Excellent Real Estate Customer Service with 7 Must-learn Tips

Excellent Real Estate Customer Service with 7 Must-learn Tips

Customer Service

Real estate is a customer service industry. The way you interact with and assist your clients determines how long you can last in this career. Statistics show that poor customer service is the main reason many real estate agents lose their clients. Customer service is a highly valued concept in business. When it comes to real estate, however, it is slightly different – you are not directly paid by your clients.

Despite such a difference, high-grade customer service allows you to head away from competitors, whereas a poor service only puts your reputation at stake. The highly competitive market of real estate urges real estate agents to employ effective strategies to enhance the quality of their customer service. Are you ready to stand out above others? Here are some simple, yet excellent tips for having exemplary customer service. 

How to Improve Customer Service? 

Know the Market

Customer Service

Most buyers and sellers make their decision not only based on personal needs and preferences but also based on market forces. As the first step to have a reputable, outstanding customer service, you must know what your clients seek after. Gather information on highly demanded real estate services, demographics, average prices, market conditions, comparable listing in the immediate neighborhood, and other pertinent social, political, and economic factors that can help you give better advice to your clients.

Put Clients’ Needs First 

Customer ServiceCustomer satisfaction is your most valuable asset. Though earning profit is a top priority for a real estate agent, it does not mean that clients’ demands or needs can be ignored. To make your clients happier with your service, show genuine care following a few simple but effective strategies such as holding meetings on time, listening carefully and patiently to what they are talking about, replying to their calls or emails as soon as possible, not interrupting the conversation to answer personal calls, etc.

Create a Memorable Experience 

For many people, home-selling or buying can be a complicated and stressful process. What distinguishes a seasoned agent from a mediocre one is the level of expertise as well as positive personality traits. True experts know how to resolve and make the best of an unsatisfactory situation.

Ask your clients what is important to them and steer the conversation to those areas. To relieve their anxiety, show them what skills and qualities you have. For higher-income clients, of course, you need to provide a higher level of services. Ask your clients about their personal life, send birthday cards and gift baskets for special occasions, follow their pages or profiles on social media, and so forth.

Learn How to Communicate Effectively 

Customer ServiceWhen it comes to real estate customer service, communication competence is the king. The ability to get the necessary points across is the fundamental of good real estate customer service. As a real estate agent, the ability to communicate effectively, clearly, and confidently is a requisite for you.

Being good at face-to-face communication is not enough; you need to be proficient in talking on the phone, sending properly worded emails, and making use of social media as well. Communication is not only about using impressive words. Speak and write honesty, clearly, and concisely. Your clients surely want to get informed of all ins and outs of the process, but most people do not tolerate wordiness. Do not beat around the bush; get right to the point and tell them what they need to know.

Establish a Spectacular Online Presence

Customer ServiceSocial media has become a necessity for many businesses, real estate included. A static online presence, however, can’t make any positive changes in your number of sales. Only posting your listings online does not suffice; you need to get connected with your clients where they spend most of their time. To establish a notable online presence, you need to realize the prospects’ actual needs, know their search habits, and be active and available on popular social media.

USP is the Key

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) refers to a marketing tactic that lets your clients know what benefits they will get if they start doing business with you, how you respond to their needs, and what qualities distinguish you from other agents. In this method, not only do you talk to your clients about what you do but also you tell them why you do it. 

Both digital and print are great marketing channels to create a ferocious USP. For example, as you are updating your website or social media account, you can send real estate brochures to the local prospects at regular intervals to remind them about your presence. 

To achieve the highest level of clients’ satisfaction, you need to employ a couple of genius tactics that touch their hearts. Understanding your clients’ individual needs, describing the unique features of your business, and keep them in the loop about the unique aspects of your service that can positively change their lives will help you appear prominently in your marketing campaign. 

Offer Professional Consultations 

Customer ServiceWhen people ask you for help, don’t just come out with pat responses to their questions. To set yourself apart from the competition, make helpful suggestions that can increase the chance of sale – for example, sprucing up the appearance of the house or staging the property before photography. Giving honest, professional answers to sellers’ questions helps you stay front of mind with them and keep them satisfied throughout the selling process.

Not only the tips themselves but also the feedback coming from implementing them can help you refine your customer service strategy and take your business to a higher level.

Author:

Leila Dindar

We hope you find this content from www.agentprint.com useful. Please share your views with us.

 

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    The 10 Commandments of Great Customer Service

    The 10 Commandments of Great Customer Service

    Customer service is an integral part of our job and should not be seen as an external extension of it. A company’s most vital asset is its customers. Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. When you satisfy your customers, they not only help you grow by continuing to do business with you but they will also recommend you to friends and associates. The practice of customer service should be as present on the showroom floor as it is in any other sales functions and pertinent in the overall company environment.

    The 10 Commandments of Customer Service 

    Know who is the boss. You are in business to service the needs of customers, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide them with good service. Never forget that the customer pays your salary and makes your job possible.

    1.Be a Good Listener: Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, the tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions, thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer? Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important on the showroom floor where there is a great danger of preoccupation, looking around to see to whom else we could be selling to. 

     

    2. Identify and Anticipate Needs: Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs. 

    3. Make Customers Feel Important and Appreciated: Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance. 

    4. Body Language Is Key: On the show floor be sure that your body language conveys sincerity. Your words and actions should be congruent.

    5. Understanding Is Crucial: Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world’s best systems for getting things done, but if customers don’t understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don’t reduce the human element of your organization.

    6. Appreciate the Power of “Yes“: Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterward. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.

     

    7. Know How to Apologize: When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy, and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.

     

    8.  Give More Than Expected: Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:

    What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?

    What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy?

    What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?

    9. Get Regular Feedback: Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going. Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments, and suggestions. 

     

    10. Treat Employees Well: Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.

    Author:

    The Balance Small Business

     

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    Customer Service Is The New Marketing

    Customer Service Is The New Marketing

    Customer service is the new marketing. This statement may sound suspect coming from me, a customer service consultant; it sounds like an example of “when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” thinking on my part, or even the “drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost because that’s where there’s light” phenomenon.

    But if you consider consumer behavior and thought patterns today, you’ll realize that it’s incontrovertibly true. People have lost their faith in gimmicky and overstated mass marketing campaigns and place more stock today in what they experience directly with your company, what their friends have experience, and what the people they listen to online have experienced.

    Shutterstock

    Which means that:

    Every return you handle seamlessly and thoughtfully is marketing.

    Every repair you make for a product that proves defective, even after the warranty has expired, is marketing.

    Every time you provide a “wow” customer service experience, adding emotional transportation to the experience of your customer, it’s marketing. (There’s more from me on wow customer service here and here, plus some wow-inspiring examples here and here.)

    When you assist a customer’s family members, even though they’re not directly your customers (like my travel agent did recently for my aging dad), that’s marketing.

    ****

    A well-designed customer experience is also marketing:

    • A warm and inviting entrance experience.

    • A seamless exit experience, and a payment experience that doesn’t slow customers down.

    • FAQ’s that are actually helpful.

    • Self-service that actually works.

    So, it’s time to ask yourself: How’s your marketing, your newly-defined marketing, going so far?

    If the answer is “not so well,” or “We’re not really sure,” it’s time to get to work, to look at the customer service and customer experience you provide, whether in person or digitally, at every step of the customer’s journey,and revamp it, as need be, until you can answer confidently in the affirmative.  You’ll be amazed what a difference this makes to your bottom-line position now, and its sustainability, looking forward.

    Author:

    Forbes

    Live Content: Micah Solomon Speaking Customer Service, Company Culture, and Innovation from Keynote Speaker Presentations

     MICAH SOLOMON

    Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here

    Customer experience consultant • customer service keynote speaker & webinar host • training • executive content creator and ghostwriter • influencer • company culture •

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    What Really Matters in Real Estate Customer Service

    What Really Matters in Real Estate Customer Service

    Defining excellent customer care seems like a no-brainer. We assume the generics: constant communication, a sense of hand-holding, going above and beyond for the client. For the customer though, data suggests they’re looking for something else entirely.

