• Chelsea Donovan

The Importance of Customer Service in Real Estate (And Why Some Teams Are Leaving 'CS' Behind)

The real estate industry has gone from agents using hard-bound Rolodexes to track prospects, to AI-powered CRMs and bots that reel out canned responses in an instant. In short, it’s evolved a lot.

The tools may be more sophisticated, but they target the same issues we’ve always had — things like marketing, lead generation and of course, transaction coordination.

As technology continues to bring new opportunities to the game of real estate, the teams that rise above the rest will be those that put the customer first.


But if you’re a successful team lead or broker, chances are you knew that already. After all, you didn’t get where you are today by being rude and unresponsive.


No. For you, it’s time to uplevel. There’s no better place to start than with a customer experience strategy fit for the post-2020 world.


Ready to uplevel your customer experience? Let’s dive in.

  • Customer Service vs. Customer Experience: What’s the Difference in Real Estate?

  • Why It Pays to Deliver a 5-Star Real Estate Experience

  • The DNA of a Customer-Obsessed Team

  • 5 Practical Tips for Staying Ahead of the Customer Experience Curve

  • Bringing it All Together: Moving Towards a Customer-Centric Process

Customer Service vs. Customer Experience: What’s the Difference in Real Estate?


If you’re running a successful real estate team, you already know that the amount of focus you put into your customers is directly correlated with the amount of profit you make.


In fact, according to a 2018 Forrester study, customer-obsessed firms have the highest median three-year growth in sales. On the flip side, if these numbers seem high to you, it may be because you’re mistaking customer experience with customer service.


It’s a common mistake, but there’s a big difference between the two.

  • Customer service is usually the last resort effort made by teams to rescue a negative client experience.

  • Customer experience is the total sum of each and every touchpoint a customer has with your team or brokerage, from initial inquiry to closing.


Think of it like this, customer service is the 1-800 number you dial when you need to book a flight or lodge a complaint. Customer experience is the flight staff bringing you free champagne, scented towels and a silk sleep mask.

Customer experience in real estate includes often-overlooked elements such as lead nurture and response time after a deal goes under contract, or sending customized emails that speak to a customer’s exact position in the home buying or selling process.


Bottom line? Focusing on customer experience builds a deep emotional connection between your brand and the prospect that plain old customer service just isn’t designed to do.


It also happens to be one of the best ways to bring in an endless stream of 5-star reviews, qualified referrals and repeat business.

Customer service is the 1-800 number you dial when you need to book a flight or lodge a complaint. Customer experience is the flight staff bringing you free champagne, scented towels and a silk sleep mask.

Why It Pays to Deliver a 5-Star Real Estate Experience


As the old saying goes, "Everything is a numbers game."

So, let's take a closer look at the math behind customer experience to see why a focus on optimizing the end-to-end client journey is more than just a good idea.

  • Firms that excel at customer experience grow revenues by 4% - 8% above their industry. (Bain and Company)

  • 73% of customers say excellent customer experience is critical in influencing their brand loyalties. (PWC)

  • Loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend. (Qualtrics XM Institute)

  • Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that weren't focused on the customer. (Deloitte)

Last, but in no way least, a study by NAR found that for agents in the business for 16 years or more, repeat business accounted for 40% of their activity and referrals were an additional 24%. (NAR)

That’s 64% of your business coming from lead sources that are completely free.


By now, one thing is clear.

If you want to knock the client journey out of the park and bring in the rock-solid ROI that comes with that, it pays to dedicate time to customer experience as a strategy — not merely a back office function.


The DNA of a Customer-Obsessed Real Estate Team


Obviously, closing gifts and handwritten thank you notes should be part of your strategy, but real customer experience starts much earlier than that — beginning with who you hire and how you lead.


That’s right. In today’s consumer-centric world, the very meaning of a top producer has changed. Customers no longer care how many homes you’ve sold or who you’ve worked with before. What they do care about is feeling appreciated and cared for.

