Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make Your Clients Raving Fans
Put the people you serve at the heart of everything you do—and business will follow.
March 15, 2013
You may have seen this story on your Twitter or Facebook feed in January: A 7-year-old boy spent his Christmas money on a Lego set. After one of his characters went missing, the boy sent a letter to Lego asking if the company would replace the figurine. Not only did Lego replace the lost toy, but a customer service representative responded promptly with a kind note and sent extra minifigures for the boy to enjoy.
On Jan. 7 the boy’s father posted a tweet with an image of the company’s communication, which got the attention of the social sphere. The feel-good story went viral, covered by the Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. “That’s how companies score lifelong customers,” crowed Yahoo News.
There’s a great business lesson tucked away in the Lego story: When clients advocate on your behalf, it’s a powerful way to build business. “People crave reinforcement. That’s why social media can make or break you today,” says Joseph Callaway, crs, senior agent of Those Callaways, a Phoenix real estate team he runs with his wife JoAnn. “They want their friends to guide them, and then they want their friends to agree with their choices.”
In order to achieve those kinds of social media wins, you have to have the right customer-service system in place. The Callaways do. Their 30-person team closed roughly $97 million in sales with 275 transaction sides in 2012, up 9 percent from 2011. Despite the fact that about 70 percent of their business comes from past clients, the couple has never asked for a referral, says Joseph Callaway. Instead, they’ve focused on putting their clients at the center of every aspect of their business. That philosophy is captured in a book the couple coauthored, Clients First (Wiley & Sons, 2013). Here are tips from them, and from author and customer-service expert Shep Hyken, for growing client advocates by putting people at the heart of your business:
Align company culture with the client. “It begins with a commitment to the client’s point of view,” Joseph says. “When you master that, you will change your life and you will change your business.” Like the Lego employee who solved a 7-year-old’s problem, every agent and staff member of Those Callaways is empowered to put the client first, no questions asked.
With that kind of empowerment comes responsibility, says Hyken. “A company’s culture is defined by its core values,” he says. “If you’re a broker or team leader, and an agent isn’t fitting your culture, you have to tell [that person] to work for someone else.”
Provide a consistent level of service. Consistent attention to people’s needs fosters confidence and trust. Don’t let differences in economic status, for example, influence your commitment to service. The Callaways say it doesn’t matter if a seller has a $50,000 condo or a $5 million home on the market. Everyone gets their full dedication and expertise—whether it’s for obtaining professional photography services and virtual tours or receiving thoughtful listing advice.
Persevere through difficulties. Always make the transaction as easy as possible on your client. In 2002, the Callaways had a young client who wanted to sell her condo and buy a house. They listed the condo and found the perfect house on which she made a contingent offer. But because of a lawsuit between the homeowners association and the builder, two separate offers on the condo fell through. The Callaways never considered giving up on their client. Instead, they led with an honest disclosure in the condo listing and made the case for rising values once the HOA suit was settled. A third buyer came forward; their client was able to return from her honeymoon to her dream home. Over the past decade, that client and her family have sent Those Callaways more than a dozen referrals.