Customer satisfaction is a limited measure suitable for simple transactions. If you ordered a cup of coffee and received a decent cup of coffee, you’re satisfied. But buying or selling a home is a complex process with lots of touchpoints, decisions, and potential outcomes. It’s a journey. And journeys aren’t described with a thumbs up or thumbs down emoji.
That’s why a better goal to reach for is customer experience: the sum total of all interactions and feelings that make up the homebuying or selling process. This goes beyond whether a single transaction was successful to include whether or not a customer felt heard and respected, how prepared they felt for each stage of the process, and how much they enjoyed working with you. When customer experience is at the heart of your business strategy, it lays the foundation for lifelong clients and referrals that continue for years to come.
A customer’s experience with you starts before they ever reach out to you. Whether a buyer or seller was referred to you by a previous satisfied customer or found you through a web search, they’ll likely start by exploring your online presence. Your online presence is your welcome mat, so make sure it’s inviting. Here are some ways to do this:
Make sure your website is up to date, easy to navigate, and provides multiple ways to contact you (phone, text, email, contact form).
Create a social media presence that helps customers get to know you and feel connected to you.
Respond promptly to all communications, including questions or comments posted to your social media accounts.
Real estate is not a one-person show. The assistants, business partners, and other service providers you work with also have an impact on your customer experience. Make sure you're teaming up with people who treat customers with respect, communicate clearly and frequently, and follow through on their responsibilities in a timely manner. It’s also helpful to engage in regular conversations about what’s working and what kind of feedback each team member is getting. Their interactions with clients can give you insights about the customer experience that you otherwise might not be aware of.
No one likes a hard sell. If your first response to an inquiry is a list of reasons why they should hire you, be prepared for a trail of dust when they run the other direction. Someone may be months or even years from making a decision, but in the meantime, they need information. Assess their needs and go beyond answering questions by providing additional resources or links to educational materials. Buying or selling a home is a huge financial and emotional step, and customers need to trust you before they do business with you.
One way to earn customers’ trust is to demonstrate a level of local expertise your competitors can’t touch. Be the person who knows which neighborhoods are the most kid-friendly, or what areas offer a high level of walkability or greenspace. When customers say, “We really want to live in Area X,” let them know what areas offer the same amenities but with more inventory or lower prices. Help them break down what they like about Area X so you can point them to hidden gems that may be off their radar.
You may be able to talk about real estate for hours on end, but most customers want efficient and effective communication versus information overload. Ask thoughtful questions and practice active listening by repeating back what you’ve heard. (“So, what I’m hearing is that you’d like to be close to your workplace, but you’re willing to live farther out if you can get a larger yard?”) If you’ve provided a lot of new information verbally, follow up with an email to recap the main points. Remember that much of what’s second nature to you may be brand new to this customer, so don’t take their understanding for granted.
The housing market moves quickly, and there are a lot of moving parts, so set up a cadence of communication that keeps your customer informed, but not overwhelmed.
Ask whether they prefer email, phone, or text communications.
Find out if there are times of day when they aren’t available and would prefer an alternate form of communication.
Establish how often they want to hear from you and stick to that schedule. One customer may want a daily check-in, while others may only want to hear from you when there’s news to report.
If you’re setting up a showing, ask if they’d like a text reminder or calendar invite so they have the details at their fingertips.
Your customer may come to you with an unrealistic goal. As a professional who is dedicated to customer experience, you may have to help them adjust their expectations. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to advise them on their best, most realistic options. If you’re concerned they’re taking on more house than they can afford, float the idea of a starter house that will position them to upgrade in a few years, or let them know that it might be better to pause their search while they build a bigger down payment. Their success may not yield immediate benefit to you, but it could pay off in a bigger sale or more referrals down the line.
f your efforts resulted in a successful transaction, don’t consider your job done. Remember ... you’re playing the long game of building lifetime customers and a robust referral network. Follow up after the paperwork to see if your customers have any questions, and send them a thank you note to show appreciation for their business. Most of all, let them know that you’re available to provide the same A+ customer experience to any friends or family who need help navigating the housing market.