A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit my local Lululemon store and picked up a pair of jogging pants. As I picked them up to bring them to the register, one of the associates intercepted me to ask if I’d like to have them hemmed for free. That proposition caught me by surprise. Most stores would intercept a customer to try to up-sell them, or maybe have a sales rep take your purchase to the register so they can get a commission, but this was a genuine offer for a free service I could really use. Within 5 minutes, I tried on the pants, had them marked for hemming and was told to come pick them up on Saturday.
That Saturday afternoon, I entered the insanely busy store. Wendy, one of the associates was quick to greet me and grabbed my claim tag as she went off to look for my purchase. After a few minutes, I saw Wendy coming back from the back of the store with a disappointed look on her face. She started apologizing. Apparently, my pants never returned from the tailor and were nowhere to be found in the store. What happened next completely caught me off guard.
Wendy asked me to follow her to the cashier’s counter. “We’re going to refund you for the pants” she said. With all the noise in the background, I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly, so I quickly clarified. “No, I don’t really want a refund, I still want the pants”. Wendy looked up with a smile and said “No, we’re going to refund you the price of the pants and have them shipped to you overnight, so you’ll have them for Monday morning”.
I was dumbfounded. I’ve been in so many situations where the person on the other side of the counter messed up and didn’t even care to apologize, let alone rectify the situation. On Monday morning, a courier arrived with a pair of hemmed pants and a personalized note, thanking me for my business and apologizing once again. Huh?
Like many other top brands, Lululemon clearly understands the value of customer experience. They may have taken a loss on me this time as a customer, but their gesture not only delighted me, it encouraged me to share this story with many of my friends, and now you. How much are those free pants worth now?
Lululemon is not alone. There are good reasons why the Apple Store is always crowded or that Starbucks is the second most instagramed brand in the world. Brands that understand the value of customer experience consistently see their clients spending more, coming back time-and-time again, and best of all, telling all their friends and family. You simply cannot buy this level of exposure.
In real estate, where most clients choose their agent based on referrals and previous clientele, the single common element should, in theory, be providing clients with the best experience for their needs. It sounds like a logical and practical way to grow a business; make your customers super-happy and in return, they will keep coming back and tell all their friends how great of an agent you are.
However, reality is very different. Most agents are placing their time and hard-earned dollars on methods that don’t necessarily provide the best returns. The National Association of Realtors’ Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report is full of great insight that shows popular marketing methods such as search engines or newspaper ads account for less than 1 percent each of all closed seller leads. Mobile or tablet applications, direct mail pieces (newsletters, flyers, postcards), and “advertising specialty (calendars, magnets, etc.) also account for less than 1 percent of closed seller leads, according to the survey.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending on marketing and building a strong, recognizable brand (and without being said, doing a stellar job marketing your client’s property), however, in a world that’s increasingly full of noise and distractions, where the average human attention span is now 8 seconds, a 33% drop since 2000, getting results is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. Still not buying it? Google the words “free home evaluation” and see how many results are returned (366 million on the day I wrote this post).
This isn’t an argument against marketing. Marketing is a staple of the business and will always be at the core. However, the results from delivering a really great client experience go beyond any marketing you could buy. It’s the one critical aspect of the business that presents the greatest opportunity, but yet is so often overlooked as the agent’s focus shifts on the next transaction.
Call it old-school, or anything else you like, but the method that goes back centuries is still by far, the top reason why clients choose an agent. It is because they’ve either had a good experience with that agent in the past, or know someone else who has. While marketing is essential to surviving in the industry, giving clients an experience an incredible experience that they will appreciate and remember, is what will increasingly count as the industry and customer expectations evolve. You may not be in a position to give away a free pair of pants, but what you do have at your disposal is the ability to create a memorable experience that “wows” your clients. That’s what’s going to matter when you’re looking for that next referral.
So what’s your client experience strategy? Are you able to articulate how you can deliver a service that is a notch above the rest?
More to come…