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Archive for customer satisfaction

shaking hands over computerTrend: Consumers are choosing agents differently. This is trend # 9 of 10 trends I’ve identified as very important for new agents to recognize. These trends are from my new 5th edition of Up and Running in 30 Days.

This month, I’m featuring excerpts from this book.

{Click here to see the updates in my fifth edition of Up and Running in 30 Days.}

Also: Check the end of this blog for your free ‘end of sale’ survey to capture and keep more loyal clients.

How Consumer Habits have Changed

Traditionally, consumers either stumbled upon an agent (e.g., going into an open house) or got a referral from a friend. Although thata��s still true, consumers have another powerful method to choose an agent: the Internet. Increasingly, consumers are looking at evaluations on Internet sites such as Zillow or LinkedIn to find out what other clients thought about that agent. Take a look yourself. Some of the evaluations are wonderful. Some are stunningly awful. And all are very public! There are even specific agent-rating sites such as www.realestateratingz.com and www.incredibleagents.com. Also, take a look at Zillow, which has agent ratings now. Bank of America and USAA are also getting into the game. You must work for long-term customer engagement and great ratings to sustain your real estate business. This will continue as a trend, and, I believe, change the way consumers choose and keep their agents!

* Big Idea: It costs six to nine times more to get a new client than to keep an existing client. Retention is king, and reputation is key.

{In the book, I’ve given positives and ‘watch fors’ to agents so they have great judgment on how to use these trends.}

  • Positives: It will be great for those competent, caring agents who really take care of their clients. It is easier now for potential clients to get feedback from third-party sources, clients just like them.
  • Watch out for: Doing a next kind of business, where you dona��t care what happens after the sale. The client has recourse now, of the most expensive kinda��a poor review!

Tip: Always use a a�?after salea�� survey to find out what your clients thought of your service. If youa��d like a sample survey form, click here.

Managers: Have you read your agents’ clients’ feedback online? Make it a regular habit!

Up and Running_5e largerAre You Using the Best Start-Up Plan for your New Agents?

Does your plan have the detailed, prioritized checklists needed to assure a great start? Does it have built-in inspiration and motivation? Does it have dozens of tips to control the attitude? If not, you need Up and Running in 30 Days. Just out in its 5th edition, it’s the most successful book for new real estate agents ever!

Click here to see the updates in my fifth edition of Up and Running in 30 Days.

 

Do your agents have a trust ‘issue’ with their clients? (Look for the Trust Evaluator link below. Use it with your agents to test their ‘trust quotients’–great meeting topic).

We’re always telling our agents to ‘work smarter’, not harder. Yet, what does that mean? For one thing, in this low-trust world, it means creating highA�trust as a foundation for any sales action and decision. Yet, in the ‘on fire’ market of the past, agents didn’t have to work very hard at creating trust. The market forced decisions and the consumers ended up buying from an agent they may not really know. Those days are over.

Why Creating Trust is a $$$ Issue

Do you know how much more it costs to get a new client than to keep an old one? Marketers tell us 6-9 times more. So, it’s just good business sense to train your agents to create high trust with clients for return and referral business.

How You Can Help Your Agents Create Trust

Salespeople can’t sell anything to anyone without first establishing an exceptional level of trust–an increasingly difficult thing to do. The ten tips below shared on in a recent radio show help sales professionals build a ‘platinum level’ of trust.

Five Tips to Raise your Agents’ Client Trust Levels

Here are 5 tips, with special comments to you as a leader–in blue.

1. Learn non-verbal skills and apply them in writing, on the phone, and in person to establish rapport in an increasingly a�?cold inquirya�� world.A�

Are you teaching them Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NL))? Are you working with them to pace and mirror in interactive workshops?

2. We believe what others say about a salesperson, not what the salesperson says about themselves. Use testimonials; check evaluation websites to see what consumers are saying about you.

Are you checking out what the consumers are saying about your agents on the web?

Look atA�www.realestateratingz.com and www.incredibleagents.com.

3. Create an after-the-sale survey and use it consistently. If therea��s something wrong, fix it fast.

Do you have an after sale survey that you send out from the office? How do you handle surveys that are less than stellar?

4. We believe what we see, not what we hear. Show, dona��t tell. Use visual presentations consistently.

Are you working with your agents to practice showing evidence?

