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Improving Client Loyalty

April 13, 2011
by Scott Levitt ·  

Scott’s Thoughts: Client Loyalty
Can you improve client loyalty?

“I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” –Samuel Goldwyn, film producer

Are your clients loyal to you?

With Oakley Signs & Graphics, I find that a large percentage of our customers are highly loyal, and I prize that loyalty greatly.

But it’s harder to say in real estate transactions. After all, how do you measure loyalty when the average repeat transaction may be once every 5 to 7 years (or longer)?

Well, what about referrals? Aren’t they a sign of loyalty? It seems natural to assume so. But one of the tricky things about referrals in real estate is this: You never know how many referrals you didn’t receive.

Think about it: If someone doesn’t send you referrals, you might assume that they simply haven’t had the opportunity. But what if you’re wrong? What if, the last time they were asked, they said, “Well, I used an agent last year, but I don’t know if I’d recommend him.”

Your mind immediately begins to race: Why? What went wrong? I thought things went smoothly? I assumed the client was happy.

That assumption is the costly one. Sometimes you may overlook or trivialize an aspect of your relationship with the client that was actually a deciding factor in that client’s willingness to work with you again or refer others.

There is some good news here, though: TARP, a research firm that specializes in customer satisfaction, found that in some cases a customer who had a complaint resolved successfully was more loyal than a customer that never had a problem.

Consider: How many times have you recommended a company to someone because when something went wrong, “they took care of me”? We expect things to go right, but we really value it when we know the company has a reputation for taking care of people.

Here’s the take-away: There’s a good chance that if you discover and discuss any problems a client may have had with you during a transaction that they have a higher likelihood of referring business your way.

The key is to have the right conversation. In order to make sure there’s no “quiet disappointment” lurking, you might need to probe a little to get an honest response.

Try contacting your client within a week or two of the transaction and communicate the following:

  • As far as you could tell, the transaction went well, but in the in the interest of self-improvement and client satisfaction you want to ask them some questions
  • Ask them to reflect on any aspect, no matter how small, that could have improved the experience as far as your service/professionalism was concerned.
  • Stress that their honesty is important to you; if there’s any reason they wouldn’t recommend you to someone, you’d rather know now than wonder later.
  • Listen.
  • Regardless of how you view their comments, do not judge their perceptions or go on the defensive; if you made mistakes, simply admit them. In any case, thank them for their honesty.

Yes, it may be hard for clients to be honest with you. No, you may not be able to resolve every issue that clients will air over time. But you will have made an extraordinary effort. Just imagine: If it generates even one more referral or deal per year, isn’t an effort to cultivate client loyalty worth your time?

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