Consumer expectations have evolved drastically over the last decade. Technology and digitization, along with shifts in the demographic, economic, and cultural landscape, have brought about a new type of customer.
Today's shoppers have instant access to unlimited information and goods. You can order something on Amazon with one click, and have it arrive on your doorstep the next day. Meanwhile, data is working behind the scenes to provide personalized recommendations at precisely the right time, so you always have what you need without really having to think about it. But it's not just about convenience: With more options than ever before, people expect more from the companies they choose to do business with, from data privacy to customer advocacy. This goes for both big brands and independent service providers.
So, how can you stay competitive and keep up with the modern-day consumer? The key is to understand what they value, and adjust your business strategy to meet those expectations.
Personalization not only makes for more convenient buying journeys — reducing decision-making time and fatigue — but also makes the client feel known and understood. Customers know you have (or can get) the data needed to create personalized experiences for them, and it's what they've come to expect. In fact, 79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for a personalized customer journey. This is even truer for clients with whom you've had previous interactions. Over half of customers view tailored engagement based on past interactions as a very important factor in deciding to give you their business.
Humanize your customer experience at every touchpoint. Capture data to understand buyers' preferences, then leverage technology to help solve for those needs. A good start is segmenting your email lists and utilizing dynamic content to target people with the right message at the right time. But there are tools that can help you do much more than that. For instance, artificial intelligence (AI) can generate precise property recommendations by analyzing a user's search behavior, matching clients with homes that fit their exact tastes. It can also tell you when to engage with buyers based on when they're most eager to buy, prompting outreach at the ideal moment.
That doesn't mean technology should take over. The right tools empower you to deliver the one-on-one connection that clients crave. For example, during the home search, 74% of buyers want to their agent to call them personally to notify them of updates, more than any other communication channel. Personalization means crafting a unique experience for every individual, while making sure your clients know they matter to you — whether that's through virtual or real-life interactions.
When clients entrust you with their business, it's not something they take lightly. To them, it's personal, and they want the assurance that you've got their best interests in mind. When choosing a real estate agent, the factors most important to buyers are honesty and trustworthiness, even before experience and reputation. After all, buying a home is an emotional experience. It's not a cut-and-dried financial transaction. Gaining a client's trust is essential to gaining and keeping their business.
The challenge with trust is that it doesn't come easily — especially today, when consumers are increasingly skeptical of brands' authenticity and integrity. Consider all the data breaches that have taken place in recent years, for example. Or how about those clickbait ads there were the norm on Facebook just a few years back?
But policies and formalities are not enough to build trust; you also need social proof. Testimonials and reviews are extremely valuable tools that help clients judge whether you're the right person for the job, so be sure you're collecting and publishing them. Most importantly, your actions should convey your trustworthiness. Are you positioning yourself as a reliable advocate — someone they can count on to answer tough questions and guide them through an emotional and often stressful process? Are you accessible when they need you and forthcoming about issues or potential delays in the transaction? How about admitting when you mess up? Actions really do speak louder than words, and your authenticity will speak for itself.
Ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes with your product or service is integral to retaining them for future business and referrals. Friendly service and a thank-you are simply not enough any longer. Their options as consumers are abundant, and clients will have no problem heading over to your competition if you don't give them a reason to stick around. The good news is, nearly two-thirds of customers say they're likely to remain loyal when a company commits to their success and satisfaction.
Customer success permeates all stages of the buyer journey and requires a proactive approach. Unlike traditional customer service, which simply reacts to a problem or negative situation, customer success involves making the first move to anticipate customer needs before they arise. It's communicating the value you provide up-front, delivering an outstanding experience during the transaction, and maintaining an ongoing investment in the relationship post-sale.
This is another area where data and technology can help. Let's say you have a buyer with a baby on the way and a hard deadline for a move-in date. You can set milestone reminders in your CRM to help you gauge whether your client is on track to meet their goal, and adjust your strategy accordingly to ensure a positive outcome. Or perhaps you just closed a deal with a first-time homebuyer: An email newsletter providing home maintenance tips and checklists can prove highly valuable as they're adjusting to the responsibility of caring for a new home.
Remember that customer success is not a one-time event; it's a long-term commitment in which you're consistently providing value to your clients. When you deliver the value your customers are seeking, they'll be successful — and when your customers succeed, you succeed.
Consumer expectations are evolving, and as with anything in life, businesses must keep evolving with them in order to survive. Understanding the values that drive modern consumer behaviors — and embracing new methods and ideologies to meet those needs — is essential. With personalization, trust, and customer success at the core of your business model, you can deliver an experience that resonates with today's consumer and keep your edge in a competitive market.
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