Creating Exceptional Service

customer-service

TRUISM

: an undoubted or self-evident truth; especially : one too obvious for mention

– Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Several things, in my experience fall into the above category. For example a truism is; Everyone thinks they work hard.  When was the last time you heard someone talking about what they did for a living and heard them say ” I’m really stealing the money at this job – I don’t have to do a thing. If I didn’t have to stay awake so I knew when it was time to go home, I could just nap all day!” More likely, you’ll hear someone complain about how hard work was, or how they’re looking forward to the weekend so they can relax.

Does it make sense to you that the guy who works outside in all kinds of weather moving heavy objects, or building things, and the guy who stands behind the counter at Target, working the register are working equally hard? Or is it that their perspectives make them believe that they’re each working as hard as they can. Odd that we all have different jobs and yet we all share the same complaints. 

A second truism? Everyone thinks they have a good sense of humor. I know this is not true because I have an amazing sense of humor, and yet there are those people who don’t find humor in as many places as I do. Again, our differing perspectives come into play, assuring us that we are right in our choices. You want a simple example? There are any number of smart discerning women that don’t think the Three Stooges are funny, and yet, almost every man, no matter their varying intellectual prowess finds Larry, Moe and and the third Stooge funny, In fact, men can have long and involved intellectual arguments about who was the best “3rd stooge”  Shemp, Curly, or Curly Joe (Stooge aficionados please note that they are listed chronologically)

And now for the Third Truism – Every real estate professional thinks they give great customer service, even if they don’t. In fact, real estate professionals talk a lot about their customer service, and all of those conversation seem to focus on what a great job they do. Whenever there is a discussion about what real estate professionals do, providing high quality service goes straight to center stage. And yet I’m not sure that every one of the people in the conversation is providing the same type or even level of customer service.

Certainly most of us are more available than a sales job warrants, answering phone calls seven days a week at odd hours and interrupting family time (until we learn better) to respond to customer inquiries.  Most real estate professionals know how to be polite when they respond to customer inquiries or needs, but is that really what customer service is about?

Recently I was flying to Canada to speak at the Bannf Western Connection (a really great real estate event you should attend if you are able to ). My original flight was delayed, and rather than disappointing the people who were expecting me to speak the following day, I called USAirways and they booked an alternate flight on a Air Canada. I had two hours before that flight, so I went right to the gate as I was instructed.There was no one present at the gate.

Since you need to check in 1 hour before an international flight, I kept walking around the gate area, waiting for anyone to show up. I had a confirmation number and  I figured they would resolve it when they arrived. Forty-five minutes before the flight was due to board, a short bald man with a big moustache (think “Monopoly Guy”)  and a United logo on his shirt showed up, and I explained my situation. When I gave him my confirmation number he said “They needed to give you the ticket number, I can’t do anything with that” as if I were trying to make his day miserable (see the earlier part of the post about working hard) . I called USAirways again and they gave me a new ticket number. When I tried to give it to him he told me I needed to wait because he needed to move people on the computer to upgrade them. I waited until he finished and gave him the ticket number at which time he smiled at me without warmth and said “You can’t board the plane because you weren’t here an hour before take off”. As I pointed out to him that he was not there an hour before flight time , and he began to argue, a gentlemen who worked for Air Canada who was there to assure compliance with all the appropriate regulations told him to allow me to board and I was able to make the flight.

Monopoly Guy was the perfect example of form before function – he smiled, was polite, and was absolutely useless to me as a customer. He not only provided no service to me as a customer, he actually created un-needed roadblocks. But when he went home that night, I am sure of two things. He felt that he had worked a really hard day, and he felt that he provided the customer service required of his job.

But there are the other people. The ones that deliver without asking. Forget Monopoly Guy and think Olympic Champion. Gold Medal winners.

A friend of mine recently had a medical procedure. Taking out the trash they had an “incident” and ended up getting a pacemaker. Oddly the part of the experience that stayed with them the most was not the ambulance ride, the procedure, or the recovery. It was a conversation  – “I met the medical sales tech rep guy this morning. REALLY interesting conversation. He goes to every single procedure for 7 hospitals…5 days on, 24 hours a day. We talked for an hour about responsiveness and client service. He comes in for the procedure, then he comes back the next day. He’s been with the same company for 15 years.

