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Don’t be fooled…‘customer experience’ isn’t a replacement for ‘customer service’

By Ben Marley Commercial Director ESTAS Group

The phrase “customer experience” is banded around a lot these days, so much so that it’s sometimes easy to think that “customer service” now all feels a bit old fashioned.

Although for many clients their first interaction with any brand is online, either as a consequence of visiting a firm’s website, or perhaps the way a business appears in a post on social media, their experience of that business includes human interaction at some point. In fact, these days the “customer experience” really does cover the entire journey at every touchpoint, with customer service and the way that any transaction is progressed at the heart of that experience.

In other words, your branding may be on point, your website may look fantastic but if nobody returns the call to the vendor who has contacted you for a quote to act for them on their sale, or worse one of your team takes weeks to respond to the other side’s enquiries, what sort of customer service – and by dint of that, customer experience – is it that you’re providing?

It’s not just our industry. The “customer experience” has evolved over the last two decades in every sector, in no small part because the way we buy goods and services from companies has changed as consumer habits have moved irrevocably online. Brands such as Uber have taken what used to be analogue transactions – previously, if you wanted a cab you had to ring a taxi service and speak to someone – and moved that part of the process to an entirely digital transaction. Which is great, but still inevitably involves a human to deliver that service at some point. And it’s at the point that a human gets involved when, no pun intended, sometimes the wheels can fall off. Continuing our Uber example, the booking process itself may have been simple, but if you get in the car and are met by a grumpy and rude driver who takes the slow route and you arrive late, the “service” element of the ‘experience’ probably won’t match your expectations.

Back in our world of property, the customer experience is much harder to get right due to the unique complexity and length of transaction times involved. Let’s face it, corporations worth billions are bought and sold in less time than it can take to sell a three-bedroom semi-detached in a chain. Of course, there are some great proptech solutions out there which can help you and your business to enhance the customer journey, but they don’t replace the need for outstanding customer service when the “human” part is required. After all, you and your team are what make your business unique and sets you apart from the competition.

So, what do I mean by delivering great customer service? In my view, that means treating your customers the same way that you’d treat your own family or your close friends. By that, what I mean is that generally we go out of our way for our nearest and dearest, which is effectively the basis of great service, going the extra mile and delivering beyond expectations. When you do that, you start to build a relationship based on trust. Once a customer trusts you, not only will they consider you to be the first port of call next time they want to move home, but they’ll be a fantastic source of personal recommendations to others who might be moving.

Here’s the thing though; you have to want to give great service, it’s either in your DNA or it’s not. This is, partly, connected to personality types (which is an entirely different article) but in my experience, the way we treat our customers is an indicative of the way we look at life in general. Delivering excellent service also has a huge, positive knock-on effect to other aspects of your business; it acts as an effective marketing campaign by building positive external perceptions and establishes your firm as a source of trusted information when you or your team recommend any third-party services or refer to other property professionals to your clients. Great service also helps to retain staff too; new joiners pay careful attention to how their colleagues treat customers, so when they see their employer treating clients as they would expect to be treated themselves, it motivates them, makes them proud to be part of the team and ultimately, produces a more loyal workforce.

Delivering great customer service also prevents the classic “but” in reviews. You know the ones I’m referring to, they usually start well then there’s a “but” halfway through, which effectively turns what started as a glowing testimonial into a negative one.

In the current environment, there’s a real opportunity for property lawyers who truly believe in delivering exceptional service to rise above the sea of mediocrity. It’s a challenge, of course, but I firmly believe that those who succeed in embedding a consistent, customer-centric culture in their team will, ultimately, be the winners in their local area by the end of 2023.

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