    So, let’s frame the picture and dive into what really creates positive experiences for homebuyers and sellers.

     

    Is Your Customer Service the Wrong Kind?

    In 2013, CEB Global conducted a massive survey into the world of customer service. What they found startled them. People did not become more loyal, nor did they refer the business more, when the company exceeded their expectations. In other words, going above and beyond – giving them the white-glove treatment – didn’t increase referrals or loyalty.

    What they discovered was customers were looking for an effortless experience.

    When it comes to customer service, people are looking for help to fix an issue. In real estate, that means helping buyers find the right home. It means helping homeowners sell quickly and for top dollar. They only turn to their agent when they need help. They already have tons of tools at their disposal, i.e. real estate websites, sold listing data, comparative market analyses.

    When contacting an agent, their mindset is: Please just solve the problem and let me get back to what I was doing before.

    If you follow up with those homebuyers and sellers a couple years down the road, how much more business are they bringing you – the ones where you exceeded expectations? Data suggests they have the same economic value as those where you met expectations.

    Homebuyers are looking to move into a new home. They want their agent to help and make the experience effortless. They don’t need to be “wowed” to refer your business or talk about the positive service. They just want their expectations to be met.

     

    The Cost of Bad Customer Service

    In a world where competitors are only a click away, customer service really is the ‘new’ marketing. So much of the real estate industry is dominated by referrals, reviews, and general word-of-mouth. Any wrong hiccup could cost you both current business and future business.

    News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as praise for good service experiences. Telling their stories (even the negative ones) has been made easy with real estate portals like Zillow/Trulia’s agent reviews and other websites like Yelp. Each rating impacts your SEO, which further influences the willingness of others to do business with you.

    Losing any referral will cost you. Consider this statistic from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:

    Real Estate Customer Service

    Remember, for every customer who takes the time to comment, 26 other customers remain silent. If you hear about one negative experience, do everything in your power to remedy the situation. It’s more valuable to keep their business than to let it go.

     

    How Technology Can Help Customer Service

    Expectations have risen over the last decade. The power of the internet and mobile devices has created an environment where people demand personalization. As we noted before, CEB Global found the more customer touches someone has with business representatives, the more disloyal they become.

    Reducing the amount of communication for real estate shoppers starts with technology, and the data they offer. Measuring online user behavior has never become more important to the strategy of customer service. Think about Homebuyer John. Which scenario do you think he would gravitate towards:

    • “Hey John, my name is Bob. I’m a real estate agent, so how can I help you?”
    • “Hi John, I noticed you were looking at homes around 300k. Is that correct? I’ve got a few properties that I think would be great to see.”

    By knowing which real estate someone is interested in, by looking at their behavior, you can immediately start a conversation they want to talk about. It’s a conversation that doesn’t require effort explaining what they’re looking for. Instead, it’s natural, effortless, and leaves a positive note in the person’s mind.

     

    The Key Factor in Customer Service

    Reducing effort on the consumer side is your trump card to excellent customer service. It’s the area that won’t cost you an arm-and-a-leg to provide, and it’s the place where people stay happy (enough so to write about it). Those who can improve the effectiveness of their customer service and match it to today’s needs will ultimately win out over competitors.

    Real Estate Customer Service

    Abraham Lincoln said: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” If you’re dedicated to helping people find their next dream home, focus on delivering the customer service people expect. Doing so will generate referrals, 5-star reviews, and provide brand lift.

    Author:

    Boomtown ROI

    Steven Trice  


     

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    Customer service tips for real estate.

    Customer service tips for real estate.

    It is demonstrated that the percentage of the clients lost in a real estate is actually due to the bad customer service. When a real estate does not manage to create a good customer service, there is always the risk to lose a lot of sales.

    Moreover, a real estate should never lose so many sales because of the bad service towards the clients or because of the low rate of assertiveness.

    A real estate is a company and an organization in the same time and that is why a real estate agent or the responsible person on the first contact will be the external link.

    That person, represented by a real estate agent or any other person who works in the real estate, will become the figure, the voice and the image of the real estate agency. If his/her achievements are correct then the result is positive for the real estate.

    On the contrary, if the behavior is inappropriate or ineffective, this will negatively affect the real estate´s image.

    Because we are aware of the importance of the customer service inside the real estate, we need to add that element in the business´s strategy before the opening of the real estate. After that, once we have opened the real estate, we need to focus on the necessary settings for the proper customer service policy in order to make the real estate more effective.

    It is highly important that any real estate defines the type of customer service policy to apply and to manage to implement it effectively, taking into consideration the competences and the strategic plans.

    This will help the real estate achieve the solving of any conflictive situation which could happen with a client. In the same time, that customer service policy of a real estate should be characterized by certain terms of organizational behavior.

    Each member of the real estate should adapt to the customer service policy adopted by the real estate and they should also understand the individual behavior which will directly affect the agency.

    The clients of the real estate will always create a link with the real estate by 3 means: personal contact, by phone or by email. It is highly important the customer service policy of a real estate to follow these aspects, because from that point, the real estate could distinguish the three ways of contact with the clients.

    These three important elements require a special and specific use in order to get satisfactory results.

    Anyway, all these means which help us to manage the customer service should be effectively implemented right from the beginning and if the members of the organization are not qualified, they should get a minimum knowledge.

    Not all persons count with a high rate of assertiveness or do not know how to efficiently use their own social abilities and that is why it is very important for a real estate to detect who of the members are best qualified and less qualified.

    A very important aspect regarding the customer service of a real estate is the management and solving of the different problems and conflicts that may occur inside the real estate. These problems should never affect the link between the clients and the real estate.

    If there were to be a problem with one of the real estate´s clients, this should be right ahead solved recreating the link between them and the image of the real estate should never be seen as damaged.

    When the people who work in a real estate achieve high levels of assertiveness, will always be able to manage any type of situation that may occur between them and a client. Of course, the experience of every member is very important in this subject.

    The real problem of a real estate is not the client that might create a conflictive situation but the real problem is when the real estate is not counting with members that could manage well those situations.

    This aspect is much more recurring and it gets a higher priority, because there are also some interpersonal links created and in any real estate, these links are converted into economic losses or winnings.

    The key elements in customer service.

    In order to get an effective customer service, the real estate agency needs to take this into consideration:

    • Plan and establish a customer service policy which will eventually become an organizational model to follow.
    • Supervise that policy of the real estate in order to make more changes which will convert it into an effective methodology.
    • Analyze (in the weekly meeting) the possible conflictive situations which might occur with the clients.
    • Identify the weaknesses and the strong points of every person inside a real estate related to the customer service, so to get a higher rate of collective efficiency.
    • Both the first contact with the client as the managing of the sale and post-sale should be taken into consideration as parts of customer service of a real estate.
    • Implement specific programs of knowledge related to customer service in order to achieve a real estate much more productive.

    For a real estate is essential to have an effective system of customer service, which should contain certain aspects in order to achieve a high level of effectiveness.

    When a client of the real estate feels he was not well attended, because of the bad attention or the indifference, he will directly break all the relations with the real estate agency.

    When a client breaks up with the real estate on the basis of a bad treatment received from any of the real estate employees, there will appear some long term negative consequences for the real estate.

    For a real estate, losing a client implies a huge problem, mainly because the clients are the main resources of the real estate and because that client might convert into the person who spreads around bad advertisement.

    The worst advert a real estate could get is the annoyed client. This is not an exaggeration, if we take into consideration the means of communicating that nowadays exist through the different platforms of the Internet.

    If the clients spread good feedbacks, this is an important fact for any real estate and if the contrary happens (the clients might talk badly about the services offered by the real estate agency), it will turn into a negative aspect.

