A few years ago one of our property receptionists took a call from a vendor whose husband had passed away.
The client, who had been in the middle of buying a new home with her other half, needed to withdraw her property from the market.
Obviously an emotional situation, the seller called up in tears after speaking to her bank about the mortgage. Frustrated and upset, she couldn’t believe how rude the customer service advisor had been.
He’d showed absolutely zero empathy to her position. Unsurprisingly, it made an already stressful situation worse.
Fortunately, our receptionist was able to reassure the caller and efficiently deal with the issue so the agent could quickly help her to resolve it.
As a result, the vendor couldn’t thank the firm enough and has remained a loyal customer ever since.
This just goes to show how much of an impact effective – or poor – communication can have. It is at the heart of making sure our clients are happy.
So, that leads onto the obvious question: how can you make sure your customer communication skills are at their very best?
Well, here are four factors that will instantly make a difference.
Think like your customers
According to research from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), 60% of people who have sold or purchased a property in the last five years have had a problem with their estate agent.
That’s a huge figure. And top on the list of complaints? Poor communication. So how can you tell if your business measures up? The best way is to start thinking like your customers.
View your company – and how you communicate – as a client would. How do you answer the phone or an email for example? Does it take a long time to get a reply? What’s the tone of the message or their voice? Are they friendly or indifferent?
Show you care
There’s a quote I once read about communication which said: “Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know”. A simple premise, but so true.
Think about the last time a company impressed you – I mean really impressed you. I’d be willing to bet how they made you feel was a big part of that.
Be it valued, listened to or important – it’s factors like these that make us feel good. It’s not rocket science, but there are numerous companies who get it wrong.
Nationwide’s ‘Home Move Box’ is a great example of how to show you care. A relatively low-cost – yet effective idea – it contains a selection of useful items like teabags, mugs, biscuits and cleaning products that might prove handy in the early days of moving.
The result? Happy clients, national coverage and hundreds of mentions on social media.
Clarity is key
One of the key elements of effective communication is clarity. No matter how fantastic your service or how experienced you are, you will never be successful if customers struggle to understand you.
In the property sector – an often complex and emotive arena – this takes on added importance.
The best communicators are those who are clear, concise and able to explain themselves well. It sounds easy, but is a skill in its own right. There are no hard and fast rules, but here are a few pointers we always stick by:
- Listen more than you talk
- Avoid jargon
- Speak clearly
- Summarise – at the end of a call, check that you have understood the customer and they have understand you
- If you need to convey facts, follow up with an email for extra clarity
From a growth point of view, clarity is essential to win new clients too. Imagine you were a vendor looking to sell a terraced house. You have a choice of agents to list your property with; who do you go for?
The agency who tells you they specialise in terraced properties and have a proven track record of selling in your area? Or the agent who doesn’t?
Keep your promises
How many times have you called a company and been promised that someone will call you back?
And how many times has someone actually called you back?
Not many I’d be willing to bet. As a customer this is hugely frustrating, and as a business it can cost you customers.
For estate agents this is perhaps even more important. In a time-sensitive and competitive sector, the ability to build relationships is crucial – and this takes trust.
Every time a promise is broken, that trust is lost.
Take an agency I know on the South coast, for instance. About three years ago, I went to see the owner who told me about a client who had just listed their house with him. Having only opened a few days earlier, the agent was surprised as it wasn’t a property he had pitched for.
Intrigued, he’d asked the vendor why they’d chosen him rather than the established name up the road.
She told him that her neighbour had used that company, and while quick to sell, they’d stopped communicating with her afterwards.
Ignoring emails, not calling back when they said they would, becoming uninterested etc. The list went on.
This was enough to put the new seller off and lose the well-known company a lucrative sale.
The moral of the story is this: recognise the value of keeping your word.
Be it at the start of the process or post-sale, deliver on your promises. You’ll soon reap the rewards.
*Samantha Jones is Commercial Manager of Corporate and Property at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny