Back to Basics – What does it really look like?

Samantha Richardson

Samantha Richardson

One of the things that a customer will value most about a business is its ability to keep things simple.

It sounds easy doesn’t it? However, most businesses have so many customers, all wanting something a little bit different, that trying to satisfy the majority of them – let alone all of them – is a much bigger challenge than it would seem.

There are a number of fundamental things that customers want from any business, including:

  • For the company to understand their requirements
  • To not to be overcharged for the service of product
  • To be treated as an individual
  • For the company to deliver exactly what they promise and in a timely manner

How do these basic requirements transfer over to the Private Rented Sector?

Fundamentally, customers stay with an agency not just because they have the right properties, but because they also receive a good quality of service. Finding a home is an exciting time for many, however it can be a stressful experience. This is why they approach an agents to help them find a property.

If your agency is able to get it right then you are likely to gain a long standing resident who will become an ambassador for your business and brand. They will generate positive word of mouth telling family, friends and colleagues of their positive experience and hopefully driving potential new residents and landlords to your business.

Great customer service is, to a degree, subjective. However I believe there are 8 basic guidelines which, when applied effectively, can contribute to generating high levels of customer satisfaction and positively affecting the bottom line:

Answer your phone

It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many businesses fail to answer their phones. Always make sure that someone is picking up the phone as customers who call want to talk to a live person and there’s no guarantee they’ll call back.

Make sure that the entire team has been trained to deal with phone enquiries so that no one ever ignores a call thinking, ‘It’s not my phone’ or ‘I don’t want to answer as I don’t know what to say’.

Don’t make promises that you can’t keep

Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. If you say, “Your new bedroom furniture will be delivered on Tuesday”, make sure it is delivered on Tuesday. Otherwise, don’t say it. The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, returning a call, providing an update etc.

Think before you comit to something because nothing will annoy a customer more than a promise that has been broken.

Listen to your customers

Is there anything more exasperating than explaining what you want, or expect, only to discover that the person you’re talking to hasn’t been paying attention. Your staff should show customers that they are listening by responding appropriately. I always think of the adage that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason – listen more than you speak.

Deal with complaints

No business really likes to hear complaints, and for many, it is just all too easy to shrug off comments, constructive or not, and say, “You can’t please all the people all the time”. This may be a true idiom but if you make the effort to give the complaint your full attention then you may be able to please that person and change their opinion of your business.

Tackling a complaint head on can help you to reap the benefits of providing good customer service by changing a potential word of mouth review from a negative to a positive. You might even be lucky enough to create a new brand ambassador, the holy grail of customer for any company.

All legitimate complaints should be seen as an opportunity for you to see how you can improve your businesses offering; it might highlight a necessary change to a business process or it might draw attention to the need for additional training requirements. These are things that could have otherwise gone unnoticed if the complaint had fallen on deaf ears.

It’s always good to remember that how you respond will be how you are judged, remembered and portrayed.

Be helpful – even if there’s no immediate profit in it

There is no harm in going out of your way to be helpful to a potential customer. A potential customer, even one who does not end up using your services, will be more likely to remember you when they receive service above and beyond what they had expected.

The rewards may not be immediately obvious but, over time, there is no knowing how many people each person will send to your business.

Train your employees to be helpful, courteous and knowledgeable

You can either use your own experience to do it yourself or you could hire an external expert to come in and train them.

Regularly set aside time to talk to your employees about what good customer service is and isn’t. Always be sure to use real life examples, and get staff to share their examples, to really drive home your point.

Most importantly, make sure to give every member of your team enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so they never have to say, “I don’t know, but so-and-so will be back at…”

Go the extra mile

For instance, if a prospective customer walks into your agency and asks you to help them find their perfect home then it’s just not good enough to ask the basic questions and hope you’ll stumble across what they are looking for. Your staff should be looking to establish what it is this person really wants and why that is so. Digging a little deeper can reveal a lot about a potential customer and help to better match them with their ideal property in your agencies portfolio.

Whatever that extra step may be, if you want to provide good customer service then make sure your staff take it. They may not say it but people will notice when staff make that extra effort to really help them and that is something they will tell their friends, family and colleagues.

Throw in something extra

Whether it’s a thoughtful ‘happy new home’ gift, additional information on the area’s best restaurants, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were expecting. And don’t think that a gesture has to be large to be effective, often the smallest gestures can say the most.

If you consistently apply these eight simple principles throughout your business then your agency will become known for its good customer service.

The best part? Good customer service will, over time, help to bring in more new business than any special promotion or price slashing could and at nowhere near the cost.

The ability to deliver great service will not only gain you very loyal customers, it will also help raise standards across the industry, which can only be good for everyone involved, agents, landlords and residents alike.

So, have a look at your policy for customer service and assess whether every customer receives the promised level of service first time, every time. If not, ask yourself why. If it is because you promise more than you deliver, go back to basics!

Samantha Richardson
Young London

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