5. Flip your sales presentations. Ask questionsa��lots of questionsa��first. Educate. Finally, sell (well, you wona��t have to sell).

Do you have a planned presentation you teach agents–and have them practice until they are ‘killer’?

Click here to get your Trust Evaluator.

Real estate managers: What do buyers really want from your agents? Yes, we can guess, but, do we really know? As some of you know, Ia��ve been a musician almost all my life. From the time I was four, I was a�?tickling the ivoriesa��.A�A�As you can imagine, Ia��ve been through countless examinations, ratings, adjudications, and contests. Ia��m very familiar with rating systems. One of the ways to get great performance is to know by which perimeters youa��ll be evaluated.

A�How Would your AgentsA�Rate a ’10’?

For example: What would constitute the consumers rating yourA� agentA�a a�?10a�� (out of 10)? Ita��s very frustrating when you dona��t know what great performance looks, sounds, and feels like. If youa��ve ever been evaluated and gotten a less than stellar evaluation, you know how frustrating it is to be rated as less than stellara��but not know what constituted a�?greata�� in the eyes of those rating us.A�A�A�

Read What Consumers Want from Buyersa�� Agents

A�Besides surveying buyers and asking them to rate agents, the California Association of Realtors asked buyers exactly what they wanted from those buyersa�� agents. Here’s what buyers said:

A�A�What We Can Learn to Help Us Get those Great Ratings

A�As you can see, consumers expectedA�agents to be experts at whateverA�they were doing. They dona��t wantA�agents to try to help them in areas whereA�they’re not competent (like trying to sell foreclosures without adequate education).A� What does that mean to us? The obvious. IfA�our agentsA�going to delve into short sales and foreclosures,A� our agents A�need to dedicateA�themselves to becoming an expert.

My question to you managers/trainers: Are you specifically training to the skills consumers (buyers) said they wanted from their agents? What does your training schedule look like? Do you have a training calendar that includes these areas? What areas are you training to, right now, that fulfil consumer demands?

What does the consumer want? DeliveringA�to their satisfactionA�means more money, less time, and a better business fpr us. Wouldna��t you love to hear people talking about your agents A�in the most glowing terms? Would you love to help your agents doubleA�their eferral business while cutting your marketing costs by 75%? You can. Read on.A�

Would you agree? The more we can fulfill the clienta��s expectations, the more referrals we can expect from that client. A�And, we all know referrals is the name of the game. Referrals cost us much less, and the client referred to us loves us already. Plus, by making the client ecstatic, we have a reason to charge those generous commissions we lovea��and we should.

A�Obvious Question–Not an Obvious Customer-Agent Service Match

You may the above question and answer are obvious. But, we should slow down and really think about it. Why? Because the gap between client expectations and general agent performance has, in the evaluation of the consumer, become a chasm. And, unless we can breach that gap, our commissions will keep sliding downward.

A�Time to Think a�?Outside Ina��

A�As you read this, stop yourself from thinking a�?inside outa�� (What we like to think about ourselves). I, like you, have spent most of my adult working life as a Realtor. I sold hundreds of homes. I hired, trained, and coached thousands of agents. Ita��s painful for me, as it is for all of us, to look at ourselves from a�?the outsidea��. But, if we want to sustain our practices in the best way possible, we have to close that gap between what we think of ourselves and what consumers think of our practices. We have to think a�?outside ina�� (look at ourselves from the consumer perspective).

A�Buyers Talka��Leta��s ListenA�

Take a look at this survey of 2009 from the California Association of Realtors.

A�

A�CAR asked buyers to rate the overall satisfaction level with their buyera��s agent. Wow! 4 out of 100! Now, I know thata��s not true of your agents, but, it is what those thousands of buyers rated those thousands of agents they dealt with. Is 4 out of 100 good enough to get referrals? Is it good enough to sustain a�?generousa�� commission levels? I dona��t think so, do you?

A�Our Reputation as an Industry is Impacted By Every Agenta��s PracticeA�

Yes. I know most Realtors are independent contractors. We like to think we are not impacted by othersa�� practices. But, in truth, study after study shows we are. The consumer judges us generally by the level of practice of the agent with whom they have contact. Then, we a�?inherita�� that reputationa��whether we earned it or not. And, when we have that less than sterling reputation, we have to dig ourselves out of the hole to prove wea��re not a�?one of thosea��. Ita��s there, and we have to recognize it.A�

What do YOU Think?

