Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Journey as a Vendor

I have worked in real estate now for 23 years and yes I have bought, sold and rented many homes before. However it is the sale of my current home, which I am conducting with a high profile agency in my area that has me looking at the process of real estate in a whole different light.

I am the vendor from hell, I am sure that my agent, who by the way has done pretty much everything right, is very aware of the fact that I will most probably be one of their most difficult clients.

I have presented at many conferences and training sessions on the value of delivering service that equates to memorable experiences. An evocative term yes but that is what each interaction or touch point should be about.

So many businesses have systems that are designed for themselves not for their clients and when I talk about this often I am met with quizzical looks... as if to say .... “and the problem with that is”?

So I thought I would keep a journal of what my experiences have been to date and what perhaps could have made a difference to the overall experience.

I chose the agent because they are local, have a high profile and yes I once worked there. So I know the level of service that I should be getting. My expectations however are much higher than any other client they will be dealing with right now.

So far the agent has turned up on time to every appointment, has emailed me schedules, photos and returned my calls exactly as I would have expected. But this is the point, how has any of this really been any different to any other agent.

Our first open was on a Saturday and there was no board on the front of the property. .. not a good start but one that was overcome quite quickly.

So as I sit here and write this blog I ask myself what are my expectations.

Well I want to be wowed, I want to be able to say that my agent gave me the best possible service and the process of getting the house sold and getting me the best price is part of that but what about all the bits in between.

So here are some examples I would like to share.... what about:

  • a phone call or an sms the day prior to the first open house just to confirm the time and we are on track because I wake up every Saturday and Thursday and ask “what time was that damn open again and how many hours do I have to clean my house”.

  •  the agent following me up on the lack of a board rather than the other way around.

  • a registration on their buyer match program so I can see other similar homes and their price points - this helps set my expectations on price.

  •  a link to the website when the property has been uploaded.

  •  a rental valuation provided automatically and one where the property manager has gone through the property rather than looking at photos on the internet. This does not make me feel comfortable on the rental valuation provided and it sends the message that I am not that important.

  •  a registration on the tenant match program as I will be renting in the short term. Or providing me a list of properties available to lease.

  •  flowers for the first open.

  •  a coffee shop voucher or a massage voucher or something for me to do during opens....

Need I go on, none of these are very hard to achieve but for some reason so many agents find it very hard to think of and deliver on.

My point is that if you deliver simply to expectation then there is no WOW and no word of mouth; it’s the small stuff that counts, the unexpected that enables me to say that was a wow experience can’t wait to tell people about it.

Because when you are on the market regardless of whether you are buying, renting or selling everybody wants to know how things are going.
Let’s see what the next 6 weeks brings... watch this space as they say.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Technology giving us back more time... Please explain how?

I was talking to a friend of mine recently and they made the comment to me that having the mobile phone next to my bed cannot be good for my sleep patterns. It did get me thinking about the level of dependency we have on all the tools that are available to us.

One of my coaching clients biggest issue was that her boss felt he had access to her 24/7 and often while she was bathing her young child or sitting at the dinner table he would be emailing, calling or texting her. My advise... quite simple really... tell him that when you leave work after a certain time you will be turning your phone off and the matter will have to wait till the morning.

Interestingly their relationship improved and their time within the work environment was better utilised. More importantly however he recognised that she had personal space and time that was hers.

A property manager I was recently having dinner with told me of a story where the tenants had vacated the property but left their dogs in the house. She got a call on Saturday night and had to take her 16 year old to break into the home and let the dogs out upon which time the tenants returned to say it had only been three days, they had left enough food but of course you can imagine the state of the carpet. I however had visions of her pushing her 16 year old though a small window saying “its ok darling just go in open the door, we do this all the time!”

At dinner recently we all pulled out our mobile phones and posted updates on face book as to where we were and how much fun we were having.

I head another story about a passenger on a flight that enabled him to hook into his email service once the flight had taken off. Unfortunately within a few minutes of using the service it dropped out and he was quiet annoyed about the fact that he could no longer work. Yet only an hour ago he had no idea that this technology existed. How quickly our expectations change.

