Differentiating Yourself Through Rapid Response Communication
By Ron & Alexandra Seigel, Partners - Napa Consultantts, International
In today’s highly competitive real estate environment the essential new skill is rapid response communication. The Internet has made real time market information readily available to consumers. No longer is it the exclusive domain of real estate professionals. Consumers now demand an immediate response to their direct inquires and know that the next professional is only a click away.
Rapid response communication ideally means personally responding to phone calls or Internet inquiries within two hours, with an outside time frame of 24 hours. Rapid response need to become business as usual. It is no longer an option. It is an imperative if you are intent on out-producing your competition. Those real estate professionals who embrace this art form will gain a significant competitive advantage in their marketplace.
Think of your real estate website as a retail store. What do you have to sell? What does the consumer see in your window display that compels them to enter your store? Do you carry the same products and services that everyone else has? Or, do you have something rare and unusual?
Personal Accessibility—A Rare Commodities
Here are the most important questions: Do you have what they want in stock and are you personally accessible when customers have questions? If you do not have the current market information they seek in your store you just lost a potential customer. If you are nowhere to be found when they are ready to speak with you, then they are out the door and down the street visiting your competitor’s store in a matter of seconds.
To understand the extent to which consumers are becoming more and more savvy and expect quick results take a look at the shoe business. Think in terms of the “general store” (Nordstrom’s), the specialty store (The Walking Company-a national chain specializing in comfortable shoes for people on the go) and the global Internet store (Zappos.com.).
We were recently in Nordstrom’s. Ron wanted to try on some sandals. They did not have his size in a particular Mephisto model that was a best seller. In typical Norstrom’s style, the salesman offered to track it down in another store and FedEx it within a couple of days. That was not fast enough.
We knew our options. The Walking Company, just a few stores away, carried the same brand and the same model. It was just a few stores away from Nordstrom. So, we moved on.
The Walking Company had the shoes in stock and they fit perfectly. We happened to have a store credit there. Between the two of us we had purchased at least six pairs of shoes at this store over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, we were not able to apply a store credit to this purchase because we did not have the physical credit receipt with us from a prior returned item.
The local manager was unwilling and unable to go against company policy. We did not have time for them to reach the regional manager to over-ride the policy and make an exception for two loyal customers. This would never have happened at Nordstrom’s. Letting a loyal customer walk out the door over a store credit issue is unthinkable there! Decision makers are always accessible at Nordstrom’s.
Later that day, Alexandra went online and found the same sandals at Zappos.com for a slightly higher price. As a first time visitor she called customer service to verify their policy of not just matching the price when higher prices were quoted, but discounting it by 10%. The live customer representative was immediately accessible, extremely cordial and exceeded all our expectations. The next day (less than 24 hours later) the shoes were delivered to our front door with free shipping!
The Zappos.com experience exemplified rapid response communication elevated to art form. With a central warehouse and centralized inventory control the chances of being out of popular models of brand name shoes are very slim. With central tracking of returned items and a no-fault return policy (within one year) including free shipping on returns, this concern should become a non-issue for consumers.
The global Internet business model out-maneuvered the general store and the specialty store and gained two very satisfied customers. Rapid response communication is an essential way to differentiate yourself in a crowded market.