When I recently moved from Durban’s Berea to Umhlanga, the agent popped around on moving day and gave me a small gift: a Mr Delivery book for my new neighbourhood. My supper amidst the chaos of boxes and bubble-wrap? Sorted! My undying loyalty to Wakefields? Sorted!
This tiny gesture followed on from an informative listing, immediate follow-up to my call, the ability to work around my schedule to view potential properties, to prompt processing of all the paperwork. A great end to a superb customer service journey.
At its most basic level, customer service is about your ability to fulfill your customers’ wants and needs. And there’s no real secret to getting your customers to come back, according to Canada’s AboutMoney. All you need to do is provide excellent customer service – the shiny kind of service that exceeds your customers’ expectations and outshines that of your competitors.
But Mexican realtor Enrique Saldana has a different opinion: one that is particularly relevant to our real estate industry as it talks about the educated, media savvy and socially aware consumer that is browsing online listings.
“Consumer expectations have shifted and what was once noticeable and differentiating is now expected. What consumers now value is a full customer experience. We have evolved from valuing good customer service to now desiring, and paying a premium for, an exceptional customer experience. And it's not just a matter of semantics. Customer service is the personal service we offer – our one-on-one contact with the customer.
“Customer experience, on the other hand, includes every single touch point that a customer has with your brand; it’s the sum total of all interactions that a customer has with a brand across all channels. This means that the customer experience you provide includes your customer’s experience with your website and advertising, how quickly you respond to inquiries and questions, how you answer your phone, how your colleagues are able to offer solutions, as well as how they emotionally connect to you on all channels including Facebook.”
In other words, the full customer experience is how you make your clients feel every step of the way when they connect with your brand.
5 ways to create outstanding customer experiences
Develop an experience culture: Your core philosophy should be about providing an exceptional customer experience. Being in the business of selling real estate, do not say your core service is selling real estate. Rather claim that you offer your clients a 5-star experience. And your company culture should be all about providing this – not just the service of brokering deals.
Keep company with the right people:* *Be selective with whom you hire and whom you work – colleagues and service providers must have the same core values and culture as you, as well as the ability and commitment to provide a great customer experience that complements yours.
Love your people:Treat all customers exceptionally – and remember that colleageus are customers too. If you take care of your peers, your customer will be taken care of. This “two-customer philosophy” should be an integral component of your brand.
Remember that customers have voice*s:* It’s no secret: social media has enabled consumers to have voices and share their opinions and experiences publicly. This is great for consumers but it can be problematic for businesses – for obvious reasons. And though it is impossible to be perfect every time it is important to listen to your customers and act on what they say. Most importantly, be human, honest and transparent.
Do it from beginning to end*:* Integrate your brand, adverts and listings, webpage, Facebook, and other social and multi-media services that you provide. This is where it all comes together. A customer experience encompasses every location that a consumer intersects with your brand, from the very beginning through to the very end. Look at every touch point and work to produce consistency across all channels and an exceptional customer experience with each and every interaction.
With today’s information overload, fast pace of life and exposure to boundless products and services, personalised service and a full customer experience are more powerful value propositions and differentiators than ever before. Customer experience will become the most powerful weapon in your competitive arsenal because it is so important to today’s consumer – and because it is so difficult to consistently deliver.
Top 10 tips for customer service – make these part of your experience
Know who is boss: When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service.
*Be a good listener: *Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions
Identify and anticipate needs: Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical.
Make customers feel important and appreciated: Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere.
Help customers understand your systems: Your agency may have the world’s best systems for getting things done but if customers don't understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry.
Appreciate the power of “yes”: Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a reasonable request tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards.
Know how to apologise: Say sorry when something goes wrong. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win.
Give more than expected: As the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition.
Get regular feedback: Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve.
Treat your colleagues well: Your agency is your internal customer and needs a regular dose of appreciation. Always thank your colleagues and find ways to let them know how important they are.