Happy New Year! Here I sit on the first workday of the year. The office is not yet open and the phone has not yet rung. I love this time of year. Nothing yet accomplished, and no mistakes yet made. It is a wonderful time to reflect on the year that was, and look ahead toward the year that is yet to be.
The idea that comes to mind is that it will be a fantastic year if we can inspect another 3000 homes and do it without a single complaint! A lofty goal indeed, but one worth working towards!
Imagine a year without a single complaint! I reason that goal is good for real estate professionals, good for me, and great for our mutual customers. Just how would we work toward a year without an unhappy customer?
First and foremost, we must always remain customer-focused. There is a very easy test of every decision we make with or on behalf of our customer. Simply ask “if I were doing this for my mother, how would I do it”? Works like a charm every time! It seems that when we have a deep personal interest in putting the best interest of another individual first, things always work out better.
Long ago I worked for a fellow who often said “want it bad, get it bad”. He was a commanding officer of a Navy squadron, not a Realtor in Jacksonville, but his point was this – sometimes we want a particular outcome so bad that we do bad things to get there. Some deals just don’t need to be done, or done in the manner that they are preceding, when not in the best interest of the customer. If we stay centered on their best interest it is likely they will end up happy with their home, happy with their real estate professional, and have a low probability of complaint. Maybe even become a referral source!
Second, we must educate our customers on how good choices are made. Using home inspection as the example, it is not enough to simply refer a particular inspector or inspection company, or, worst of all, put our head in the sand by sending them to the yellow pages. We need to be able to articulate how and why sound choices are make. Have them compare companies on the web. Even if we make specific recommendations, we owe it to ourselves and to our customers to explain the process by which we made the recommendation.
When people lack a well-articulated case for recommendations it has numerous risks. Customer confidence is reduced with an answer such as “yeah, you should choose that home inspector, he has never killed a deal in my office”. As all should know, that deal killing statement is hardly customer-focused. A more compelling case might be something such as a description of one of my RIA inspectors, “Austin has been a state licensed home inspector since the beginning of licensing, is a Certified Master Inspector, and has performed more than 3,000 home inspections. I would recommend Austin to my mother”. Now THAT is compelling!
Lastly, it is critical to keep the customer engaged in the process. When the customer is deeply involved with every turn in the home buying journey they feel more in control. For the home inspection, this means the buyer must attend the inspection. It is interesting to study home inspection complaints. We receive about one complaint for every 100 homes inspected. That is really very few, but remember we are working toward zero! In 9 out of 10 complaints, the customer did not attend the inspection!
By not attending the home inspection, buyers have a greatly reduced understanding of not only the inspection process, but also a reduced understanding of their home. And more bad news, if the buyer did not attend the inspection, their real estate professional probably did. Now not only are they unhappy with me, they are also unhappy with their agent!
After more than twenty years and 30,000 inspections I can tell you this, the surest way to a happy customer over the long term is:
- Always put the best interest of the customer first
- Educate your customers for clear and comfortable decision making
- Participate along with the customer in every event