    One of the main principles inside any marketing strategy for a real estate is that it is highly important the above not to happen. If the client wants revenge, he could easily harm the strategy for development of the brand of the real estate.

    There are a lot of cases in which the clients harmed the business image of the real estate. There are cases in which the clients even damaged the economic state of the real estate. The responsible persons of a real estate should take into consideration the fact that the only thing a client needs is a computer connected to Internet so he could easily start an effective negative campaign.

    On the other hand, we should also take into consideration that the users of Internet are very supportive with this kind of campaigns of discredit and people join rapidly when there is a strategy to discredit a business than if it were a positive one.

    The Internet users and the social networks reflect a high level of solidarity at the moment of sharing contents in order to report a bad service coming from a business.

    The best way to avoid those facts to happen is to implement a customer service policy focused on the generation of positive synergies, which will eventually be converted into a huge value added to the organization.

    A SATISFIED CLIENT COUNTS FOR THE REAL ESTATE AND A DISCONTENTED CLIENT DIMINISHES ITS VALUE.

    A real estate client can forget a small error if he is well- attended, but this is not available if he has been treated with indifference and hostility. In order to avoid this, it is essential that all members have this in mind.

    The customer service is a very important factor which should be taken with the best professionality. The clients of a firm must be professionally attended, no matter what investment they bring to the firm.

    An effective customer service policy should follow certain elements. A real estate should not attend well its clients only because they invest a lot of money. An effective customer service policy is good for any type of business, no matter what product might offer.

    Even a customer who finally decides not to buy, might convert into a generator of good synergies for the real estate only because he has been well treated and attended.

    The client of the real estate agencywho will not buy a property, might serve as a link in order to get another client that for sure will become a potential buyer.

    Anyway, apart from the strong customer service, a real estate should also use this slogan: “never underestimate a client of the real estate and all clients should be treated with the same professionality”.

    Key aspects of the customer service policy.

    In order to get an effective customer service for the real estate, there are 2 fundamental areas to take into consideration:

    • The ways of communication which are set with the client.
    • The modalities of attending the real estate´s client.

    Due to the extension required by the development of those concepts in order to get an efficient explanation, we will start touching the different ways of communication which we need to establish with the client and in the next article we will analyze those main aspects.

    Ways of communicating with the client.

    • The greeting is the first contact.

    A client should feel welcomed into a real estate and we should never treat him with indifference. The greeting is the first contact of the client with the real estate.

    A greeting should be cordial and warm and without any excess or intention when it comes from the members of a real estate.

    • How to talk to a client of the real estate.

    The words and phrases used are essential because they will have an unconscious effect on the client of the real estate. Every action creates a reaction and so the words are converted in action.

    The key is to know how to foresee a reaction of the client. We must always transmit certain values to the clients: professionalism, seriousness, compromise.

    • Veracity and precision of the info given to the client.

    It is very important to transmit true info to the client of the real estate, because he needs to feel the agency is really sincere and honest. A real estate should never leave the impression it is hiding something from the client.

    Most of the times, the client of the real estate might feel he is about to be tricked, when in reality, the person that attends the client does not know how to get an effective verbal communication with the client.

    • The emotional state is important for the customer service.

    The internal state has a very important role at the moment of creating a verbal interaction and both the client and the responsible person to attend him inside the real estate will get conditioned by them.

    When we attend a client of the real estate, we need to forget the emotions and feelings and understand that the client is not responsible for our private problems.

    The smile must always be present on our faces when attending a client and should become the active element in the customer service policy of the real estate.

    The first contact without a smile brakes away with the basic principles of assertiveness.

    • The non-verbal communication with the client.

    Our body talks and transmits info to the client of the real estate and both verbal and non-verbal means of communication are two important factors. We should take into consideration that the bidirectional communication is also applied to the verbal communication and this is very important in order to get to understand the noon-verbal signs that the client sends.

    The body position, the gestures and the movements of the body in general, should be coherent with the message we send to the client of the real estate.

    Just a single gesture that is wrong interpreted by the client, it might convert into the difference between the selling or not of a property.

    • Written communication with the client of a real estate.

    The written communication with the client of the real estate should contain some verbal and non-verbal elements, but there are other factors to be taken into consideration. It is important to mind every word and phrase written, both in an email as when we use any other means.

    The written word should be interpreted as an action, too. Right from the beginning, in this frame of the written communication, it is recommended to pay attention to orthography and grammar, but also to other elements which affect directly or indirectly (type and size of the letter, the structure of the written message, used colors, general editing of the content).

    Methods to attend the customers of a real estate.

    Continuing with the same subject, we will analyze other linked aspects:

    • The telephonic communication with the client of the real estate.
    • The attention directed towards the clients of the real estate agency.

    The telephonic communication with the clients.

    The customer service by phone requires the use of all previous aspects. This is very important to be taken into consideration because the client of a real estate is not physically present and that is why we should focus on the main aspects of a verbal communication, leaving aside the non-verbal communication.

    If the person of the real estate does not manage the verbal skills without the non-verbal ones, he should center on generating sympathy, a very difficult task for those who don’t have the skills to do this.

    For an effective telephonic communication with the client of the real estate we need to understand these key aspects:

    • Model of telephone attention.

    Answering the phone of the real estate should be something included in the main customer service policy and for this, we will need to create a pattern model which must be used by anyone in the real estate.

    No matter what models we choose, this could be a simple example:

    “Costa Invest Real Estate, hello, this is ( tell your name). How can I help you?”

    • The name of the real estate.

     The name of the agency should go first when attending the phone calls in a real estate. This shows professionalism and confirms the client the person with whom he really wants to talk to.

    • The greeting when answering the phone.

    Say “Good morning” or “Good evening” it´s the basic greeting inside the assertiveness keys. In the same time, this is a sign of courtesy and good education. On the contrary, not doing that, will delete the possibility of showing some good values to the client.

    • Introduce oneself.

    The person who attends the phone calls in a real estate should say his/her name because this personalizes the attention offered and it offers more confidence. It is very important to personalize the attention of the client of the real estate and the person who establishes the first contact should turn into a facilitator of the client.

    We have to transmit to the client of the real estate a good mood and receptivity because most of the times, that receptivity turns into a key element in order to generate an instant positive rapport.

    What we must never do when attending a phone call.

    • Informal greetings.

    We must never use an informal telegram type greeting such as “Hi” or “Yes, please”. These types of greetings to use when attending a phone call inside a real estate are forbidden and it is shameful that there are lots of real estates that still use this style.

    The person who takes the calls inside a real estate should bear in mind that he/she will become the voice of the real estate and will be the responsible of several values to share. Most of the times, the start of a selling process depends on her.

    • Impersonal voice tones.

    Use an aggressive and impersonal tone. This is badly negative when talking to a possible client and this will damage the real estate interests. We must always adopt a calm and constant tone and never modify it.

    If the client of the real estate contacts us in order to complain for something, the person who attends him must never answer likewise, but on the contrary, he should try to make the client change his mood.

    • Take care of the words.

    There are several words to be avoided when taking a phone call because they could provoke negative reactions from the client.

    We should not forget words are actions and they always provoke reactions, aspect that conditions the link between the client and the real estate.

    The words we should avoid when talking to a client on the phone: should, must , you have to, you should have, etc.

    The person who takes the call should always be the facilitator and a problem solver and should never become an obstacle in the communication.

    • Do not give excuses.

    When we attend a client on the phone, we should not ask for forgiveness and we should always say we do not know anything about that subject on which the client is complaining. Not knowing something is not a problem.

    The bigger problem is when we say we do know when we actually do not. Professionally, there is no shame to not know some functional things inside the real estate and we could always ask for help or even pass the client to another person of the real estate.

    If that were the case, we should never leave the client the sensation of trying to avoid him or trick him.

