Yesterday I was having a cup of coffee and a slice of blackberry cake in a coffee shop downtown Savannah. When everyone else finished their drinks and snacks, they left the plate and cup. Not me, no, I pick up behind myself, so I took my plate and cup to the front like I always do at such places and offered it to the person behind the counter. Now, a person who has a scintilla of service running in their veins would have accepted the plate and cup, thanked me and smiled.
Not this person posing as a customer service employee, no, she looked at me, slightly annoyed, and said, “Actually, would you take that down to the end of the counter?” I started to ask her if she wanted me to wash it, too. I just laughed and took it down to the end of counter, knowing no thanks was forthcoming (and there wasn’t).
This is an example of someone wanting a paycheck with no clue what it means to provide customer service. Did I get my coffee and blackberry cake? Yes. Was it good? Yes. Will I go back? I doubt it. The reason I won’t go back is because I can get the same good coffee and cake down the street with better, more personable service. I tried this place out and it failed to make me want to go back.
When I hear people confidently say about our profession—“I’m in the business of selling homes, dammit, not in the service business or socializing business or friend-making business, but the home-selling business!”—this appeals to my Hulk Hogan side, but it also leaves me unsatisfied with the posture.
Two people can be good at selling homes, yet one will be successful long term and the other will fade away into obscurity and mediocrity—why? Because of service.
Service separates the winners from the blusterers.
Building reputation and being a long term success depends on how well you please your clients—not just selling their home, but HOW you sell it and how you treat the client and everyone involved, including vendors and other agents. Just being good at selling homes is not enough, not in a competitive field where your competitors are providing a better experience for their clients.
Hardly anyone is so good that people will overlook their poor service. It might take a while for poor service to catch up with a super salesperson, but it will. People talk and they don’t like it when they feel they are being taken for granted, so they tell others. Then you have a reputation of “getting the job done, but an arrogant pain in the butt”—so, others start saying “I know an agent who sells just as much and the service is superb.”
Hardly anything in the real estate service business is so simple that you can sum it up by saying “I sell houses, dammit.”
You are also providing service, building a reputation, marketing yourself, attempting to get referrals and striving for total client satisfaction. I have heard agents who have obviously been to therapy worry about being “co-dependent” so they have come up with a plan to work only on certain hours, and to protect their privacy and to bolster their self-esteem by learning how to say “No”, and so forth.
Well, this is all well and good, but it begins to turn people off when it’s done as a reaction to high demand clients. There are ways to deal with clients, but this wall of protection can be superficial and an excuse to not go the extra mile to provide excellent service.
Service work is hard and difficult, and it’s why many agents don’t make it—they get in thinking they are going to sell houses, everyone will love and admire them and they will have prestige. When they get high demand clients who don’t care about prestige, they fold and react and they blow deals.
It takes a special mindset to provide good service and it’s one part of real estate work that is not taught properly, nor is it recognized properly by brokers taking on agents.
If you can’t deal with difficult people and you don’t know how to give excellent service, and don’t understand the value of service, then simply selling houses won’t be enough.
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Mike Farmer is owner/broker of Mike Farmer Realty in Savannah, Georgia.