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Real estate lessons in customer service from Jimmy John’s delivery

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Simple ordering

We ordered Jimmy John’s for dinner at our house tonight (don’t be impressed, it’s actually not a rare occurrence). We ordered online and it knew who I was, what my last order was and my credit card number so in under ten seconds, I submitted my order. Their motto is freaky fast and they mean it.

When you order pizza, you expect an hour wait. When you order Jimmy John’s, it’s so freaky fast, it’s literally like ten minutes. But when it takes longer, you can’t get angry, right?

Minute 11

Literally eleven minutes after we ordered, we got a call. “This is the manager of Jimmy John’s and we wanted to apologize.” Okay, for what? “Our online ordering system prints out all orders and apparently went down. We had no idea. We wanted to let you know that corporate just called us and our driver is on the way now.”

Corporate called? Apparently, their corporate office called because they got a red flag on an order (ours) that hadn’t left within the ten minute marker. “Seriously,” we told them, “that is so nice you called, we really appreciate it. You’re still freaky fast, so don’t sweat it. Tell your driver to take his time, no one’s dying of starvation.”

The manager seemed sincerely embarrassed. He apologized three more times and we told him it was okay and within seconds there was a knock on the door. Jimmy John’s didn’t offer to pay for our meal, they didn’t offer a discount next time, they simply apologized and we felt that it was above and beyond what we were used to anyhow.

The driver was also extremely apologetic and told me not to worry about a tip (uh duh, you’re still getting tipped) and he literally ran back to his car after delivering our order.

But guess what? It was still freaky fast as they promised. In the time it would have taken to order and receive a pizza, we had already eaten Jimmy John’s and put the dishes up.

To top things off, they threw in a giant cookie. What a ribbon on top. We weren’t even upset and we got a cookie without the driver saying “oh you got a cookie, pat me on the back,” it just was what it was. I was sincerely touched at such a tiny gesture in an era where the customer is never right.

How Realtors can be like Jimmy John’s

First, assume that consumers are upset when you’re not perfect. Even if they say they aren’t and you KNOW you didn’t live up to your potential, treat them with the apology and courtesy as if they are upset.

Apologize. Sincerely. You know when the fast food manager who hates their life approaches your table after you’ve found a human skull in your burrito and just says “oh uh, sorry. Want me to pick that out for you?” as they slump back to the back exit to smoke while you fume in anger? Don’t be that guy. Apologize for any infraction no matter how small.

Throw in a cookie. Even when you’ve already gone above and beyond, do that extra thing that will make consumers happy. This doesn’t just apply to when you’ve wronged someone but at all times. Give the most memorable move in gift and don’t put your logo on it, buy a keg for the housewarming party, give a gift certificate to a busy mom who is struggling to prep a house for listing, or throw in a cookie. Go the extra mile. Be so memorable that like Jimmy John’s, people feel compelled to tell everyone they know about their experience with you (just like I’m doing right here, right now).

Be freaky fast, faster than your competitor. Even if your client doesn’t know how slow (or unethical or lazy or ignorant) your competitor is, push yourself as if they’re constantly comparing. Jimmy John’s compares themselves to themselves which is what pushes them to be freaky fast and let us order and eat dinner in the time it takes to get a pizza in Pizza Hut’s oven.

Hustle. It’s pretty self explanatory, but when your competitor shuts off the lights at 5pm, turn yours off at 9pm. When your competitor brags of a 30 day average DOM for a listing, shoot for 27. When your competitor tweets that they got a listing, go blog about the complexities of your subdivision and three stats that all area listing clients should know. Hustle.

What are YOU doing that makes you like Jimmy John’s or what CAN you change to throw in that cookie?

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Ben Goheen

    April 29, 2011 at 2:39 am

    finding a human skull in my burrito is the WORST

  2. Liz Benitez

    April 29, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I love being able to offer clients more than they expect. Really I am just real with them. But what I really want to know is how can I get some freaky fast Jimmy John's here in Southern Maryland 😀

  3. Randy Pereira

    April 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Nice Post!.. There is always a lot we can learn from others.. Thx.

  4. Ben Fisher

    May 4, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Love this post. It's actually not difficult to take this approach to your clients. Many are just lazy (myself included sometimes).

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Coaching

Disputing a property’s value in a short sale: turn a no into a go

During a short sale, there may be various obstacles, with misaligned property values ranking near the top, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!

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magic eight ball

It’s about getting your way

Were you on the debate team in high school? Were you really effective at convincing your parent or guardian to let you do things that you shouldn’t have been doing? How are your objection-handling skills? Can you flip a no into a go?

When working on short sales, there is one aspect of the process that may require those excellent negotiation or debate skills: disputing the property value. In a short sale, the short sale lender sends an appraiser or broker to the property and this individual conducts a Broker Price Opinion or an appraisal, using special forms provided by the short sale lender.

After this individual completes the Broker Price Opinion or the appraisal, he or she will return it to the short sale lender. Shortly thereafter, the short sale lender will be ready to talk about the purchase price. Will the lender accept the offer on the table or is the lender looking for more? If the lender is seeking an offer for a lot more than the one on the table, mentally prepare for the fact that you will need to conduct a value dispute.

Value Dispute Process

While each of the different short sale lenders (including Fannie Mae) has their own policies and procedures for value dispute, all these procedures have some things in common. Follow the steps below in order to conduct an effective value dispute.