    • Focus on the client.

    We must never attend a client of the real estate showing interest to another thing. When we talk to a client we must pay attention only to him.

    It is highly important to achieve a high level of concentration with the client of the real estate and we should try to process all the info the client brings and so register every detail into our minds.

    In this way, we could easily achieve a more effective customer service.

    • If you promise something to the client, you should accomplish it.

    If a client calls to the office because he wants to talk to a certain member of the real estate, the person who attends him should pass the message to the correct member.

    In the same time, if the person who attends the client needs some time to manage the task, then the former should call the client. The phrase ¨I will get back to you¨ is a promise so it should be accomplished.

    Not accomplish the promise is one of the worst and negative factors which the real estate could transmit to a client.

    Attend a client of the real estate in person.

    The present communication with the client of a real estate requires pass through all the previous characteristics of the verbal and non-verbal communication.

    We should take into consideration that in that background, the verbal communication has its relevant role and so we need to focus on the main aspects of that communication, in order to achieve an effective customer service inside the real estate.

    We should not forget about the fact that there are other aspects related to a certain type of communication and apart from becoming the voice of the company, the person who attends the client turns into the image of it.

    The main elements to be taken into consideration in order to achieve a good and effective customer service for the client who is present inside the real estate are the following:

    • Courtesy.

    Courtesy is a feature which is transmitted right from the beginning and it is linked to the confidence we need to show to a client. We should never forget the first impression counts the most.

    • The personalized attention.

    The personalized attention is one of the most valued elements by the client of a real estate. It is important to call the client by his name (without crossing the limits) and using a certain rate of sympathy.

    If the client of the real estate feels that the person who attends him is helping him and has the best intentions, by no means, he will feel discontented.

    • The efficiency.

    The efficiency of the customer service of a real estate is achieved only with the feeling of security sent to the client and with the help of the good time management. The security is achieved through information and the qualification of the members of a real estate.

    These are the most important elements in order to transmit confidence and professionality to the client. Managing time properly is also important, because the clients do not want to lose their time and when they have their doubts and questions solved, they feel a professional environment.

    • The image.

    The image of the person who attends the client of the real estate is also very important and transmits a series of non-encoded data. By non-encoded data we refer to those aspects that are showed to the client right from the beginning.

    Those aspects will condition the client in a sense or another instantly. The specific subject of the personal image is based on several conditions among which we could easily notice the look and the neatness.

    Without wasting the time talking about stereotypes, the members of a real estate should be aware there are some not written social rules of what to wear in a company.

    The implementing of a well-defined customer service policy of the real estate allows the real estate to get a higher level of efficiency, increment the positive synergies with the clients and create more solid commercial links for the real estate.

    Author:

    Costa Invest

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      Trick of the Trade: Customer Service Tips for Real Estate Agents

      Trick of the Trade: Customer Service Tips for Real Estate Agents

      One of the easiest (and most effective) ways for agents to set themselves apart from the competition is through excellent customer service, especially if you are a newly-licensed real estate agent trying to get your foot in the door. Last year in our Trick of the Trade campaign, we asked real estate agents across the country for some tips on how they provide excellent customer service to their clients. Here are just some of the tips that they provided:

      #1: Take the time to get to know your clients

      Real estate is all about relationship-building. Not only does it help you land clients, but, if done well, it can lead to referrals from former clients thus creating an endless loop of clients for your business.

      “My favorite real estate trick is to go into a listing appointment with a ‘get to know you’ attitude. Yes, we go into listing appointments to ‘sell ourselves’ to the seller but I like to use it as a get to know each time. I’ll go over my qualifications as an agent and what I will do to help them sell their home, but at the same time, I ask a lot of questions and let them do a lot of talking. Forming relationships with your clients is such an important part of the process and if I can get to know the sellers and learn about ‘their why’ then it starts off the whole process on the right foot.” – Kimberly T.

      “My best trick of the trade is to approach every client with a personalized strategy to reach their goal. Every situation is unique, so it’s important to listen carefully to what the client is saying. Providing options and explaining each choice carefully and thoroughly is important in our work. Our clients must make informed decisions. Know when to advise a client to seek expert advice from contractors, and have a list of local professionals available. Help them schedule needed services. Follow up with clients after closing to see how they’re doing. Learn from every transaction!” – Lisa B.

      “The best solution for success is to be sincere in wanting to help a customer achieve their real estate objectives. Be honest and consider the customer’s needs more than your own. Most genuine buyers in today’s society will not respond well to tricks or slanted information.” – Nate Z.

      #2: Provide your clients with an experience

      Real estate transactions can be complicated and stress-inducing for clients. That’s why it is important to provide them with a positive experience from beginning to end.

      “A service mindset is critical. If you create a great experience for your sellers, you can make more money than you can imagine. View the conversation from the clients’ perspective. They want to know you regard their home as a special place, just like they do. Ask questions. This is perhaps the most essential step. Find out what’s important to the sellers and steer the conversation toward those areas. Everything you say should help accomplish one of these three things: demonstrating your skills, displaying your values or providing valuable information to the sellers. Your package should be comprehensive yet easy to digest.” – Mehdi E.

       

      #3: Go above and beyond

      When it comes to selling or buying a home, clients want to know that they are in good hands with such a large and life-changing transaction. You can convey this by going above and beyond for your clients. From beginning to end, each contact is an opportunity to “Wow” your clients, increasing the likelihood that they will recommend you to a friend or family member.

      “Always, always under-promise and over-deliver. When you meet or exceed promises made to a customer or client, a real estate agent builds lasting rapport and confidence with everyone you work with. Conversely, when an agent over-promises and under-delivers, quite the opposite is true. Every interaction with a customer or client is a self-portrait. Autograph your portrait with EXCELLENCE!” – Terence C.

      #4: Be available

      In order to provide excellent customer service, you need to be easily reachable to deal with any issues that may arise. If you miss a call, be sure to respond as soon as possible, even if they didn’t leave a voice message.

      “The main thing I do that differentiates me, even after 9 years in the business, is that I ANSWER MY PHONE. So often agents won’t just TAKE the call. This is your opportunity for a first impression. You are not too busy to take the call. You can always apologize and ask them if you can call back later. But if you don’t connect, you WON’T get the business!” – Stacy M. 

      “Being adaptable to every type of communication is crucial to winning over your clients and other agents; whether it’s text messages, emails, phone calls, or even faxes. The list could go on even longer with the advent of social media but getting back to a client or an agent as soon as possible is a top priority. Being available will give you a reputation as someone who is easy to talk to and is willing to do business. So, make sure to build your character, polish your attitude, and stay available, because sooner or later you will be deemed a treasured real estate professional.” – Dixon P. 

      #5: Leave a lasting impression

      While it’s important to provide exceptional customer service from start to finish, the last time you are in contact with your clients can be the difference between having a repeat customer that refers you to friends and family and a one-and-done transaction. As such, it’s a good idea to provide some sort of gift or personalized note for the client as well as anyone who was involved.

      “When I go to a closing, no matter how large or small the deal, providing the buyer and seller are present, I bring them each a gift bag with goodies, gift cards, and a small gift that is specific to each party’s taste. In other words, a personalized gift that shows that through the process I have paid attention to the small details rather than rushing through without listening to what is the ‘important stuff.’ I also like to bring a gift bag to the attorney and/or paralegal. They love it that I think of them and it’s not just business as usual. The attorneys look forward to me coming because they know they are getting a gift, and they also seem to go above and beyond to make sure that my closings run smoothly and most times are expedited. All of this personal service ultimately gives the client and/or customer a great feeling of confidence about using me again or referring me to a friend or acquaintance. I will also call my buyers a couple of months after they have made a purchase to ask how they are ‘settling in’. Once the rush and confusion of closing on a home and moving in have passed, buyers can finally breathe and take in what they have purchased!” – Shawn R.

