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Friday, September 19, 2008

Good Communication - Meeting Customers Where They Are

Good communication skills are critical to your daily business. It doesn't do much good to work hard for leads only to turn Customers away with how you respond to them. Over the next few months you will read articles that deal directly with this issue: Effective Customer Communication! I have personally read nearly thousands of Customer lead responses in our system. From what I have read about 4 out of 1,000 responses are what I consider to be excellent, 95 of 1,000 are good, while 901 are terrible. This series of articles will focus on helping you do more good communication, with the focus on online communication with Customers!

For the first article I want to discuss meeting your Customer where they are through email lead responses. When Customers contact you today they have many options. The three primary methods I can come up with are: email you, call your office number, and call your cell phone. We could also add: send you a fax, send you a letter, etc. but those aren't very likely methods of contact.

Lets focus on the Customer email leads responses. To help illustrate my point I am going to use a couple real-world Customer lead response examples. Keep in mind that these are real responses from Agents to Customers within the past few months. (Some details have been replaced and omitted to protect the identity of Customers and Agents.)

Example 1:
Customer - I am interested in more information on the home at 123 Main Street. What are the taxes?
Agent - Call me.

Example 2:
Customer - (Showing request submitted) I want to see the property on 123 Main Street, Akron, Ohio at 3pm this Saturday.
Agent - I don't work the area. Good luck.

Now let’s talk about the above examples! In the first example the Customer is clearly communicating through email. In this example the Customer also had access to the Agent’s phone numbers on the listing detail page and the site. The Customer chose to contact the Agent through email and this should be honored. Some appropriate responses could have been:

Suggested Example 1 Response:
(If you don’t have access to the listing details immediately) [Customer Name], please let me do some research and get back with you shortly. If you have any other questions on this property or any other property please let me know through email or feel free to contact me at any time on my cell phone at 330-493-0350.

Suggested Example 1 Response:
[Customer Name], Thank you for using my web site (http://www.deltagroup.com) for your home searches! My name is [Your Name] and I am with the Main Street Office. I understand that you are interested in the house at 123 Main Street in Akron. The annual taxes on the property are $2,700. I would love to discuss this property, as well as any other property with you. Please contact me any time on my cell phone (330-493-0350) or through email.

Suggested Example 2 Response:
[Customer Name], Thank you for contacting me regarding the listing located at 123 Main Street in Akron, Ohio. This is not a market that I specialize in. However, I can put you in contact with an Agent that specializes in the Akron, Ohio market. Could I have your permission to forward your request to an Agent specializing in the Akron, Ohio market?

In the response examples I have suggested, notice that you have met the Customer where they are. You contacted them back through email and offered more assistance through email and through your cell phone but you gave the Customer the option! This leaves the Customer in control, which is what they want.

I want to also point out two other items in the suggested Customer responses above. I have used complete sentences. It is very important to keep a level of professionalism in your email communication. Use proper salutations, sentence and paragraph structure along with complete thoughts. The only time you should stray from this is if you personally know the Customer already.

Second, always look for the opportunities. If you get a request that is out of your market area turn that Customer request into a referral. I strongly suggest one thing before you do this: Respect the Customer and ask their permission first! But what a great opportunity for a referral!
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