So how hooked are we on technology and is the constant change shifting our expectations on everything?

I do have to say that it is wonderful being able to work outside of the office, have access to emails and still have your finger on the pulse so to say. However we do need to draw a line as to when and how often we expect people to be available. The problem or question if not life threatening will still be there in a few hours or the next day.

I think it is rude to bring your phone out in the middle of dinner or a meeting and tap away and yet I am a regular offender.

I don’t believe technology is the problem how we choose to use it is. We are rapidly creating a culture of working 24/7, in our industry our clients now almost expect it, so many of us are addicted to that email or text message coming through on our blackberries or iphones. In fact we are now spending more time working, increasing workloads and stress levels; I have my doubts on whether we are increasing productivity. What I find amusing is often I do spend a Sunday cleaning out my in-box and invariably as I do I am filling someone else’s.

I think we need to start getting sensible about how we use the technology, fight the addiction, be ok to turn the phone off, not check emails or texts and set clear expectations with colleagues and clients that these are my access times, if it is urgent , and be clear what urgent equals, call me.

I am happy to have people hold me accountable and if I do bring out my phone to see if anyone in the world needs me or loves me please tell me its rude and make me put it away. As long as of course I can do the same to you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I am not the Harry Potter of real estate

I just want growth is the catch cry from so many real estate owners and if I had a dollar for every time I heard I wouldn’t have to work again.

In this current market, which I do have to point out, is not as bad as our friends across the ditch.. that being New Zealand, property management has taken on a level of importance that perhaps didn’t exist before.

My response to this question is “why do you think you have not achieved growth so far”? The answer is not very complicated but does start with the principal.

Here are some questions you may like to ask yourself:
How involved are you (the principal) in the property management department?
Do you understand the business.... really understand it?
How much love do you show your property management team?
How much training have you invested in?
What levels of communication exists between property management and sales?
Do you have a marketing budget?
Do you have a BDM who is trained as a sales person?
Do you market your property management department at every sale OFI?
Are you property managers trained to list?
Do you have an up to date global database that you can market to?
Do your clients know your property management department exists?
Do you have a business plan?
Do your people show the love to your clients?
Do you get referral or repeat business?
Does your sales department depend on the rent roll to gain their listings?
Do you and your people know the numbers?
Do you know what it costs to manage one property?

And I could go on ... These are very simple concepts, the how is what I consult in.

We implemented many of these concepts at Hocking Stuart from 2004 – 2007 and it does amaze me that in 2009 so many business owners still don’t get it.

So no I don’t have Harry Potters magic wand to increase your rent roll but implement some of the very simple concepts above and over time you will start to see growth.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Service Culture = how things get done

Isn’t it interesting that a simple word can have such a huge impact on your businesses. How do you mean you ask? Well take for example the following:

You walk into a restaurant for lunch and no one else is there, you stand there torn between wanting to walk out or stay, but it’s too late, the waiters have seen you, customers they think and make a bee line for you. Your expectations have already been tainted and there is instant lack of trust in the food being fantastic and the service being awesome.

You meet a salesperson for the first time and you reach out to shake their hands, they wipe their hands on their pants and then squeeze the life out of yours. Then to make matters worse they mispronounce your name and continue to do so for the whole meeting. Am I really going to trust this person to sell my house?

You have a great week at a resort in Noosa and upon your return you get a letter from management suggesting that you deliberately didn’t pay for the bottle of red wine that you took out of the mini bar on day one. And if you didn’t wish to contest the charge it will be debited against your credit card.

In all of these examples the reason why I perhaps wont use their services again has nothing to do with the product they have but to do with their service, culture...how things get done.

So who is in charge of the service culture in your businesses, are you spending enough time on it, training your teams and reviewing to make sure they have it right? Or are you like many other businesses in the current market not spending money on training? Are people writing your business off simply because in that few seconds you have to impress someone your people got it wrong.