What do you think the consumer wants that he/she’s not getting? In the next blog, I’ll show you what they said (what they wanted from buyers).

What do you think clients think of agents in general–and who are they telling?

A recent California Association of Realtors’ survey of buyers revealed that buyers rated their overall experience at an all time low: 4 out of 100!

What does this mean about the level of customer service clients think they’re getting from agents? If you said, a�?Not much.a�? Youa��re right. And, now, clients have a way to let everyone and their brother know what they think of their agent. Check out

www.realestateratingz.com

www.incredibleagents.com

These are agent feedback sites. Youa��ll see the good, the bad, and the ugly. In fact, youa��ll be stunned, I think, at the impact a testimonial has in writinga��on the net.

This is a huge trend: Clients providing feedback that can be accessed by everyone. Now, even Realtor Associations, like the Houston Association of Realtors, is regularly surveying membersa�� buyers and sellers for feedback. Expect this trend to get bigger quickly.

What You Need to Do

First, check those sites (and others as they appear) regularly. There are some stunningly wonderful–and some stunningly awful–reviews on those sites. As the marketers know, a bad review is ‘tattled’ by 9 more people!

Second, collect surveys from each transaction regularly. If they aren’t wonderful, fix it fast. The consumer is increasingly relying on what others say, not on what we say about our service. Be on the cutting edge of the curve, not way behind it.

If you’d like my survey, click here.

Lots of Room For Growth

Recently, I was speaking to a group of ‘old pros’ in the Minneapolis area. I surveyed them and found that only about 20% sent out surveys! But, that’s not much different from the normal agent population. It’s time we got into the 21st century and did some basic marketing, to keep our businesses healthy!

Have you ever met anyone who would admit they provided poor customer service? Ia��ll bet not. Yet, wea��ve all stood around waiting in a restaurant to be noticeda��while the hostess or server gossiped with the other staffa��and then seemed as though we were interrupting something important to want to be served!

How would you rate your agents on customer service? Are they working from the ‘eyes of the beholder’ or are they thinking ‘inside out’? (from their point of view)

Which Service Would You Recommend?

I just experienced a situation thata��s a good example of good and terrible customer service. I wanted a pop-up window on my new website (www.carlacross.com) to invite viewers to get my new eBook, Getting to Yes: Ten Powerful Tools to Bash those Barriers to Purchasing Today and join my newsletter community. So, in May, I ordered and paid for the recommended pop-up. I got a receipt from the credit card company. Thata��s all I got. I didna��t get any follow-up emailsa��no communication.

When I got ready to implement the pop-up, the website wouldna��t let me register! So, I emailed AND called the owner. He didna��t respond. I called and emailed again. He didna��t respond. This went on for 3-4 weeks. Finally, I got frustrated and bought a different pop-up.

A Different Experience

I immediately got a welcome email from the second company. Then, I got 2 more emails. And, I finally got the 4th emaila��all within the first week. Each email thanked me for being a customer and offered me helpful tips.

A Little Latea��..

Right after I gave up on that first pop-up, the owner emailed me with the log in information.

So, which pop-up do you think I kept, and which pop-up did I ask for my money back? You got it.

Customer service is 90% of sales today.

Our Experiences Let Us Be Fortune Tellers

I dona��t know for sure, do I, whichA� pop-up will provide the best on-going service. I dona��t know which pop-up is best. But, what I do know, is that, given my experience, the first pop-up isna��t going to help me out if I get stuck!

What About Your Agents’ Service

What does your agents’A� response rate say about them? Do they have a a�?professional rulea�� about when you respond to inquiries? Most agents dona��t. In fact, a recent National Association of Realtors survey said that half the Realtors NEVER respond to internet inquiries.

Ita��s So Easy to Stand Out from the Crowd

You dona��t have to be a top producer. You dona��t have to be a technical genius. All you have to do to succeed is to put yourself in your customera��s shoes and think,

a�?How would I like to be treated? How would I like to be answered? What makes me trust a person? What makes me walk away from the product or service?a�? Youa��ve got it. Youa��re on your way to a stellar reputation and business.

Having hired and trained probably hundreds of new agents, I know the myriad of questions they have. So, here’s the simplest, yet most effective thing you can teach your new agents (and your experienced agents) to do.