      Author:

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      Five Key Customer Service Tips for Real Estate Businesses

      Five Key Customer Service Tips for Real Estate Businesses

      Providing excellent customer service is imperative in any service-oriented business, but perhaps even more so in real estate. More often than not, the reason a customer chooses one particular real estate agent over another is simply a better rapport and comfort level of being treated right. If you are in the real estate business, you need to be aware of the following five key customer service tips, and be prepared to implement them immediately.

      1. Listen

      Don’t just stand there with the appropriate head nod inserted every ten seconds or so, actually listen closely to what you customers are telling you. Focus on the details and store them away in your memory bank or even make a note in your smartphone for later. Don’t necessarily start writing down every word they say though. By doing this, you may be paying too much attention to note taking and not enough attention to what they are actually saying.

      2. A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way

      Gone are the days of the pushy real estate broker who tries to sell a broken down, 100-year old shack as quaint and cozy to the family of seven. Lay off the sales persona for a little bit and let the customer service professional shine. Be friendly and approachable instead of smarmy and aggressive. If the property is right, the customer will want to buy it, and all you have to do is be likeable enough for them to want to buy it from you. Alas, as everything else is in life, a little kindness definitely goes a long way.

      3. Communication Skills

      To be a successful realtor, you are going to need elite communication skills. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak confidently, infuse appropriate facts, and ask poignant questions when you need information. You should be an equally effective communicator in email, which is a whole different ball game because you can’t always accurately express the proper emotion or tone in email. Therefore, the need to choose your words carefully is even larger for electronic communication. It’s not much of a leap to say, the better communicator you are, the better realtor you can become.

      4. Be A Social Media Butterfly

      The great thing about social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is that they are all mostly free. The only thing you might have to pay for is some premium membership plans, which probably aren’t even necessary. Invest some time into establishing yourself effectively on social media, so customers can find you and continue a conversation with you online. Post your listings on your own website and as many social media outlets as you can to acquire the greatest amount of business traffic.

      5. Relationship Management

      Especially in the world of residential real estate, you are likely to be involved in some of the biggest moments of your client’s lives. Buying a house is a huge investment and buyers are going to want to share that with an agent they trust and feel they have a good business relationship with. Take the time to get to know your clients. Don’t be afraid to ask personal questions, without getting too personal of course. It doesn’t hurt to even spring for a light lunch every now and then, or even buy a gift basket if you remember a special day for them. It’s the little things that will build and manage an effective business relationship. This will allow you to separate yourself from the masses of cold, strictly business realtors out there.

      Author:

      Snappy

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      5 “Golden Rules” of Excellent Real Estate Customer Service

      5 "Golden Rules" of Excellent Real Estate Customer Service

       

      photodune-267921-thank-you-note-coffee-s“I’m never too busy for your referrals!” This popular tagline is front and center in countless real estate agent email signatures.  Though I agree it doesn’t hurt to remind clients to recommend you to their friends and family, referrals should be a natural outcome of providing excellent service and a job well done. When you provide a great customer experience, people can’t help but boast about you!

      As a customer service manager, I analyze how I am treated during interactions with vendors (both in personal and professional settings) and use my experiences to motivate my own behavior and guidance on how customers should be treated. I draw from THE Golden Rule we are all taught as children: Treat others as you would like to be treated. The easiest way to learn how to provide great service is to act like a customer, an especially critical thing to remember when you’re working in an industry where emotions and stakes are always running high.

      I recommend everyone in a customer-oriented position follow this practice. Become aware of what a great customer experience feels like and use that insight to identify what it takes to create that experience. I used my experiences to develop 5 “Golden Rules” that you can use to build a pipeline of lifelong customers.

      1. Let empathy be your guide:

        Having empathy means having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand what that person is feeling. No matter the circumstances (first time buyer, investor, downsizer, re-locator) a real estate transaction is a big deal and it’s always personal. Whether you have to deliver bad news or you feel like a client is being a pest, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Empathy not only helps you to relate to your clients, but feeling empathetic will also help guide your ability to communicate, problem-solve, react and at the very least make the customer feel understood.

      1. Be engaged & responsive:

        Clients expect immediate follow up (which makes lead nurturing software like Zurple great, especially for new leads). In real estate, you aren’t treated like an organization with business hours – you will get calls and emails after hours and on weekends.

        The key isn’t necessarily being available to answer emails at 1am (work/life balance is a great topic for another day). Instead, the key is reacting in a timely manner – and if you don’t have all the answers don’t leave your customer hanging. Keep them updated and try to give accurate timeframes whenever possible. Make it a priority to follow through when you say you will.

        Pro Tip:
        Let Conversations help! Our intelligent software automates fast, relevant, effective  lead follow-up. See how it works

      1. Remember abc – always be communicative:

        Good, clear communication is highly underrated in a high speed world of “lol” and “omg”. How you communicate and how well you communicate will leave a strong impression on a client. Taking time to construct a thoughtful, well-written email or calling instead of texting for more important discussions will give your client great comfort that they are in good hands.

      1. Go the extra mile:

        Give your clients a “wow” moment whenever possible – and keep in mind that wow moments don’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as providing additional information that was not requested. Think beyond the stated question and seek the implied follow up question – so when your client asks “what are the HOAs at this condo?” don’t just provide the HOAs for that one unit. Follow up with more information – maybe some comparable condos where HOAs are lower and ask questions about what amenities are important to them so you can guide their search.

         

      1. Show your appreciation:

        You are nothing without your customers so be sure to show them how much you care. Make sure your clients feel appreciated for choosing to work with you. Many agents do this with a closing gift (already a great concept), but rather than going the generic route, choose something meaningful. We compiled a list of a few ideas here.

        A handwritten “thank you” note makes a great impression too. To show true appreciation let them know why you enjoyed working with them (i.e. were they patient, funny, knowledgeable, easy-going?). Also try sending them a note or give them a call to wish them a “Happy Anniversary” to celebrate the date they closed or moved in. There are countless ways to make people feel special but these small acts of kindness can go a long way in building personal connections with your clients.

      Empathy may sound easy, but if you are having a bad day it can be difficult to see someone else’s perspective. It’s easy to have a great idea for a closing gift but it takes effort to make the purchase. It’s easy to find out the HOA fees on that condo but it takes enterprise to dig deeper. Real estate is all about relationships and the strongest relationships take effort.

      Providing great real estate customer service is an incredible way to build trust and loyalty. Apply these “Golden Rules” diligently to wow your clients and increase referral business.

      Author:

      Zurple

      Michelle Salatto


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        ‘Contact Us’ Page Guidelines

        ‘Contact Us’ Page Guidelines

        ummary: Users still expect to see company addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses on ‘Contact Us’ pages. Don’t hide or replace these elements with automated tools such as ‘Contact Us’ forms or chat.

        To update our About Us report, we recently conducted a qualitative usability study with 20 business professionals. During this research, we observed participants’ behavior as they tried to complete key tasks related to About Us content on 40 different corporate websites. 

        Additionally, we asked each user to attempt a series of activities related to the Contact Us information on those sites. Our goal was to understand how people in business–to–business contexts find and interact with Contact Us pages, what information and methods they expect to see, and their motivations behind choosing a particular contact channel. In this article, we’ll share 12 guidelines for designing your Contact Us page, as gleaned from this research. 

        What to Include on the Contact Us Page

        1. The Contact Us link should lead to complete contact details and communication options.

        Your site should include a dedicated contact page with at least a phone number and email address, not just a contact form or physical address. A user looking for corporate contact information on USA.Yamaha.com grew frustrated that there was no email address or phone number displayed. He said,

         “This is where I would go hoping to find that [contact] information. It is misleading to have this page called Contact Us and then the content on the page is just more paragraphs. They don’t seem to be offering other methods of contact including social media, email, or a phone number. If I go to Contact Us, I’m already expecting the variety of methods of contact.”

