I needed a real estate agent.
Which was weird, because I AM a real estate agent.
As my wife Cheryl and I were looking into our future though, we envisioned a nice vacation home in the States. Maybe somewhere that doesn’t get -40 in winter. So I got on the horn and made some calls down to the U.S. of A. to check out some places while we were down there on a trip anyway.
After 26 years in industry and 18 years since my last own personal real estate purchase, I hadn’t been a consumer for a while. So it was an interesting, shall I even say... eye-opening experience to be on the receiving end of it.
To me, the American agent and I were colleagues. We both knew the challenges and processes. I made sure to be respectful of her time, not a frivolous late-night caller, pulling her away from family or sleep to tell me the measurements of the livingroom, for example.
Before even calling the agent, we did our homework. We’d looked online for several that suited our list of wants and needs. Once we were in the area, we drove by those properties to check out the neighborhoods and see the exteriors. That helped us narrow it down to one house we were genuinely, seriously interested in purchasing.
When we’d done all the footwork, we reached out to an agent. We were ready to take the next step in the buying process. I dialed the number.
“Yeah. What do you want.” The receptionist growled into the phone with a strong, gravelly voice.
Okay, maybe that’s not what she said, but it’s definitely how it FELT when initially greeted, then I asked to speak to the agent.
“She’s not in. I’m her partner. What can I do for you?” Every single, solitary sentence this woman uttered urked me. Her voice was strong and abrupt, and I got the distinct feeling she’d rather be doing anything than talking to me.
“I’d really like to see this property tomorrow. Can we meet at 1:30?
That’s it. Just like that.
I can show it to you today. Can you come now?
I wasn’t available “now”, we are not even anywhere nearby! I was available the next day which I thought was ample notice as that was well over 24 hours away.
She did not even try to find a mutually suitable time, it was "now" or the day after and we were nearing the end of our trip.
We never ended up seeing it. They were too busy, and we lived out of the country, so couldn’t jump through her schedule hoops. Too bad for us, I guess. The first thought that I had was whether the seller knew of their agents offices seemingly unwillingness to show a prospective buyer their home.
There were 2 other homes in the community that were "of interest" but this one had it all, price, age, location and condition. I even had a great conversation with the neighbor who approached me when I was at the curb getting a feature sheet out of the sign box. She lived there since the community opened as this owner did and she further confirmed this would've likely been "it".
It was a frustrating customer experience. And you know how I feel about those.
I have announced to the world that I sat on an Egg McMuffin just so I could praise excellent customer service and been outspoken about horrible service all in the name of raising the bar. Because right now, the customer service bar is very, very low.
Like always, I use these disappointing experiences as a tool of self-assessment: is any of this how my clients ever feel? If so, how can I fix it?
She could have found someone else in the office, but didn’t. It was more about her than me. Is that what I do? Is that what you do in your business?
The point isn’t to compare or accuse yourself, either. The point is to improve. There’s always room for improvement anyway, right?
Sometimes the boss needs to get down in the trenches with their staff to understand or remember how it really works down there.
CEOs need to answer phones or take a consumer through a showroom.
Sales managers need to hit the road with their travelling sales team, staying in crap-hole motels and doing the 7-day-long circuit to understand what their teams are going through.
And sometimes an agent needs to get out there and be another agent’s client to remember how it feels to be on the receiving end, and to gain some perspective on how to improve their own service.
What customer experience has helped you improve your own level of service?