  1. Inquire about forms. Ask your short sale lender if there are specific forms that you need to complete in order to conduct a value dispute. Obtain those forms if necessary.
  2. Gather information. Your goal is to convince the lender to accept the buyer’s offer, so you need to demonstrate that your offer is in line with the value of the property. Collect data that proves this point, such as reports from the MLS, Trulia, Zillow, or your local title company.
  3. Take photos. If there are parts of the property that are substandard and possibly were not revealed to the lender by the individual conducting the BPO, take photos of those items. Perhaps the kitchen has no flooring, or there is a 40-year old roof. Take photos to demonstrate these defects.
  4. Obtain bids. For any defects on the property, obtain a minimum of two bids from licensed contractors. For example, obtain two bids from roofers or structural engineers if necessary
  5. Write a report. Think back to high school English class if necessary. Write a short essay that references your information, photos, and bids, and explains how these items support your buyer’s value. This is not something that you whip up in five minutes. Spend time preparing a compelling appeal.

It is entirely possible that some lenders will not be particularly open-minded when it comes to valuation dispute. However, more times than not, an effective value dispute leads to short sale approval.

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Coaching

Short sale standoffs: how to avoid getting hit

The short sale process can feel a lot like a wild west standoff, but there are ways to come out victorious, so let’s talk about those methods:

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short sales standoff

What is a short sale standoff?

If you are a short sale listing agent, a short sale processor, or a short sale negotiator then you probably already know about the short sale standoff. That’s when you are processing a short sale with more than one lien holder and neither will agree to the terms offered by the other. Or… better yet, each one will not move any further in the short sale process until they see the short sale approval letter from the other lien holder.

Scenario #1 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they will proceed with the short sale, and they will offer Bank 2 a certain amount to release their lien. You call Bank 2 and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the folks at Bank 2 want more money. If Bank 1 and Bank 2 do not agree, then you are in a standoff.

Scenario #2 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they cannot generate your approval letter until you present them with the approval letter from Bank 2. Bank 2 employees tell you the exact same thing. Clearly, in this situation, you are in a standoff.

How to Avoid the Standoff

If you are in the middle of a standoff, then you are likely very frustrated. You’ve gotten pretty far in the short sale process and you are likely receiving lots of pressure from all of the parties to the transaction. And, the lenders are not helping much by creating the standoff.

Here are some ideas for how to get out of the situation:

  • Go back to the first lien holder and ask them if they are willing to give the second lien holder more money.
  • Go to the second lien holder and tell them that the first lien holder has insisted on a maximum amount and see if they will budge.
  • If no one will budge, find out why. Is this a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan? If so, they have a maximum that they allow the second. And, if you alert the second of that information, they may become more compliant.
  • Worst case: someone will have to pay the difference. Depending on the laws in your state, it could be the buyer, the seller, or the agents (yuck). No matter what, make sure that this contribution is disclosed to all parties and appears on the short sale settlement statement at closing.
  • In Scenario #2, someone’s got to give in. Try explaining to both sides where you are and see if one will agree to generate their approval letter. If not, follow the tips provided in this Agent Genius article and take your complaint to the streets.

One thing about short sales is that the problems that arise can be difficult to resolve merely because of the number of parties involved—and all from remote locations. Imagine how much easier this would be if all parties sat at the same table and broke bread? If we all sat at the same table, then we wouldn’t need armor in order to avoid the flying bullets from the short sale standoff.

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Coaching

Short sale approval letters don’t arrive in the blink of an eye

Short sale approval letters may look like they’ve been obtained simply by experts, but it takes time and doesn’t just happen with luck.

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short sale approval

Short sale approval: getting prepared, making it happen

People always ask me how it is that I obtain short sale approval letters with such ease. The truth is, that while I have more short sale processing and negotiating experience than most agents and brokers, I don’t just blink my eyes like Jeannie and make those short sale approval letters appear. I often sweat it, just like everyone else.

Despite the fact that I do not have magical powers, I do have something else on my side—education. One of the most important things than can lead to short sale success for any and all agents is education.

Experience dictates that agents that learn about the short sale process
have increased short sale closings.

Short sale education opportunities abound

There are many ways to become educated about the short sale process and make getting short sale approval letters look easy to obtain. These include:

  • Classes at your local board of Realtors®
  • Free short sale webinars and workshops
  • The short sale or foreclosure specialist designations

As the distressed property arena grows and changes, it is important to always stay abreast of policy changes that may impact how you do your job and how you process any short sale that lands on your plate.

The most important thing to do is to read, read, read. Follow short sale specialists and those who blog about short sales on AGBeat, Google+, facebook, and twitter. Set up a Google Alert for the term ‘short sale’ and you will receive Google’s top short sale picks daily in your email inbox. Visit mortgagor websites to read up on their specific policies and procedures.

Don’t take on too much

And, when you get a call from a prospective short sale seller, make sure that you don’t bit off more than you can chew. Agents in most of America right now are clamoring for listings since we are in the midst of a listing shortage. But, if you are going to take on a short sale, be sure that it is a deal that you can close. And, if you have your doubts, why not partner up with a local agent that can mentor your and assist you in getting the job done? After all, half a commission check is better than none!

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