Ombudsmen Advice; How to Avoid a Consumer Complaint
At the Arizona REALTORS®, members volunteer to serve as trained ombudsmen, acting as an intermediary charged with communicating the concerns of one party to the other over the phone in an effort to restore a positive relationship. Thanks to the hard work of these volunteer ombudsmen, countless disputes have been resolved before they could potentially result in the filing of a formal complaint.
In 2010, Arizona REALTORS® surveyed a number of its volunteer ombudsmen asking them to comment, based on the calls they field, how REALTORS® can best avoid a consumer complaint. The insightful feedback received can be found at https://www.aaronline.com/2010/08/28/five-ways-to-avoid-a-consumer-complaint/.
Now, nearly ten years later, the Arizona REALTORS® thought it would be beneficial to again survey a select few ombudsmen and ask the following question: As an ombudsman, what advice would you give to your fellow REALTORS® to help them proactively avoid a consumer complaint? The answers identified below reflect the unique insight Arizona REALTOR® ombudsmen obtain while fielding questions from the public regarding the services REALTORS® provide in their transactions.
“‘Listen’ to your client and the parties involved in your transaction. Often the misunderstandings and problems come up because no one explained the process, or no one took the time to listen to their concerns and frustrations. If we can remain objective and not react defensively most of the issues can be resolved without a complaint being filed.” – Marge Lindsay, CRB, CRS, GRI
“Advice I have given agents is not to forget that some folks have not sold or purchased property in a long time so don’t presume they know the process. Go over details with them, including listing agreements. Most importantly, send or call with updates. Real estate is still about ‘relationships’ even though our industry has moved to a rapid electronic pace. Clients want to be part of the process and feel valued.” – Carol Pinciaro, rCRMS
“Maintain strong communication with your clients and ask up-front how frequently and by what method they prefer to receive information and updates. Listen carefully to their verbal communications, take notes and summarize at the end to ensure you are on the same page. Always follow up in writing and proof your email, text or letter for accuracy…. a simple error can change the entire meaning of your message. Stay current on real estate practices, industry risks and technology! Keep the interests of your client as your primary goal. Negotiate transactions in a professional and cordial manner. A good rapport with the other parties’ agent paves the way for a smooth transaction and a win for your client.” – Lisa Suarez, CRS, CRPM
“Communication is at the center of it all. We should treat our clients like the Google map directions lady. That is to say, always let the client know what the next direction will be as soon as you completed the last direction. Then, you give advanced notice of the next direction. As you get closer you review the steps (and get any questions out of the way), so when you need to execute you are ready.” – Barrie Herr, ABR, CNE, TRC, GREEN
Proactively take advantage of the Ombudsman program when appropriate. “Ombudsmen know what they are doing and how to make the program work. The techniques are simple. They work. The results show that. When REALTORS® and the public know about the Ombudsman program and avail themselves of it, the results are excellent because they are aware of the alternatives – problems evolve into formal complaints, hearings, other persons (panels) making the decisions for the disputants, one-winner, one-loser, fines, etc. Not a good gamble.” – Mike Steward, GRI, CCIM
“Communication is the main factor! Ask your client how they want you to communicate (text, email, phone) and how often.” – Clark Jones, CDPE, CRB, CRS, e-Pro, GRI, MRP, REDM, REO specialist, RSPS, SRS
As you can see, three major themes were mentioned: (1) communication; (2) preparation; and (3) proactively taking advantage of the ombudsman program when an issue arises that you are having a difficult time independently resolving.
Finally, in the event that a consumer contacts an Arizona REALTORS® ombudsman seeking assistance regarding a transaction in which you are involved, Lisa Suarez recommends that you be open to the process and agree to work towards a solution by understanding the party’s perceptions. Lisa added, “If possible, communicate directly with the Respondent in a friendly, approachable manner without a defensive position. Listen carefully to the details of their concerns without interruption as this elevates their opinion of their value to you. The resolution may be simple or you may need to get creative. Embrace the mindset that it is not always as important to be right as to do the right thing.”