In a high-tech, digital world, the basics of low-tech, analog customer service still matter, especially when dealing with buyers and sellers who don’t use smartphones or email.
I don’t think of the basics as something that I need to go back to but as the building blocks that we should build our businesses on. Customer service is basic, and it is at the center of my business, and I believe it is the new black.
A recent experience with a client got me thinking about how we sometimes sacrifice customer service because it can be so inefficient — and it can mean extra work, too.
For the first time in a long time, I worked with a homeowner who doesn’t have a cell phone and who doesn’t have internet access or email.
I can’t imagine how this client deals with the many businesses and utility companies that not only demand internet access but also make apps on smartphones the easiest way to do business with them.
The pandemic and the fact that the homeowner is older didn’t make it any easier, but I pride myself in being able to provide the same level of service to people who live outside of my all-digital world.
I printed contracts, which is something I don’t normally do. I brought them to her house and had her sign them.
After they were all signed, I brought them home, ran them through my scanner, saved them and brought the originals back to the client in a folder. I included a note listing the documents. I included instructions on what she should do if she needs to have any documents emailed to a third party.
Without a smartphone, she couldn’t use the ShowingTime app to approve appointments to see the house. I called her to confirm appointments with her and used the app to approve or decline the appointments for her.
When there was an offer on the house, I printed it, and she signed it. Then I scanned it and sent it to all the parties who needed a copy. I delivered the documents to her in a folder explaining what the documents are and that she can call me if she needs to have the documents sent anywhere.
Real estate is local, and it is possible that there are people who print contracts and have them signed, but I stopped using paper documents and wet signatures many years ago.
Going back to doing everything manual wasn’t my first choice, and both of us were uncomfortable meeting indoors in person during the pandemic. We both wore masks and sat at her large kitchen table.
Two years ago, I worked with a homebuyer who did not have internet access, but he did have a smartphone. The last time I worked with a homebuyer who didn’t have any kind of internet access or a smartphone was 15 years ago.
If I had that same situation today, it would be tough, but I would work around it because everyone should be able to buy a house.
Customer service is the basic element of what real estate agents do. It isn’t about asking clients to use your app or about putting them on hold because their call is important.
There are people who are impressed by our ability to do so much electronically, and there are others who may not be able to use our services because of it.
The basics of customer service are about being able to provide the kind of help that people need through the homebuying or selling process.
A basic level of service may include working with a translator. It might mean picking up a client at his or her home to go house hunting or to attend a closing.
Having that all-important list of electricians, plumbers and general repair people is another basic of customer service. Sometimes we can add value by making appointments or by doing a little research.
One of my goals is to be as inclusive as possible and willing to help anyone who needs it. Sometimes the only way I can help is to refer a consumer to someone else, and that is alright, too.
After my most recent experience, I feel as though I have a good system in place for working with people who cannot or who will not use modern conveniences like email the internet, and smartphones.
As an added bonus, homeowners who do not use cellphones don’t send urgent text messages at all hours.
Some of my competitors are unable to offer the services that I can offer to people who do not use the internet.