By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M.
As you all know, one of my rules for a successful business is Quality of Life. I tell agents to schedule vacations as rock-solid appointments. And so do I. Recently, I received a flyer in the mail from a hotel at which I once stayed.
They were offering a special weekend deal that sounded too good to be true. So I turned to my family and said, “Hey, why don’t we take advantage of this and get away for three days?” We all agreed, so I picked up the phone to call the hotel.
The reservations agent at the hotel took my information, including the special promotional code from the flyer, and was about to give me my confirmation number when suddenly, she said, “Oh, I’m sorry. This offer is not valid that weekend because of an event we’re having.”
I looked down at the flyer. No mention of any special event. The dates were valid.
“Well”, I said, “I have a flyer right here that tells me otherwise. There’s no mention of any particular weekend not being available.”
“I know”, she said. “But due to an event here, we are unable to honor that offer.”
Now, let’s stop and talk about this for a second. I know things happen. I know no plans can be set in stone, especially with a busy hotel. I don’t expect perfection from the world.
The way they handled it was atrocious. They slammed the door shut. Instead of attempting—even just a little bit—to keep me as a future customer, this reservations agent just wanted to end the conversation.
“Could I speak to your manager please?”, I said.
Now I was fired up. Here was the hotel luring me in with a wonderful deal only to tell me that that offer would not be honored but they did have room but a higher price. So it wasn’t about the fact that they did not have room it was about greed!!! I was offered and promised something in this marketing piece and I was determined to get some answers. Surely the Customer Service “Manager” wouldn’t have the apathetic attitude of the agent, right?
The Customer Service “Manager” comes on the line and I tell her what happened.
But in a tone even more rude than her employee, she cut me off from finishing my explanation.
“When those flyers went out,” she said, “we didn’t realize that there was a large convention happening here that weekend. So we’re not going to honor any of the offers we sent out in the mail. Do you know how much more we can get for those rooms with that kind of convention in town?”
I began to tell her how upset I was over this , but she cut me off again and said—
“Here’s your cancellation code. I have to go now.”
Can you believe this? What kind of “customer service” is this? None, that’s what kind! This wasn’t customer service at all.
This was shameful and disgusting. She wouldn’t even let me vent. She didn’t care.
Needless to say, I won’t ever stay at that hotel again. I refuse to give a penny of my money to an establishment that treats its customers like that. The sad part for the hotel is that not only did they lose me as a client that weekend, they lost me as a client for life!! I will never stay there again.
Okay, enough ranting. What does this have to do with real estate?
I cannot tell you how many times I have walked into an Open House—
Or called an agent on floor duty—
Or even met face-to-face with an agent—only to have the communication door slammed shut in my face in much the same way as the hotel did.
No matter what business we are in, there will be problems. There will be unfulfilled expectations. There will be times when things go horribly wrong.
But the biggest mistake any businessperson can make is to slam shut the door of communication—especially when things do go wrong.
For example, let’s return to my hotel story for a moment. How could the hotel have handled the situation differently? I’m a reasonable person, and I know that unforeseen circumstances sometimes occur. But all the hotel staff had to do to keep me as a customer was to NOT slam the communication door shut in my face.
The Customer Service “Manager” could have said to me—”I’m so sorry this happened. I understand you’re upset. So here’s what I can do. There are three other weekends that I would be willing to extend this special offer to you. How about this one? Oh, and by the way, you have every reason to be upset. I don’t like the situation I’ve been placed in either because you’re not the only guest who is very upset over this. I sincerely apologize.”
But she didn’t even bother to keep the door of communication open. She reacted like I was a pest in her way. And in doing so, I lost all faith and trust in this major hotel.
In real estate, it’s no different. We must learn the art of open communication in the face of disaster.
How can a real estate agent apply this principle? Here are five things you can do to make sure you’re leaving the door of communication open when you’re talking with your clients:
1. When you have a problem with a client, always use these words: “What can I do for you to make this right?”
Ask them what they want. What would fix the problem? Often it’s simple. For the hotel, I had the problem already solved for them. I was more than willing to go another weekend, but they didn’t even give me the opportunity.
2. When you are at an Open House or on floor duty, always keep the conversation going.
Never give just a “Yes” or “No” answer. If a potential client asks you what a neighborhood is like, never say “I don’t have that information with me right now” or “I’m new to this area myself.”
Instead, offer solutions instead of slamming the door shut with such a statement. Say, “I’d be happy to send you a detailed profile of this neighborhood and any others that you are interested in. What’s your email address? I’ll get that right out to you when I get back to the office.”
3. Ask other good questions.
Questions are great tools. When you can’t think of anything to say, just ask a question. You’ll be amazed at how people open up to you when you ask them about what they’re interested in.
Some good ones are:
- “What do you think about that?”
- “Do you like this type of neighborhood?”
- “Do you spend a lot of time outdoors and do you even need that kind of outdoor living space?”
- “What amenities are really important to you?
- “Do you have any pets and is a fence a requirement?”
- “What other things can I do to help you?”
4. Offer them something they’re not going to get anywhere else.
The Best of the Best real estate agents always have backup material for every question potential clients ask.
For example, when someone asks about a particular price point, instead of just answering the question offer them a free report on all the recent price points in the area. If they ask about waterfront homes, offer a free report on what to inspect when evaluating a waterfront property.
You may think that creating all these free reports is an arduous process. And in many ways, it is. But once you get them done, they’re done. And they help you rise above the sea of agents who don’t use them. They impress potential clients with your knowledge, expertise, and dedication to your work.
Keep the door of communication open with your clients. Never close it. When things go bad, acknowledge they’re going bad. Don’t slam it shut. Keep the door open, face the problem, and offer a way out for your client.
When you do this, you will never lose them—no matter what goes wrong.