        Yamaha's contact us page lacks contact channels.
        Yamaha’s corporate website disappointed users. Rather than offering specific information on the Contact Us page, the site displayed poorly formatted copy.

        At a minimum, include the following information on your Contact Us page:

        • Other methods of contact:
          • Main corporate address
          • Local addresses, if applicable
          • Email address(es)
          • Chat, if applicable
          • Social media channels, if applicable
          • Fax numbers, if applicable

        Beyond providing appropriate contact channels, here are a few additional best practices for displaying contact information:

        • Provide the phone number and email address for a primary contact first, then list phone numbers and email addresses by department (sales, accounts, support, geographic headquarters, etc.). Just like in business–to–customer journeys, some business–to–business users prefer the phone, while others prefer email. This preference depends on the individual and the nature of the situation.
        • Show contact information for local branches or physical locations. Link address(es) so they open a map application where users can get directions.
        • Include hours of operation and time zones.
        • Offer contact information in other languages if you serve an international, or multilingual audience.
        • Tell users whether they will interact with a real person or a chatbot.
        • State when associates are available to take calls, exact or average wait times, or approximations for the time it will take to receive an email response back.

        One user on UBreakIFix.com said she valued having contact information for local stores. She said, “I would try by phone call first, probably a local store. If I can’t find it myself, I’ll call corporate.” The user appreciated that the site included both a clear link to locations in the navigation and the corporate phone number.

        UbreakiFix offers contact information for local stores.
        UBreakIFix.com provided users with local information including the addresses and phone numbers. This content made it easy for people to contact a nearby store to get help.

        While searching for contact information on the Small Business Administration’s website, one user was impressed by the fact that the organization offered full contact information in both English and Spanish. He said, “It’s nice that there’s Spanish contacts. You don’t always see that; I can call a phone number. I don’t always see that either, it’s very nice.”

        SBA offers contact information in English and Spanish.
        The Contact SBA section on the Small Business Administration’s website provided all the right forms of contact, including mailing address, phone numbers, email addresses, and local-district offices. There was also an option to get contact information in Spanish, which showed extra consideration for users.

        Display Contact Us Information Where Users Expect It

        2. Include a noticeable link to Contact Us in your main navigation or utility navigation and in the footer.

        Our usability testing and eyetracking research show that, if you ask users to find the Contact Us page on a website, they will look in the top right corner of the page or down in the footer. Companies that hide or don’t provide prominent links to Contact Us information are seen as evasive and unreliable.

        This guideline may seem obvious to seasoned UX practitioners, but surprisingly many sites still fail to include a Contact Us link in at least one of these key areas. In some cases, organizations will label their Contact Us page as Resources or Help Center, but we advise against this practice. When we asked users to reach the company to get an answer to a question, they looked for the label, Contact Us.

        Though many of the websites we tested provided clear links to contact information, a few made it particularly difficult to get in touch. For example, one user on the U.S. General Services Administration’s website struggled to find contact information, as it was hidden in a dropdown menu, underneath the About Us link in the main navigation. The user finally found it, but wished it had been easier. She said, “I would have liked to have Contact Us up in the top, rather than going to About Us. Once I scrolled down to the footer, I saw it, but it could have been easier to find.”

        Don’t hide Contact Us links behind your About Us label in the navigation; instead prominently feature contact information in the header and footer of your website. (It can be appropriate to include contact info on an About page, as long as it’s a supplement to the main Contact Us link.)

        GSA included a link to contact us in their about us dropdown which was difficult to find.
        One user was frustrated by the fact that the U.S. General Services Administration did not have a Contact Us link in its main navigation.
        GSA included a link to a contact us page in their footer.
        The user eventually found a Contact Us link in the page footer, which is one of the key areas where we recommend placing it.

        Never Hide or Remove Phone Numbers from the Contact Us Page

        3. Clearly display contact phone numbers on your site. Don’t hide or remove phone numbers.

        Displaying a phone number shows that your organization cares about its users and wants to be available. Not displaying phone numbers implies that the organization doesn’t want to be bothered. By giving people ways to directly reach your organization, you ease fears, appear reliable, and build trust.

        However, companies often want people to self-serve or refer to the website for answers, instead of contacting the organization directly. Cost per call, volumes of calls, and response times are all metrics which often get measured and scrutinized to the point where stakeholders decide to remove the Contact Us phone numbers altogether in an effort to keep costs low. (A better approach is to invest in basic website information architecture and content usability so that answers to customers’ main questions are easy to find and easy to understand.)

        Though hiding phone numbers may seem like a cost-savings measure, doing so will cause much damage to a company’s reputation. The majority of users in our study said they prefer talking to a real person on the phone to get questions answered, rather than emailing, filling out a form, or chatting. When matters were not time-sensitive or when users couldn’t pick up the phone, they emailed or used live chat. One person said,

        “There are companies that don’t even give you a phone number anymore. I don’t like it at all. What if my message gets lost? It makes them seem suspicious to me, I want to talk to someone on the phone.”

        Users on GiftTree.com and OneCall.com liked that the organization’s 800-numbers and email addresses were easily accessible. Another user said, “It’s good that the 800-number is on top, with a link to Contact. There are a lot of places where you can get a hold of them if you want to — which is good.”

        OneCall includes a phone number and link to email in their header.
        The prominent phone number and Contact Us link on OneCall’s site made the organization seem open and willing to be contacted, thereby boosting trust.
        OneCall also included contact us information in their footer.
        OneCall.com also placed detailed contact information in the footer. 
        GiftTree included their contact information in the header.
        GiftTree also featured a prominent phone number and link to live chat throughout its entire site.

        4. For sites with many contact phone numbers, organize them into clearly labeled groups to help users find the right phone number.

        Large organizations tend to have hundreds of contact phone numbers, resulting in a swath of complex options. If presented as an unorganized list, phone numbers will be completely meaningless to people and they won’t know which one to choose. Organizing contact numbers based on your company’s internal structure usually backfires because outsiders won’t understand your hierarchy or organization chart. Additionally, sites with complex contact page elements — such as extensive dropdowns and department categories — are overwhelming.

        If you have a complex company structure, provide a main phone number on the Contact Us page to alleviate any confusion people have about how to contact you. Multiple contact listings should be grouped and labeled clearly so that users know exactly which to choose. For example, Chevron’s Contact Us page did a nice job of displaying a main phone number, along with a link to specific phone numbers for various departments.

        Chevron offers many different contact phone numbers for different departments.
        Chevron.com displayed a helpful Contact Us page which offered many specific contact methods for users, including investors and the press.

        Display Your Company’s Address on Contact Us Pages

        5. Always include your headquarters address in your contact information, including the state/province and ZIP.

        Sharing your physical address is important because users often rely on the Contact Us section to find out where a company is headquartered. Displaying your address also increases the probability that users will find your company’s website when searching for local results via search engines. Users often enter a combined query that includes keywords for both the desired product or service and their location. For example, somebody looking for a dentist in Salem, New Hampshire is likely to use a keyword like dentist Salem or dentist Salem, NH. Your site won’t show up in search-results pages unless the search-engine robots can determine that your dentist office is in Salem, NH.

        6. If you serve multiple countries or an international audience, provide contact information for each office location abroad.

        To show consideration for your international audiences and users who need information about an office abroad, provide contact information for all of your global locations, not just your headquarters. People may need to find the address of an office location in another country or they may need to call an international office directly, rather than calling your headquarters. Include the physical address, an email address, and an international phone number (with the country code), for your office locations abroad.

        For example, Chevron included a gateway page on its site, with links to contact information for all of its international offices. Users selected an international office and were taken to a specific page detailing how to get in contact with someone there.

