A client sits at the keyboard, angrily pounding out a half page of unkind words about his real estate agent. With the click of the “submit” button, his vitriolic comments are now recorded on the World Wide Web for anyone to see, and it’s there that they will reside for years. The comments will prove embarrassing, and expensive, for both the agent and the brokerage firm he works for. And it might have been avoided had the firm or the agent simply asked the client for his written feedback, and then responded to the client in a timely, appropriate, fashion.
A real estate transaction is not only a “big-ticket” item, it often takes months to complete and can evoke deep emotions. In our surveying experience, most clients seem quite happy with their agents and brokerage firms. But sometimes, alas, they are not. In some cases, perhaps the agents and firms didn’t do a good job. In other cases, it might just be that conditions beyond the agent and firm’s control (i.e. a slow responding lender in a short sale) caused misplaced criticism. But either way, knowing the client’s perspective, and appropriately addressing concerns, is vital. Since we’re all consumers, it’s not hard for us to see that earning repeat business and referrals from “very satisfied” clients is far more likely than with merely “satisfied” clients. But if it’s not measured, it can go unrecognized, and unmanaged.
Though preventing public embarrassment and measuring for repeat and referral business should be incentive enough, there are other benefits to surveying clients. Even clients who don’t provide feedback when it’s offered might view it as professional and thoughtful. Positive survey responses can be used by managers to recognize agents for excellent performance, which can serve as a retention tool and motivate agents to provide great service. Positive responses can also become a powerful component in the professional’s marketing message, in order to attract new business. And, regularly surveying clients might just help save a few dollars on errors and omissions policies because it shows the kind of client care that reduces claims.
Yesterday, surveying real estate clients was somewhat expensive and difficult. Today, inexpensive and easy-to-work-with survey solutions are available to brokerage firms and agents. While the barriers to surveying are vanishing, the risks of not surveying grow larger, and more serious. The results are in: every client should be surveyed.
Doug Fowler is the President of Stand Out LLC, a company that provides affordable, state of the art client satisfaction surveys, and other tools for thinking real estate professionals. www.1standout.com