Herea��s the answer to the question, a�?What is the one thing I should do to get business?a�? Yes, people are always asking me that. I think ita��s because Ia��ve written two resources for would-be and new agents: Become Tomorrowa��s Mega-Agent Today and Up and Running in 30 Days. Now, we know that becoming a skilled real estate agent isna��t just one answer. But, there is one thing new agents can do that requires

No skill

No experience

No money

Little time

And, this one thing will make you stand out from the crowd better than any other one thing you could do! What is it? Simply:

Write a thank you note (a real hard copy note, not an email)

Why?

Because manners and a�?thank yousa�� have gotten increasingly uncommon! You will stand out simply because youa��ve taken the time, thought about that person, and cared enough to writea��and put that 44 cent stamp on it.

Write More Than One Note

Ia��m not going to tell your new agents to write a certain number of notes per day. You and your agents can set your standard (that means the minimum youa��ll do).

What to Say

Thank you. Thinking about you. I appreciate you. I used your advice. Herea��s something for you that would be helpful. I found the information you wanted.

Note to managers: This is also one of the strongest motivational tools you’ll ever have–writing notes to your agents with encouragement, thanks, etc. Do you do enough of it? Set your own goals now.

Big important sales principle:

Contacting people is simply finding an excuse to write, pick up the phone, or go see. Retaining salespeople is similar!

My challenge: How creative can you get?

Your agents are more creative than they think they are. Now, get them to sit down and think hard about 5 people they’ve started to work with, but need to contact now. What about them fits into any scenario for you to write that note, pick up the phone, or go see?

They are now using a�?advanceda�� sales techniques, and they already know how to do all of this.

Sales meeting tip: One of the managers I know actually has agents write these notes during a sales meeting, and brainstorms the reasons one could write a note.

Proof is in the Pudding

My first year in real estate, I sold 40 homes. Also, I sent more things in the mail than any other of the 30 agents in my office. Why? Because I wanted to create a a�?critical massa�� of people who thought I was wonderful. Yes, an agent can also do this with social media. But, you want to stand out. And, you will stand out much more if you write to one person than to many. After all, you are working with that one person who will pay you thousands of dollars. He/she is worth that special, individual effort! That’s the one thing your agentsA� should do to get business.

In my blog a few days ago, I talked about how agents need to a�?upa�� their trust establishment in this non-trusting world. I gave you the first five methods to train your agents to create trustworthiness. Now, here are the last 5 methods.

6. Tell the truth attractively. Show evidence. Dona��t try to scare the client into action by predicting the future.

Have you trained your agents to a�?tell the truth attractivelya��? Have you hung out with them when they are doing listing or buyersa�� presentations? Want to get scared?

7. Evaluate the client for long-term relationships. Is the client someone you want to add to your a�?tribea��?

Teach your agents to qualify buyers and sellers according to their ability to become long-term clients, not one-time sales.

8. Use a�?tough lovea�� with a client to tell the truth, turn down a clienta��to stay true to your values. Do whata��s best for the client.

A study of very successful agents showed that they regularly let the client know whether the clienta��s desires were reasonablea��or not. Have you trained your agents to do that? Do you have evaluators for this purpose?

9. Re-cap. Regularly, stop and re-cap with the client. Do this, too, when you cana��t meet client expectations.

Practice the re-cap with your agents. In other words, take the client back to the office and re-cap what happened and whata��s next.

10. Book of Greatness: Dona��t brag about yourself in the middle of a presentation. Create a a�?Book of Greatnessa�� to use in your pre-first visit so your clients get to know you and your approach to sales.

Managers: For your list of what can go in your Book of Greatness in your lobby (what a great recruiting tool!), click here.

Skill enhancers, time savers, and presentation builders:

See Your Professional Portfolio to assemble an effective a�?book of greatness for agents.

See The Complete Buyera��s Agent Toolkit* to assemble and present your presentations to buyers. includes all presentations and evaluators.

See Your Client-Based Marketed System* to create presentations and systems to work effectively with sellers. Includes evaluators–self-training.

See Objection-Busters for buyers and sellers to handle barriers to a sale.

*tested and recommended by CRS (Council of Residential Specialists)

Why are our clients so much more critical of the real estate agent’s service? The recent survey by the California Association of Realtors shows some stunning and alarming trends about customer service expectations and delivery. In 2005, Internet consumers rated their overall satisfaction with their agent at almost 90%, while traditional buyers rated their overall satisfaction at 37%.