        Chevron offers contact information for all of its offices worldwide.
        Chevron included a gateway page on its website that housed links to detailed contact information for each of its global business locations.
        Chevron Brazil includes all location-specific contact information.
        Chevron.com: Clicking on an international location took users to a detailed Contact Us page which featured information about that specific office.

        Don’t Block or Slow Users Down from Getting in Contact

        7. Offer a contact form only in addition to telephone numbers, not as a replacement.

        People have concerns about committing to contact forms and see them as barriers to productivity. Users are also skeptical of forms since they’re often used to capture email addresses for marketing purposes. When users filled out contact forms, they felt like they were relinquishing control of the interaction to the company rather than retaining it themselves. They wondered when their inquiry would be addressed and whether it will ever be answered at all. For example, Slack.com’s users were annoyed that they had to fill out a form to ask a simple question.

        “I don’t like that you have to fill out this form, considering all you want to do is talk to them. I hate when you go to a link and have to provide a bunch of information to get in contact. I am hesitant to put my email into a website — that is the last thing that I would do.”

        Slack only uses a form for users to get in contact.
        Users were disappointed that the only contact method offered on Slack’s website was a form.

        Melissa and Doug, on the other hand, offered a myriad of helpful contact options, including a form. It also had specific email addresses for various business units and presented users with all its international phone numbers right on the Contact Us page. One user who was evaluating a position with the company said, “It’s nice that they give you many different phone numbers, live chat, email options through this form — however you like to communicate, you can do it.”

        Melissa and Doug offered all of the right contact mechanisms.
        Melissa and Doug provided many different contact options for retail partners, consumers, and job seekers.

        8. If you include a form on your Contact Us page, limit it to 3–5 fields and ask only for information that’s needed to respond back.

        Ask people to provide their name, preferred method of contact, and a brief description of the question or issue. If your form requires more fields for specific reasons, know that users may not complete the form, which could result in lost leads, sales, or talent.

        The contact form on the American Refugee Committee’s website had only a few fields. While it asked for some personal information (i.e., name and email), the fields were relevant and not too restrictive, as people could choose to enter their full name or not.

        American Refugee Committee used a contact form with only a few fields.
        The Contact Us form on the American Refugee Committee’s website offered an appropriate number of form fields. To improve it further, it should mark required fields.

        9. Don’t force people to create an account to contact your company.

        People don’t want to spend time creating an account with your company if all they need is an answer to a simple question. In addition, users worry about being inundated with spam and email, so they may avoid creating an account and contacting you entirely. For these reasons, don’t require users to create an account to get in contact with you.

        While learning about Adobe’s offerings, a study participant tried to contact the organization. She grew irritated when she had to first sign in to an account to contact the organization. She said, “I wish when I hit Contact, that I could just get an email address or a phone number, instead of having to sign in. I’d have to create an account.”

        Adobe forced users to create an account to get in contact.
        Users did not like the fact that Adobe.com forced them to create an account to contact the organization.

        If Available and Reliable, Include Chat and Social Media Channels on Contact Us Pages

        10. It’s good to have online chat as a contact option, but it should not be the only contact method available.

        Thoroughly test chat with your users to understand if it meets their expectations and when they prefer using chat over other contact channels. Chat should be available, but not popping up at the wrong times or popping up without the user initiating the interaction. Our research participants had mixed feelings about using online chat — particularly because of bad past experiences with poorly implemented chatbots.

        However, some people spoke favorably about chat when the site clearly indicated whether the chat agent was a real person or a bot. Users who preferred chat over picking up the phone mentioned not having to sit on hold as the main reason for their preference. A GoToMeeting user exclaimed, “Love the chat option; they know what they’re doing, without having to sit on hold forever. I like if a copy of the chat can be emailed to me, or I’ll screenshot it on my phone. I prefer the chat.”

        Another user on the General Services Administration’s website said, “It’s good that they have the phone number and live chat. Since this is a government website, I would feel better about chat because if you call, they will take you to 500 different people and keep transferring you. I don’t have time to wait for an email back.”

        11. Display social media channels as contact options only if these channels are staffed with properly trained professionals who can respond to inquiries in a timely fashion.

        Many people in our study mentioned using a company’s social media channels to ask questions or resolve issues. For example, one user spoke highly of an internet service provider that responded immediately to his question on Twitter. He described getting very slow connection speeds, so he mentioned the company in a Tweet. Within minutes, he got a productive response. He said, “That’s one of the first times I’ve used Twitter and social media to reach out to a company, but that’s where things are going and it worked.”

        UBreakIFix.com offered options for contacting the company via social media channels. These options were presented on its Contact Us page and provided direct links to each channel. It’s important to mention, however, that not all users will be comfortable contacting your company via social media, nor do all users have accounts on those channels. For these reasons, it’s still important to include other methods of contact, such as a phone number, email address, and chat.

        UBreakiFix offered users social media channels to get in contact.
        UBreakIFix.com offered options for contacting the company via social media channels.

        Tell Users When You’re Available and When to Expect a Reply

        12. For each contact channel, communicate availability, wait times, and response windows on your Contact Us page.

        Tell people when certain channels are available, when to expect a response, and how long they will wait if they call, chat, or email. Most users expect an email or response to a form submission within 24 hours, and usually don’t want to wait longer than a few minutes on the phone or chat. When displaying availability timeframes, include specific times and time zones, and make sure you live up to the response timeframes stated. For example, GSA stated that it would respond via email within 24-hours on its Contact Us page and provided hours of operation for its online chat. To improve even further, it should include hours of operation near the phone number as well. 

        GSA set expectations for when users could expect an email response.
        The U.S. General Services Administration offered a variety of contact methods and set expectations for when email inquiries are answered and when Chat Live is available

        Conclusion

        People decide how to get in contact with a company, based on a variety of factors. Their scenario, the amount of time they have, a channel’s perceived reliability, their current context, and comfort level with certain methods of contact all influence the choice. Never hide, remove, or replace contact information in favor of automated methods such as online chat or Contact Us forms. Always include the company’s addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses on Contact Us pages, as users still expect to find traditional methods of getting in contact.

        Even more guidelines for the design of effective Contact Us pages can be found in our full report on Presenting Company Information on Corporate Websites and in About Us Sections.

        Author:

        Nielsen Norman Group

        Anna Kaley

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            Your Corporate Culture’s “Artifacts” – What Would Indiana Jones Say?

            Your Corporate Culture's "Artifacts" - What Would Indiana Jones Say?

            Archaeologists live for artifacts. As they unearth these fragments of the past—a shred of fabric, a silver pot, a crumbling wall, an ancient writing—they slowly begin, piece by piece, to build their understanding of a culture long gone.

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            Corporate Culture or Corporate Wish

            Just as the Egyptians and other ancient civilizations had unique cultures, your business has a culture. This culture is made up of the beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors of your company’s employees.

            Corporate culture is a very real thing. The question is not, “Do we have a culture?”—trust me, you do—but rather, “Have we defined our culture, and do we reinforce it with everything we do?”

            Many companies have the first part of this question down pat. In taking great care to write mission statements, visions, values, and the like, they have eloquently defined their corporate culture.

            Or at least what they want their culture to be.You see, often there’s a wide expanse between perceived culture and actual culture. A company can define its culture until it’s blue in the face; if the men and women of that company don’t live the culture out, however, their defined culture is nothing more than words.

            A culture must be more than defined. It must be reinforced on a daily basis. It must leave artifacts behind as proof.

            I once consulted with a company that claimed to have a very customer-centered culture. “The customer is everything,” said the CEO, “and everyone’s main focus is the customer experience.” Yet I found no physical evidence to support this claim. Everywhere I turned, corporate artifacts evidenced a culture that really valued company procedures, process manuals, and rigid rules—not the customer experience. I couldn’t even find a photograph of a customer in the entire company headquarters.

            Was this company’s main focus truly the customer experience? Or is that just what they wanted it to be? This is the difference between a corporate culture and a corporate wish.

