Surprise Them With Spectacular Service

Leading agents through this three-step brainstorming process will help them inspire customer loyalty at your brokerage.

November 20, 2015

I’m not often surprised by quality customer service, but for my recent birthday, an airline I don’t usually do business with blew me away. As I prepared to board a United Airlines jet the day after my birthday, the flight attendant met me at the door with a birthday card and a personal greeting. Everywhere I went that day, they surprised me with a personal acknowledgement — from flight attendants to the people checking tickets.

My primary carrier (with whom I’m a million miler and fly 10 times as often) did nothing. It was enough to make me want to forfeit my benefits and do business with United. I would, too, except that they don’t have nearly as many direct flights in and out of my home airport, which makes my airline un-fire-able. Even though the service is subpar and I’ve sat on the runway for innumerable late departures, I feel limited to the main carrier at my home airport. They may have my money, but only because I feel stuck. And that’s a terrible thing to associate with a brand.

Just as business travelers need an airline, pretty much anyone in the real estate market needs an agent. So consider for a moment — is your team one that customers feel stuck with, or one that they’re consistently amazed by?

If you want to protect your turf from being poached by the competition, it starts with leading your team to the realization that no matter who you are, you’re not entitled to the business you have.

Maybe your agents have more experience than everyone else. Maybe they have the best name recognition in the ZIP code, the best back office, the biggest marketing budget, and all the trappings of success. None of this matters if other agents are aggressively pursuing their clients. In his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs delivered a piece of advice that can serve your team well: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” This approach ensures a mindset of pounding the pavement every day—never assuming you have got it made or are entitled to anything.

It’s your job to ensure that your team retains its hunger and humility. Get started by following these three steps:

Step One

Open your next sales meeting with your own account of a recent “knock-your-socks-off” customer service experience. Dig through your memory bank for that perfect and personal story of extraordinary service—you’ll tell it with more zeal if it’s your own.

Step Two

You’ve made reflecting on such an experience personal for yourself — now do the same for your team members. Invite a few agents to share their stories of incredible service encounters. It might take a minute or two to warm up, but once they’re rolling you might find it tough to move on to the next exercise. That’s okay, because it’ll help you make the point that amazing experiences build intense loyalty.

Step Three

Bring it home by leading a collective brainstorm about specific ways your team, as a whole and as individuals, can surprise and delight customers. If you see this discussion is starting to turn into a series of suggestions about items to buy for customers, issue a challenge to make ideas more about an experience than a gift. Remind them of their own examples; rarely are the best-remembered gestures expensive ones. If you have deep pockets, it’s easy to try to “buy” loyalty. It’s more challenging to be genuinely charming and endearing, and to earn loyalty in the process.

It’s absolutely worth the effort, though. As with my airline birthday card, a bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer, management coach, member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group, and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. Learn more at