However, in the ensuing years, the ratings have plummeted. In 2009, both Internet and traditional buyers only rated their overall satisfaction with their agent at 4%!A� (The ratings of Internet and traditional buyers now are equal). In other words, consumer expectations of what an agent will do for them are just not being met. In fact, value received for what the consumer paid the real estate agent was at only 4% for all buyers.

Trends Collide: Consumer Expectations Rise While Agentsa�� Abilities to Meet Those Expectations Shrink

While consumer satisfaction levels are going down, the number of a�?dual career agentsa�� (I call them part-timers) continues up. Whata��s the result? Constantly lowering customer satisfaction levels! I know. Youa��re going to tell me that you met a part-timer once that did a great job. Of course. But, as you and I know, thata��s the exception, not the rule. And, leta��s not think a�?inside-outa��. The consumera��s satisfaction here is the only one that counts. They pay our commissions. And, commission rates are falling because they dona��t feel theya��re receiving value from what they are paying.

Time for Brokers to Set some Standards

Whata��s your standard (minimum expectations) for work completed by agents in your office? Are you okay with a�?just turn in a couple of sales this yeara�?? Or, are you concerned with the consumer experience? If we dona��t start thinking about that, we will be replaced by something consumers can count ona��those darned computers! (I hope not!). However, if the consumer is paying us, we must decide what he is paying us for (and it isna��t because we use technologya��a��).

Valued Services

Herea��s my list of valued services. Whata��s yours? (this is a great exercise for your agents to do)

  1. Dedicated service throughout the transaction
  2. Prioritized knowledge not available just on the Internet
  3. Immediate communication and continued first-level service
  4. Exceptional negotiating skills
  5. Loyalty, putting the customer first, rather than another job first

The Internet and Agent Knowledge: Almost Neck in Neck in Value

In the CAR survey, 54% of the consumers surveyed thought the information they got on the Internet was less useful than what they got from their agent. Does that sound good to you? To me, it sounds very bad. Almost half of the consumers think the Internet is just as good as your live agent! So, leta��s get to cracking and get our agents performing past the standards we set. Why? Because the consumers have already set the standardsa��and theya��re higher than what wea��re allowing. Leta��s put the industry back on track toward pride in excellent service. Leta��s knock the consumera��s socks off with prioritized knowledge, attention to the transaction, and exceptional service. We can do it, and brokers must lead. Now.

Agents with two careers are on the rise. Are they harming your reputation? In Stefan Swanepoela��s publication, Trends Report 2010, he calls the real estate licensee with another job the a�?dual careera�� agent. Thata��s what we used to call the a�?part-timera��. Although a�?dual careera�� sounds much more important than a�?part-timea��, the result is the same: Less time to devote to the consumer. Being pulled in two directions is very difficult. The conflict that an agent feels when he has another job is causing the consumer to rate our service lower than ever before.

Dual Careerists Are a Growing Trend

More and more real estate agents are getting second jobs to make ends meet. In fact, the 2009 National Association of Realtorsa�� Member Profile says that 26% of Realtors stated that real estate was not their only occupation. (Ia��m sure that many more licensees who arena��t Realtors have other major sources of income). In addition, less than half of all Realtors surveyed reported that real estate was their primary source of household income.

Is the Dual Careerist Doing the Industry More Harm than Good?

Having been an agent, manager and owner a long time, I know how difficult it is at times for an agent to a�?hang in therea��, put their heads down, and keep working through tough times. Ita��s a great temptation, and a relief for many to take that other job just to a�?tide them overa��. From the brokera��s perspective, too, keeping the agent at least licensed with the brokerage to get that one transaction seems to be better than losing that one transaction.

Several problems accrue, when the agent gets another job:

  1. The agenta��s mind, energy, and dollars drift away from the needs of the consumer because the agent must focus on another job
  2. The agent cana��t keep up on the technical, legal, and business developments
  3. The consumer demands just cana��t be met when the agent is unavailable for large blocks of time
  4. The broker must carry a much bigger responsibility for the agenta��s transactions

If you are a broker who finds more and more of your agents getting other jobs, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to get these agents’ careers off the ground so they don’t need second jobs?” Now, get the game plans and coaching expertise you need to get on the ‘offensive’ with agents’ careers.