            “But we communicate our culture through stories, not stuff!”

            Where most companies fail to live out their corporate wish is in their lack of lasting, applicable artifacts. The company that claimed to be customer-centered, for instance, simply didn’t have the stuff to back it up. If they were to start posting customer photos on the walls—among many other actions—perhaps their corporate wish would start transforming into an actual corporate culture.

            “What about stories?” you ask. “Isn’t storytelling an important part of perpetuating culture?”

            Yes, it is. I agree that storytelling, dialogue, and face-to-face interactions are all important in establishing, building, and sustaining corporate culture. But let’s face it: A physical artifact provides evidence that storytelling cannot, evidence that an alleged value really is hardwired into a company’s culture.

            How? Because artifacts aren’t easily changed by executive whims, changing markets, or shifting economies. Artifacts are more constant, more permanent, and more quantifiable than dialogue. Tremendous amounts of time, thought, planning, and money go into aligning physical artifacts with a desired culture. To remove these artifacts—and the culture they represent—takes considerable effort. There’s a permanence with artifacts that unrecorded stories simply don’t have.

            Don’t get me wrong. I love stories. I love to tell them and I love to hear them. Frequently I’ll ask clients to share stories of their organization so that I can get a feel for the corporate culture. But in order to last, these stories must take on physical form. In the end, it all comes back to artifacts. Great stories make great artifacts—but only once they’re made permanent, concrete, tangible. I find it tragic when I meet companies that haven’t written any of their great stories down. When company founders and legends retire or pass away, oftentimes the corporate stories they hold do as well. Stories no one thought to get on video, or in writing, so that they could be shared verbatim with others. Stories that never made it into artifact form.

            Uncovering the Artifacts of Your Corporate Culture

            So what about your company? What artifacts do you have in place to support your supposed corporate culture? Or are your corporate artifacts revealing your corporate culture to be something entirely different from what you’re claiming it to be?

            In short, are your artifacts “walking the walk” for your company so that you’re not just “talking the talk”?

            Back to Indiana Jones. If you don’t mind, let’s pretend I’m Indiana Jones, discovering your current office place some ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. (Don’t worry; your company wasn’t destroyed by man-eating snakes, malaria, or even poor PR. You simply moved locations. Lock, stock, and barrel, you abandoned your current office space—as well as its contents, or “artifacts”—and moved across town to set up shop from scratch.)

            When I arrive on the scene, I find your old office space exactly how you left it. Conference room whiteboards still hold notes from the last Monday meeting; the desks look like they’re still in use; and the coffeepot, of course, is empty as usual. In short, it’s a “ghost town”—or “ghost office,” we should say.

            I start digging deeper, as any true archaeologist (or Indiana Jones) would do, and I discover artifact after artifact. What conclusions would I come to about your organization’s culture from this physical evidence? Would I imagine a company based on the values you purportedly uphold?

            Remember, I have no company representatives to talk to. I can only base my conclusions on the physical evidence before me. Would my discoveries lead me to conclude that your culture is what you say it is?

            The discrepancy I often find in my consulting work between perceived culture and actual culture amazes me. I’ve worked with many companies who say they value attention to detail, yet the physical evidence screams chaos and sloppiness. Other companies say they value creativity and personal expression while the physical evidence suggests that they really value conformity.

            Imagine further that I, the archeologist, discover some your company’s training materials, such as handbooks and videos. (These could be analogous to cultural writings of a civilization.) In essence, these writings document corporate values and priorities. As I go through these materials with a fine-toothed comb, I discover what this civilization (your company) taught its youth (your new hires).

            Tell me something: Would the emphasis of these materials lead me to come to the conclusions you want me to?

            Most of my consulting work is in the customer service realm. One my first requests when working with an organization is to see their new hire training materials. Many organizations that claim to value service excellence often spend little to no training time to the subject.

            For instance, one “service-oriented” company had a two-day new hire program. As I poured through the training materials, I kept hoping to find some content regarding customer service. Finally I found some—about fifteen minutes worth of material in the entire two days. Sure, the other material was important, but customer service clearly took a backseat to everything else. The evidence (artifacts) did not point to a service-oriented company.

            Become Your Company’s Indiana Jones

            Now it’s time for you to don the safari hat a la Indiana Jones. Look at your organization as an archaeologist would. You can do this by yourself or with a team of people.

            First, review your company’s mission, vision, and values. (Most companies have them on a laminated card somewhere.) Then, just take a walk through the organization. If it’s a hospital, start in the parking lot and walk through each floor of the hospital. If it’s a bank, start in the parking lot and walk through each branch, making sure to drive through the teller windows as well. If it’s a manufacturing plant, walk the floor of the plant.

            The key is to travel through all areas of the organization. Pay particular attention to employee areas since they often provide some of the best evidence of a company’s real culture. See if the physical evidence aligns with your stated mission, vision, and values. You may be surprised at the discrepancies you discover.

            Do you say you value diversity? Take a look at the photos on the “executive wall of fame.” Do you say you value respect for employees? Take a look at the quality of the employee break room. Do you say you value creativity? Take a look at the sea of uniform cubicles. Remember, you can’t go by what people say in this exercise; you can only go by what you see, the physical evidence.

            Here are some questions to get you started:

            • What do our customer areas say we value?
            Look at the furniture, the pictures, the layout of the area, the fixtures, the restroom, etc. Do they match your ideals?
            • What do our employee areas say we value?
            Examine your offices, cubicles, break rooms, cafeterias, and locker rooms. Do you like what you see?
            • What do our training materials and training facilities say we value?
            Read training materials with fresh eyes, as if you’ve never seen them before. Would a new hire be able to “catch” your intended corporate vision simply from reading these materials?
            • What does our hiring process say we value?

            If “right fit talent” is a value in your company, yet you find no physical evidence of a documented behavioral interviewing process, there is a disconnect.

            Be critical as you play the archaeologist role. Be objective. Don’t make excuses such as, “Well, I know we talk about customer service in new hire orientation, we just don’t have it written down.” This is the time to scrutinize, to examine, to do some in-depth exploring.

            Final Thoughts

            A culture can never be wished into existence. It takes action and artifacts to make it happen. When Indiana Jones went exploring, he didn’t find wishes. He found stuff. This stuff led him to other stuff and eventually helped him to draw conclusions about the culture that had left that stuff behind (and to make a great movie in the process, as well!).

            If an Indiana Jones were to discover your office place, what kind of stuff would he find? Would his conclusions about your corporate culture be what you’d like them to be? Or would the artifacts you left behind lead him to imagine a completely different culture?

            When artifacts match aims, and when actions back up values, the results are incredible. Not too long ago I had the opportunity to work with a hospital that lived out its values, and it was a delightful experience.

            This hospital had “appreciation” stated as one of its values, but this value was more than just stated; it was shining in every corner. Every employee I met reinforced this value, and I saw clues (artifacts, if you will) scattered throughout the building to back up the hospital’s claim. Compliment boxes in the hallways, for instance, where patients and hospital employees alike could drop thank-yous for other employees. In an employee corridor, I found whiteboards with markers for employees to write compliments to each other. These whiteboards were filled with the most wonderful compliments, ranging from “Thanks for covering my shift” to “Thanks for cleaning up the patient’s room after the ‘incident.’” Some comments were funny and some were touching, but all expressed appreciation. It made me feel good just to read them, and I don’t even work there.

            It was artifacts like these whiteboards that led me to the singular conclusion, “This hospital has a culture that values appreciation.”

            And amazingly, I didn’t need anyone to tell me that.

            About the Author
            Dennis Snow is the president of Snow & Associates, Inc. Dennis worked with the Walt Disney World Company for twenty years and now consults with organizations around the world, helping them achieve their customer service goals. He is the author of “Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service” and “Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life.” You can reach Dennis at (407) 294-1855 or visit his website at www.snowassociates.com.

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