From the Top: Culture, Customers & Service
Customer service no longer has the same meaning for property managers as it once did. Today it’s about developing customer service strategies to meet your tenants’ needs. Get that right and you’ll find yourself working smarter instead of harder.
The customer service equation is a relatively simple concept to understand: Peoples’ perceptions are their realities. Regardless of past efforts and intentions, today’s consumers recognise only what they feel, and if your good intentions and accompanying actions don’t give them the feeling that you care and are providing excellent service, they won’t be happy.
It’s clear that customer service training programs are a priority for some real estate agencies, evidenced by their ability to achieve business growth both in size and profitability even during challenging conditions. So, is customer service a priority at your agency? Only customer service that meets the customers’ expectations will be successful and build more loyalty in the marketplace. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation and while this makes providing customer service more difficult, at the same time it makes the rewards much more satisfying.
Now, whether it’s a property manager on the front line or a receptionist serving the front line across any of your core business units through to administration support, accounts and finance, and principals, all activities touch customers across every agency. And as a result, anyone serving a customer at your agency, whether it’s directly or indirectly, needs to be trained or retrained in fundamental customer service skills. And there’s no time like the present to review customer service when it’s needed most during a crisis. Obviously customer service expectations vary depending on the market niche you’re serving which should further serve as an incentive to re-energise and update your staff with the skills required for excellent customer service in your local community.
Top blockages to effective customer service training and which erode the impact of the training include an agency turning a deaf ear to customer needs; principals setting a bad example; service standards are ill-defined, outdated, or worse, ignored (with no policy and procedures in place to drive service standards); poor internal support; processes are unfriendly and unwieldy for the customer; complaints are dismissed as a nuisance; there’s a lack of praise and recognition; service is viewed as an add-on; and, customer service training is seen as a ‘one off.’
Take a moment to answer the following questions:
- Who are your customers?
- What constitutes great service in your agency?
- How do you handle aggressive customers?
- What is a ‘Moment of Truth’ in your agency and how do you deal with it? (A Moment of Truth is when an interaction occurs between a customer and the service provider that can leave a lasting positive or negative impression on a customer).
- How do you identify and manage customer expectations?
Were you able to confidently answer all these questions? Don’t think your agency is immune to some customer service refresher training either; customer surveys point to ingrained shortcomings across the board. To hit the training target, best-practice customer service real estate agencies pay attention to a range of identifiable characteristics which make all the difference to frontline training and service results and which include listening to your customers; establishing and maintaining standards; implementing a comprehensive training and development program; continually reviewing and improving processes; empowering employees; recognising and reinforcing; and, focussing on the customer both inside and out. But above it all is leading by example where there’s an attitude of excellent service from the top down; superior skills in customer service must start at the top in order for any agency to achieve their desired service culture. Fail to embrace this and you’re only doing yourself and your real estate business a disservice.