There’s no commercial value to this service. The sale was made, the pacemaker installed. But this man understands the value of exceptional customer service, and is dedicated to providing it  to increase satisfaction and a better experience. That is why exceptional customer service is provided. Not to make the sale, but as part of the mission of the firm and its representatives. This is substance over form. Great service provided without being requested.

My friend, who should have written this post, summed it up very well  “When does someone truly impress you? Does it have to be a Ritz-Carlton concierge at a 5 star resort? Or can a pretty regular guy go about his business of selling gadgets that literally save someone’s life. Because that’s what we sometimes miss in the real estate business. We’re not quite as important as cardiac surgeons, but we do reach deep into people’s personal lives…into their homes and families and possessions and bank accounts. As crude as it may sound, we touch their stuff.

What do you do to truly impress the people you serve?

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5 comments for “Creating Exceptional Service

  1. February 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Bill, you’ve hit on so many important topics in this post it’s hard to know where to start. 

    First, most men don’t make it past the 8th grade in the humor department. We women are left to smile and nod at your antics.

    Monopoly guy is the most annoying to me of all…very 1984. He blamed you for not complying with a system that literally wasn’t in place. Ugh. 

    Pacemaker guy sets a standard for sales+service because he doesn’t have to do it. I assume he doesn’t actually install the device but it’s how that company operates. He apparently is present for the procedure and then visits the patient the next day. I have a girlfriend who sells something to do with joint replacements and she does the same thing….I’ll have to ask her why they think the personal presence is necessary, but I agree, it’s impressive. 

    Another beautifully written post. 

  2. February 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Bill, you’ve hit on so many important topics in this post it’s hard to know where to start. 

    First, most men don’t make it past the 8th grade in the humor department. We women are left to smile and nod at your antics.

    Monopoly guy is the most annoying to me of all…very 1984. He blamed you for not complying with a system that literally wasn’t in place. Ugh. 

    Pacemaker guy sets a standard for sales+service because he doesn’t have to do it. I assume he doesn’t actually install the device but it’s how that company operates. He apparently is present for the procedure and then visits the patient the next day. I have a girlfriend who sells something to do with joint replacements and she does the same thing….I’ll have to ask her why they think the personal presence is necessary, but I agree, it’s impressive. 

    Another beautifully written post. 

  3. February 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm

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    Bill, you’ve hit on so many important topics in this post it’s hard to know where to start. First, most men don’t make it past the 8th grade in the humor department. We women are left to smile and nod at your antics.Monopoly guy is the most annoying to me of all…very 1984. He blamed you for not complying with a system that literally wasn’t in place. Ugh. Pacemaker guy sets a standard for sales+service because he doesn’t have to do it. I assume he doesn’t actually install the device but it’s how that company operates. He apparently is present for the procedure and then visits the patient the next day. I have a girlfriend who sells something to do with joint replacements and she does the same thing….I’ll have to ask her why they think the personal presence is necessary, but I agree, it’s impressive. Another beautifully written post. 

  4. February 22, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I truly enjoyed the read here.  So often, I’m scanning posts and articles but you captured my attention.  You are so right on some of the truisms that we hold except I have to slightly disagree.. I’ve decided that I must not have a good sense of humor because many things that others find funny, I do not.   
    The Monopoly guy … we run into him every once in a while, in a secure big box type of job. Dealt with one yesterday who could not get my credit card numbers right, to the point that my cc company blocked the account and I had to call them that yes, the store I was on the phone with really was a ligit purchase.  
    My favorite words from your post:  
    But this man understands the value of exceptional customer service, and is dedicated to providing it  to increase satisfaction and a better experience. That is why exceptional customer service is provided. Not to make the sale, but as part of the mission of the firm and its representatives. This is substance over form. Great service provided without being requested.
    I hope that all of us in service oriented industries at least seek that level of performance.  

  5. February 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Judi, I would hope that would be the case. I know I try for that and I ask the people in my company to try for that as well – but we need to be thoughtful about the topic. Thanks for coming by, reading , and commenting 🙂

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