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Added: March 2, 2009
Article rating: 4 (of 5) - 1 votes

Customer Service Doesn't Equal Accessibility

[ by Dirk Zeller ]
For 30 years we have been taught, as REALTORS we must be there for our clients. I hear it all the time from Agents across North America; "I want to be there for my clients." What does 'be there' mean? Does 'be there' mean we are available 24 hours, 7 days a week for our clients? Does it mean that we miss soccer games, tee ball games, and piano recitals? For many Agents that is exactly what it means. Many of us equate access with service.

We have been trained for years that access is the primary vehicle of customer service. We feel we need to be there at all times for our clients. We grant them access to our lives whenever they want it. They can, and will, take over our business, if we let them.

I want to share with you a new concept. Access has nothing to do with customer service. There are many professionals we do business with on a regular basis who are less than accessible. A skilled doctor cannot be contacted via phone and respond right away. A skilled doctor is busy with other patients and will get back to the caller during the course of the day. A professional attorney may be in court, in a conference, or taking a deposition. We don't expect them to return our call immediately. I would certainly question the ability of these two professionals if they could get back to me right away. That would tell me they are not very busy. It would cause me to question their capabilities. Yet, being phone available is like a badge of honor for a REALTOR.

Ben Franklin said,"If you want a job done right, ask a busy man to do it." Ben understood the perception of industrious diligence. He also understood human nature. When Ben Franklin was a young printer, he was seen daily on Market Street at noon pushing a wheelbarrow stacked with reams of paper. After becoming successful he later shared that the paper was not in the wheelbarrow because it needed to go somewhere, but it was there to promote Ben as a busy man. He created a public perception of value through his daily wheelbarrow walk. If we can meet with clients at all hours of the day and night, they will begin to wonder if we have any other clients. We are not promoting being a busy REALTOR. To clearly separate access from customer service, here are a few steps:

Step 1: Set Boundaries

Your clients will respect you if you set specific boundaries. Set boundaries on your time away from selling real estate. Take out the days off, the family activities, the time with your spouse, and the time for you. You must plan that process before the week begins. The most effective way to set boundaries is work off a set schedule. A set schedule allows you to create each week to be exactly the same as the week before. Create specific boundaries for your client by taking your home phone number off your business card. Other professionals don't give out their home number. Turn your cell phone and pager off at specific times each evening. Set boundaries for your clients to follow regarding your time and time with your family.

Step 2: Treat everything as an appointment

Once you have set boundaries, treat everything as an appointment. Your time with your children and spouse are the most important appointments you have. Don't infringe on your family time. Your appointments to work out, to read, and to relax are your time; don't break those appointments.

You also have appointments in your workday. You have appointments to prospect and lead follow-up. These have a tendency to get pushed out of the way by clients. If you allow that to happen, you will see a drop in your business in 90 days. If you miss those appointments today, the effect is not felt for 90 days when you have no closings. It's easy to let other things move into those prospecting and lead follow-up appointment slots. You have to fight the urge to take care of clients in those times.

Step 3: Set specific times to return calls

Most of the calls we get are not important. They are someone trying to give us what they deem as urgent. They are rarely important and rarely must be handled now. Most calls can wait a few hours to deal with. Set specific times when you return calls. I would suggest once in late morning and once toward the end of the day. Tell people you are in appointments and you will be retuning calls at those specific times.

You need to separate the concept of access from customer service. Customer service is about getting the job done well. The client does not really care about your access. They care about a job done well. Become respected like your doctor, dentist, or attorney. Limit the instant access you grant to people. Don't be fooled by the old access model of customer service for real estate. To stay competitive with all the changes in the real estate industry, you need to raise the bar on service and professionalism. Access is not in either of these categories.

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About the author: Dirk Zeller is an Agent, an Investor, and the President & CEO of Real Estate Champions. His company trains more than 250,000 Agents worldwide each year through live events, online training, self-study programs, and newsletters. He's the widely published author of Your First Year in Real Estate, Success as a Real Estate Agent for Dummies, The Champion Real Estate Agent, The Champion Agent Team, Telephone Sales for Dummies, and over 300 articles in print.

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