Part 2 of a three-part series by Ron LaMee, SVP Research & Member Value, Arizona REALTORS®

In Part 1 of this series, I described what customer experience is and how to evaluate the customer experience you are currently providing. Now, let’s look at where you want to position yourself and how to get there.

The ideal customer experience
Customer experience differs greatly depending on the situation. If you’re buying a pack of gum, your ideal experience may be to get in and out of the store as fast as possible. Complex purchases require much more attention to the customer experience, especially if you’re trying to build a culture around your products—such as what Apple has done.

Here are some common elements of good customer experiences taken from an Entrepreneur article:

    You may see big similarities among your clients, but they believe their needs are unique and you better treat them that way. Ask how and when your clients prefer you to communicate with them. Listen to what they say they want; repeat it back to them for confirmation. Offer alternatives only when it seems clients are open to them; if you are too “helpful,” they may feel you aren’t listening.

    This means not only picking up subtle signals that something isn’t right, but taking care of things quickly. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Poor communication and follow-up are the most frequent complaints of home buyers and sellers. Aside from good communication, attend to what your clients say and how they act. Behavior may tell you that a swimming pool may be crossed off a list of must-have items. A subtle word may indicate a willingness to reduce an asking price. When you are interacting with a client, give them your full attention.

    People like to know their business is appreciated. Saying “thank you” is always important, even while the transaction is in progress. Following up with local restaurant recommendations lets clients know you heard them talk about restaurants (attentiveness) and offered a suggestion that might appeal to them (personalization).

Supporting your customer experience

This is the hard part, where high aspirations hit the rocky road. Once you commit yourself to changing your customers’ experience, you have to stay the course.

    Establish clear expectations
    Only make promises you know you can keep. Arrange contingencies for situations where you could fail. Most people don’t expect to be able to speak with their agent at 11 p.m., but if you set that expectation, some will.

         Set reasonable expectations:
         “I have dinner with my family, but I am usually available between 6 and 7 p.m. After that, I check email      until about 9 p.m. The latest you’ll get a call back is the following morning.”

         “A four-week closing is optimistic at best in this market. Let’s say six weeks and we’ll try to figure out some      options, if that doesn’t work for you.”

    One of the best ways to set expectations is by performing them. For instance, if being responsive is part of the customer experience you deliver, then being quick to respond to an initial contact is critical.

    Build trust
    Trust with strangers starts slowly and is easily lost. If you say, “I put my clients first and keep them informed every step of the way,” then you better be ready to support that. Last year, my son was selling a condo and chose an agent based on his fast return communications and clean presentation. Once the condo was listed, the agent stopped taking phone calls; later, when an offer came in, dumb mistakes were made. So, we made a call to his broker.

    Sometimes, you can’t help but disappoint a client, no matter how hard you try. When you do, own it, even if you feel you’re not entirely responsible. Another Entrepreneur article advises, “Say sorry and mean it, don’t stop the customer from venting, and make a peace offering.”

    Keep listening
    Now that have created a positive customer experience, gathering feedback should be a routine part of the process. During the transaction ask, “How are you feeling about this?” As I noted in part one of this series, a follow up survey immediately after closing is the best way to find out what kind of experience your client had.

Building trust and being consistent are critical to creating and maintaining a great customer experience—this is what you should excel in. As Jeff Turner, CEO of RealSatisfied says, “Technology can’t help you, if you can’t get this part right.” However, technology can help you maintain and support your customer experience and that is what we’ll cover in the final part of this series.

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