  • I am totally consumed with my possible purchase and I do not want any distractions, except for maybe a nice cold bottle of water.
  • I want to be happy with my decision and my purchase.
  • I want you to do what you tell me you are going to do and then, maybe, do a little bit more.
  • (Jeesh. I wish I could just tell one person what I wanted and they would go find it for me.)

Customer service experience #5 was the winner.

  1. What can I do for you? We finally found our Jeep. Beautiful, red, 2001 Jeep Cherokee with 57k miles. We were handed the keys, to take it for a spin and offered directions to the best roads and off-roads to test it on. Here is my cell phone number please call me with any questions you have on your test drive. What do you like about it? What can we do for you to make this a purchase you will be happy with? What didn’t you like? Oh, then we will replace BOTH those speakers. You seem hesitant about the price. What do you think is fair? Okay, we can do that. What other questions do you have? Would you like some water? Let me give you 2 a few minutes to talk about it. I will be in that office over there when you are ready. May I have a few of your cards? I seem to always run into people who are looking to buy or sell a home. It was great working with you. Here is your new car. I ran it though our detail shop again. How does it look? Congratulations on your new purchase!

Written By

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Maureen Francis

    March 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Isn’t it funny how we become more aware of our own actions as we observe others? Recently my mother’s financial planner solicited my business. He is really a pro and I loved observing how he went about trying to win me over even though I said I wasn’t changing brokers. I’m happy with my current broker, but if I ever needed to make a move, I know I would be happy with her guy all because he kept asking questions about me and looking for ways to help me meet my financial needs. I keep thinking about how I can apply his approach to my business to make my clients even happier!

  2. Chris Shouse

    March 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Wow a really good lesson in customer service and I hope that I give as well as I get. You did just remind me I need to listen more.

  3. RoundSparrow

    March 30, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Just don’t expect this rampant consumerism to last forever. It has been going on since we ignored our lesson in the 1970’s…. and it may go on another 10 years or maybe only another 10 months.

    I at least hope you recognize the skill you learned is not one that humans really want to learn.

    I appreciate you sharing, not trying to be negative toward you, just trying to counter the message with the long-long-long term.

  4. Mike Farmer

    March 30, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    We soon won’t have to worry about dealing with humans to buy stuff.

  5. Jennifer Rathbun

    March 30, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Sometimes it’s easier to listen to customers than family. I hope to let my family know that they come first and what they are trying to say is important.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 30, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I am one of those people that doesn’t send food back, even if it isn’t cooked right; because I don’t want to put extra work on someone. I’ve learned that stuff is just too expensive and I need to teach my girls to ineteract and make sure that you do get what you pay for…. politely.

    We really need to do a better job of understanding that the consumer doesn’t care about us, and that’s just ok. It’s a customer service job. If you want to be needed, have some kids…. yeah, that works 🙂

    The only person who cares about me is my wife. To an extent, that’s how I think it should be.

  7. Mariana

    March 30, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Maureen – It is like when you learn a new word and then you hear it everywhere. Or you buy a new red Jeep and now all you see are red Jeeps…

    Chris – I think that we ALL could listen more.

    RoundSparrow – I think you are right. Human nature is rather me-me.

    Mike – Yes and no. I think that there will ALWAYS be soem form of human interaction, but maybe in different ways.

  8. Mariana

    March 30, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Matthew- I agree. I really only care that my friends and family cares about me and can only hope that more people have friends and family that truly care about them as well.

  9. Missy Caulk

    March 30, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    This is identical to how I ended up with a certified Lexus. Same thing…. now I’m addicted and can’t go anywhere else, plasma tv’s, home made cookies, cappuccino coffee and excellent service. I told my team to go observe and then go to Ford.

  10. Mariana

    March 30, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Missy – What a great team lesson.

  11. Cyndee Haydon

    March 30, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Mariana – loved this post and the metaphor to real estate. Isn’t it great when we exceed at #5 – and ultimately as you showed it’s a win-win for “everyone”

  12. monika

    March 30, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    It’s always good to be a customer just so you can see 1st hand how poor service or good service impacts you. I took my parents car shopping last fall and I was pretty disgusted at the actions of the sales people. Sad to say but some REALTORS are very much like that too! yuck!