If you want to build a team of customer-obsessed top producers, these are the top five skills to look out for.

  1. The new breed top producer is a continuous learner. Don’t assume you know everything there is to know about customer experience. Instead, commit to learning itself as the only sustainable way to adapt agents’ skill sets to a rapidly changing world.

  2. The new breed top producer is an intuitive collaborator. A few decades ago, real estate agents were gatekeepers of information. Agents knew where all the choice properties were located, and clients had to go through them. But today, technology has kicked agents out of the driver’s seat. Prospects now come armed with a plethora of information and getting to closing requires not just market intel, but an instinct for collaboration.

  3. The new breed top producer understands that expectations evolve. Today’s top salespeople are continually looking to understand their prospects. They appreciate the need to show empathy and have an in-depth understanding of the clients' biggest fears and motivations, which results in better client relationships, repeat business and referrals.

  4. The new breed top producer is resilient. Top producers know that tenacity is a way of life, not a temporary feeling. They understand that failures are opportunities to try again and they never give up on the customer. For them, meaningful change doesn't happen overnight, it's a process of continuous improvement.

  5. The new breed top producer anticipates more and reacts less. They don't wait for change They actively read between the lines, anticipating any change so as not to get caught off guard.

Above all, today's top producer doesn’t rely solely on flashy tech, tools, or processes. Instead, they leverage these tools to do their jobs more efficiently, connect with customers more genuinely, and make the overall experience a winning one.


5 Practical Tips for Staying Ahead of the Customer Experience Curve


Now that you know the importance of customer experience and how to embody it within your team, here are a few additional tips to help you own it from start to finish.


#1. Boost Collaboration with the Right Real Estate Tech


There’s no putting it mildly: From your CRM to your e-signature tool, your choice of technology can make or break your team.


A best-of-breed solution will enhance the experience for all parties — whether they're in front of their laptops or on the go. Empower your customers, agents and TCs to feel more confident and in control by choosing tools that offer real-time notifications and simple chat-based messaging for seamless collaboration on critical documents and deadlines.

As a major bonus, tools that offer a shared dashboard and easily customizable templates can improve the client experience while removing many of the time-consuming admin tasks from your team members’ plates.



#2. Kill the Endless Email Chains and Shorten Your Response Times


Team leads spend a lot of time setting up their agents to be the first to respond to an incoming lead, and data shows us that any time spent improving speed to lead is time well spent.


But speed and efficiency shouldn’t be reserved for the top of the lead funnel. Encourage your agents to show their personalities and differentiate your brand throughout the entire real estate journey. Be professional, but not too formal. Set, meet and exceed expectations.


By leveraging fully customizable email, chat and SMS templates, your team can stay on top of processes and transactions across the entire pipeline, without the need for confusing email chains, unanswered questions or unnecessary back and forth.


#3. Put the Customer First


Every customer wants to feel heard. They can sense when an agent cares more about closing the deal than calming their fears.

Empower your team to ask questions, listen attentively, and leverage the information they learn to deliver a personalized client experience. Listen to your clients and be ready to provide education, access and visibility at every stage of the process.


By demonstrating empathy, and backing it up with smart answers at key checkpoints and milestones, your team will earn glowing customer reviews, repeat business, and referrals for years to come.

Choose technology that meets your customers where they are: their mobile phones. Always aim for chat-based tools that feel as easy to use as your customer's favorite messaging app.


#4. Use Automation to Save Time and Eliminate Confusion


All real estate transactions start with the handover of essential information between prospects, agents, and TCs. This handover process needs to be completely watertight in order to reduce the number of client questions and ensure an excellent customer experience.

By automating the customer experience from lead gen to closing, you ensure a seamless handover from your leads to your team, and your team to your TCs. Goodbye, unnecessary headaches!


#5. Measure and Benchmark Your Client Satisfaction Levels


Peter Drucker is credited with one of the most important quotes in business:

"If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."