Recently I moved into a new apartment in New York City. For four years I’d wanted more light, more space, and less people on my stoop from the corner bar.
Time for an upgrade!
I went through the process most New Yorkers know love and hate: I worked with a broker. They save you time – you don’t have to search NYC real estate hit – and save you frustration – you see real units, not false-advertising. “Charming” means teeny tiny, don’t be fooled. You also see new to market units, which really do have charm. The downside is forking over 12-15% of an entire year’s rent to someone. Cringe-worthy. But after solo-searching, I high-tailed to a broker and said, “I know what I want. Don’t have much time. Will you negotiate your fee?”
Ahhh, the service industry…
For three weeks I was the customer of a high-end service. This was eye-opening since I’m usually the provider; Outside of travel, dining, and vendors, I’m usually the one giving the experience to others. I gathered data. Saw lots of places with different brokers. After three weeks, I quickly learned a broker’s style, organization, attention to detail. I strongly liked some and disliked others.
Why is this experience important?
Because it reveals how we think about buying and who has power. A customer has total control over the ultimate choice; You make the final buying decision. But not so fast. The broker can 50% or more influence a buying decision. Not based on price, the market dictates that, and not based on choice – some brokers do have better access to better listings, but not always. The primary competitive advantage and most visible difference in brokers was: How did he make me feel during the process? What was my experience?
It’s not an accident that listing quality comes first. Vetting must start with your bottom line: I want a good place to live. But quickly thereafter come the intangibles: Do you make me feel special? Do I feel taken care of? Listened to? Do you respect me enough to be organized?
At the end of the day, it comes down to customer experience.
My broker, James, knows this now :) That’s him below.
A savvy business owner knows he competes on customer experience. People WILL price-shop and demand quality, so how you treat people is the biggest marker of your success.
If your business is service, make it your business to never compromise how your clients feel about your service. “Meh” is not what you want to hear.
In my case, while I held final purchase-power, the broker controlled if I wanted to see more units with them or someone else, and if I made a decision right then. What made a good experience for me was that it met the important criteria below, even if I couldn’t have everything I wanted.
THIS is what you should be looking to create for your clients.
THIS is how you should want to make them feel. After all, no clients means you’re not in business.
I wanted to feel:
- Taken care of. I want to trust you completely. You have my best interest at heart and know the best path to get there. I want you to worry about how I’m feeling!
- Respected. My time and energy are important. Don’t waste either by showing me things that don’t meet my criteria or hold my standard right off the bat. Right off the bat.
- Organized. If a broker gave me a typed sheet with listings for that day, and already-scheduled appointments = GOLD. If someone showed up with half-confirmed appointments and looseleaf, DONEZO.
- Professional. You know the market and anticipate my questions, asking before I do.
- Listened to. You don’t assume you know what I want. You listen to my criteria over and over again if you have to, even say it out loud so I know you know what I want.
- Communication. In time-sensitive matters, you communicate with me even to say “I got this, I’m on it. Speak to you later.” This is HUGE for me.
- Positive. You’re optimistic through the entire process, no matter how many units I haven’t liked.
- Integrity. I know you’re not just out for the money, but you want to do your job well, which means finding me the ideal place.
- Flexible. If I want you to move on something faster or slower, or change it up and get assertive with a management company, you do it. This was the one thing missing from my process. It felt like we were on different timelines, which impacted my trust.
- Flattered. Not like a sycophant. But if a broker watched my TEDx talk (from my email sig) and we talked about it, I felt like he “got” me more than someone else.
- Feels like an experience. I’m paying, so I want it to FEEL on par with the money I spend. I’m happy to pay if the experience demands it but I’m annoyed if it feels less than.
- Special. I know you have hundreds of clients, but I want to feel like a VIP.
- Put on a show. To be clear, I like smooth talkers. I appreciate people who go the extra mile to entertain, engage, pay for cabs, etc. It feels nice. But when I feel the smoke and mirrors, then it gets icky. Grab my attention, just don’t let me see you doing it. I can feel it, everyone can.
- Truth. Tell the truth. If the landlord is shady, if the place has bugs, just tell me right up front. I’ll pay you more in the long run if you tell me the truth.
If you do this, your customers will love you, and not just once. With all that’s on my plate and with so little time, if you make me feel special, know that I’m coming back for more.
Ultimately you want your clients to love paying you. When they smile and sigh at a service fee, “What’re you gonna do?” you’re winning. I’d pay a premium to know I’m taken care of unlike anyone else. Day spas, medical professionals, real estate brokers, take note.
If you’re in the business of serving people, you’re not in the service business, you’re in the PEOPLE business.
So how do you create an experience for your clients they LOVE paying for? Do you put yourself in the shoes of your customers often? Try it because it’s eye-opening. Tell me what you’re doing or will do to make your customers feel loved and listened to. It makes a HUGE difference.