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Op/Ed

Legitimizing customer service: The next frontier in real estate

(EDITORIAL) Real estate practitioners are famous for saying they specialize in customer service, but it’s mostly bluster. That said, it is now defining who top producers are as they leave competitors in the dust.

Despite all the industry talk about better service in the real estate brokerage and mortgage service industries, better service remains mostly that… just talk. Many organizations now pursue strategies of delivering more services believing that more equates to better.

For some organizations the strategy of offering more services is an acknowledgement of the inability to manage the core brokerage business at an acceptable level of profitability. Therefore offering a bundle of “other services” is the path to improving overall enterprise profitability.

The real underlying problem here is more basic and more insidious

Service delivery remains an unmanaged process. Systems, standards, reporting and performance assessment are common to customer acquisition (prospecting), sales, productivity and financial management. These same disciplines and resources are essentially non-existent in the business of the delivery and execution of service – keeping the promises of sales.

Service delivery, what happens between agent and customer after the relationship is underway, remains the invisible domain of the sales/service professional.

Broker/owners abdicate responsibility. Therefore the service and each service experience are unique outcomes of the preferences, practices and idiosyncrasies of each individual service professional. It’s a “mom and pop” business mentality in what has become a big business arena.

Consumers seek to maximize value at the lowest cost. Consumers find greater value through price, through quality or through combination of the two. Where quality is uncertain, price increasingly becomes the deciding factor. The foundation for quality in professional services is based upon five key variables: convenience (accessibility), reliability, consistency, accountability and responsiveness.

Controls, measurements, higher accountability

Without processes, systems, standards and accountability, service quality relative to reliability and consistency cannot be achieved. A serious commitment to customer care demands managing the service process and managing service results… consumers expect it!

But can controls, measurements and higher accountability realistically be implemented in businesses with a long tradition of high independence of their service providers? Perhaps the more important question is, “Can any business survive if it ignores the needs and interests of consumers or places the needs of anyone ahead of consumers?”

Customers want more than being captured and expect more than being sold. According to an ongoing study by Leading Research Corporation of San Clemente, CA, conducted after the closing of home purchases and home sales, fewer than one in three consumers “given the need and opportunity” are “highly likely” to seek the services of their previous sales associate. The likelihood for selecting the same company for service is significantly lower.

Customer care is the next frontier and the next great opportunity

A true ‘quality service experience’ is a powerful potential point of differentiation in facilitating new and future business opportunities. Quality service is the most effective means of protecting commissions and a company’s pricing strategy as well.

Managing customer care, looking beyond customer capture and making the sale, will also reap significant benefits in risk management and professional liability. The vast majority of threats, claims and suits are service issues that escalate into legal actions.

Measurable results and economic benefits can be achieved through the implementation of service processes, standards, performance feedback and assessment, and service excellence recognition.

Service is serious business. Great service requires more than good intentions.

#NextFrontier

Written By

Kevin is a Co-Founder, President & COO of Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC) and earned an MBA from The University of California – Irvine. With over 20 years of Real Estate experience, his primary focus is on consumer research, developing better service management systems, and sharing the importance of consumer-centric service standards, transparency and accountability to create measurable and meaningful differentiation and long term advantage for those professionals that put customer needs first.

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