  13. Elaine Reese

    March 30, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    As a single female, I hate buying cars! Doesn’t sound as though your treatment was much better even with hubby along.

    BTW, I have a 98 Cherokee sport – chili pepper red – with 120K miles. Still looks and runs well. It’s my second one, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

  14. Bill Lublin

    March 31, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Mariana: Nice Ride! I love Red Cars – Best of luck with yours – And congratulations on learning the most important thing about the sales experience – the only part of the experience that counts is the customer’s! If you really want to be annoyed, become a real estate investor and find out that the level of expertise that you work so hard to bring to the consumer is not matched by other agents in the transaction. For consumers, we need to make the value exceed the cost in order to give them the incentive to act – Since we’re in a service business, as you point out , that means listening to them so that we can respond appropriately –
    @ Matthew – You so often seem to say things I agree with – We fool ourselves into thinking that we have created deep emotional relationships with our customers (and sometimes we might – I have a dear close friend who was a buyer client over 30 years ago) but for the most part, it is our families and our friends who care, not our customers, for whom we are a means to an end- and we’re not alone there – I like the guy who sold me my last few cars, but I wouldn’t call him in times of emotional distress – And if you’re not lucky enough to have that great significant other or the plasure of kids and family- I would personally recommend the L:abrador Retriever 🙂 They’re very sweet and love you no matter what you do (but will be distracted by food or other dogs)
    @Roundsparrow- The skill Mariana learned may not be one that everyone wants tolearn, I htink it is one that every salesperson should learn if they expect to be around for a period of time and to generate repeat and referral business (it also makes it easier to sell someone something if you listen to what they want to buy) 🙂

  15. Bucking the Real Estate Trend

    March 31, 2008 at 3:39 am

    Loved your post. This is something we can all be aware of whether in our personal lives or our professions. Sometimes it’s hard! It’s natural to want to tell our own similar story… but …. “it doesn’t matter.”

  16. Mariana

    March 31, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Cyndee- Thank you. It is more than just a metaphor for real estate though … It is a metaphor for all things customer service related, actually … and even a metaphor for life sometimes.

    Monika- For as much as this IS translate-able to real estate, there are SO many differences between car sales and real estate … Thank Goodness!

    Elaine – This is Derek’s car and I was glad that he was along, even though I usually was the one being hard-nosed.

    Bill – I love it: “the only part of the experience that counts is the customer’s!” SO true.

    Susie – It is crazy how we all are so self-consumed at so many of the wrong moments in time… It is hard to overcome the urge to “identify at great lengths” with people.

  17. ines

    March 31, 2008 at 9:37 am

    This is soooo awesome Mariana and so true – I’ve become a great listener as well and as much as I like to talk, I know there’s a time and place for it.

    Just yesterday we made an appointment with buyer customers to see a particular listing they had been wanting to see. We tried to see it Tuesday but the sellers did not want to be disturbed on Tuesdays and told us to try Saturday. On Saturday, they were busy and finally got an appointment for Sunday (in this buyer’s market, talk about playing a risky game). When we got there, they had scheduled 4 other appointments with 5 minute intervals so we would all run into each other and think “WOW this house is popular and it’s going quickly!!” That whole car-salesman technique came out with true colors and my buyer customers found it distasteful.

    Listen and learn…..thank you my friend.

  18. Charleston real estate blog

    March 31, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Mariana, I loved your post and as Bill mentioned, I’ve got a red car too. Don’t speed, you’re easy to spot 🙂

    But more importantly, we learn a great deal about how to treat others when we are the consumer.

  19. Mariana

    March 31, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Ines – Those kind of sales-y tactics are extremely distasteful.

    Howard – I will make sure I tell that to my husband the Speeding Ticket magnet!

  20. Jeremy Hart

    May 14, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    When you’re the client/customer/buyer it’s always about you, isn’t it? Good reminder, I’m printing this one out for my wall.

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