Signposting your service
In my blog ‘Delivering on your promises’ I touched on managing customer expectations and in this article, I’d like to explore that a little more deeply. I call it signposting your service.
When a customer walks into your office, they usually have a pretty good idea of what they want to achieve. They haven’t thought of it as a journey but they clearly know that the ‘destination’ is either to buy, sell or let a property. You can help make that journey a pleasurable one or, at the very least, a great deal less stressful by ensuring that the customer is aware of what to expect in advance and, kept well advised during the process.
To deliver service levels that customers rave about is simple. All you have to do is exceed their perceived expectations. In estate agency the perceived level of expected service is usually rather low which means that it is usually rather easy to be seen as ‘good’ and not much harder to be seen as ‘great’. That may sound cynical but it also happens to be true. However, service levels do seem to be increasing across the board, so good agents need to up their game and great agents need to keep one step ahead of the game as well.
So what is signposting? As the name implies, at the earliest opportunity, you establish the destination with the customer (in this example I am going to use the sale of their property as the ultimate goal). You then explain how you and your company are going to get them to their goal, what they will see on the journey, what problems they might encounter (surveys, chain problems, deeds etc) and, how you will overcome each of those problems for them should they arise. You also explain that, like a sat-nav, you will be on hand at every stage offering regular directional tweaks in the form of advice and warnings of potential problems ahead. It is also important that you ensure that the customer is aware of others they may meet on this road such as surveyors and solicitors; how they function and affect the journey and that ultimately, whilst you may have influence, they are outside of your control. What metaphors you use to explain this is down to you. What some may find impressive and business-like, others may think is cheesy or patronising.
During this initial route planning exercise, you should also explain that although you will be contacting them on a regular basis (agree a reasonable schedule between you) they are free to ask your advice at any time and that you encourage this.
Now comes the simple part. Stick to what you agreed! Contact the customer as regularly as you agreed during your signposting chat; update them of potential problems and opportunities and provide honest advice that is of benefit to them (even if not to you). Make sure that you regularly remind them, but not TOO often, just how they are progressing down the road that you told them they would and when you hit the potential problems you warned them they might. Remind and reassure are the key words. By reminding them, gently, of what you have promised from the outset, you will create a very strong sense of trust and confidence and, with it, a greater appreciation of your service and skills.
On the day of exchange or completion, after you have thanked them for their business, give a very brief reminder of the journey you mapped out for them and ask if they were happy with the advice they were given/ what you could do better next time. Good luck. Chris
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About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards for estate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on LinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, he lives in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, his two dogs and his elderly Uncle. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. He is currently mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.