If you have been to a hotel or purchased a car in the past few years, you have likely received high quality customer service as well as a survey and feedback request. According to Gartner, “Today, 89% of marketers compete primarily on the basis of customer experience.” For major companies and brands, the process of issuing a satisfaction survey after the service is complete is long expired. Today’s companies are measuring every touch point that a brand has with the customer, and for good reason! Real estate brokers can improve their performance by going deeper on tracking and improving the customer experience.
Before social media, brands were able to weather the bulk of consumer complaints. Unless the brand had a major public embarrassment, nobody really knew about a brand’s performance. Today, we hear about every bad Uber experience or every great Airbnb experience, and just about every interaction that our friends and family have in real time. Despite this enormous shift, real estate is still in the dark ages of reputation management as real estate brands use basic surveys to get feedback after a final transaction. This approach, generally results in a bunch of data they can’t act on and customers who don’t feel listened to. When consumer experience is only measured at the conclusion of a transaction, it is often too late to improve the experience. Real estate organizations have a massive opportunity to collect feedback throughout the various stages that consumers go through to drive higher conversion through a more frictionless experience.
The real estate industry has battled reputation management for a long time, and for the most part, there has been little improvement in the way consumers view their services from brokers or franchise brands. There is a real opportunity for firms that focus, like Mercedes-Benz has focused, on each stage of the relationship between a firm and the consumer. After investing in the infrastructure to support their customer-centric transformation Mercedes-Benz rose to #1 in JD Power. There is also a great book written about the transformation titled “Driven to Delight.” Interestingly, Sean Blankenship, CMO at Coldwell Banker actually called customer experience trends and real estate following the auto industry as well during an interview on Real Estate Coaching Radio with Tim Harris. “In a lot of sense there is a 6-7 year lag between what happened in the auto space and what happening in the real estate space” “How do we bring in the metric of loyalty into the industry? I think it’s got to evolve past the magnet on the refrigerator, it has to.”
Mercedes-Benz partnered with Medallia to support their customer experience transformation. WAV Group met with Jordan Reid, Sales Director at Medallia, to learn how Medallia could be leveraged to apply the touch point monitoring to drive profitable growth for brands. They use an approach called Operational Customer Experience Management (OCEM), which is made up of the following four core competencies: 1) See yourself as your customers do, 2) Wire customers into every decision, 3) Wire accountability at all levels, 4) Innovate continuously at scale. He said the key to all of it starts with being able to listen to feedback from all customer journey touchpoints, understand what it means and get the organization to take action. In real estate, examples of critical touch points that could go wrong include, website experience, agent responsiveness to inquiries, listings with errant information, ride along with agent, spammy email and social messaging and transaction management engagement handoffs. Though this is not an exhaustive list, each of these acute or systemic issues can become chronic symptoms that deteriorate your brand over time. Most importantly, they contribute to the way consumers discuss your brand with their friends and family.
According to Reid, Medallia’s service allows their customers to understand every touchpoint to determine if those experiences are excellent, or pinpoint problem spots. The good news is that firms who identify and fix friction points have historically outpaced their competitors and often find quick wins. If a firm has a great group of agents but a poor performing transaction coordinator, the issue can be identified and improved. The biggest issue in real estate is that we are only asking the consumer to evaluate the whole experience, spanning a period of months. There is rarely any pinpointed information that breaks down the process along the way. Most importantly, we are not asking the consumer to provide feedback with a firm’s people or systems during those important interactions.
Medallia empowers their clients to listen to each touchpoint in the customer journey systematically. Through their process of friction-less surveys, they ask customers about their satisfaction with each touch point on their journey. This allows agents and office leaders to increase productivity by recovering individual customers while helping the firm identify systemic strengths and weaknesses. For example, if a consumer likes the agent, but believes that a competitor has a better listing presentation, then Medallia could uncover this issue. It would allow the firm to focus on improving the listing presentation and remove that pain point – presumably resulting in more conversion and closings.
One of the key short-term benefits of tracking consumer journeys is that ability to recover customers by fast remediation. Sometimes, just being the only firm to ask for feedback and actually do something with it is a conduit to improved business performance. Being given the chance to provide helpful criticism can have a big impact. Knowing that the company will take action makes consumers much happier to oblige. Consumers not only want to give feedback, but they reward companies who close the loop and fix their concerns with improved brand loyalty.
The long-run benefit of taking action to improve the consumer journey is increased brand loyalty which leads to lower cost to serve and higher growth rates. Loyalty is a great metric for determining the health of brands for its repeat and referral business. Brands have learned that detractors have a more significant impact on business beyond the transaction in question. Net Promoter Score (NPS) refers to an index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand. Lower NPS metrics have a ripple effect on the business, both positive and negative. Bain & Company has researched and written at length of the documented value of loyalty economics. A real life example is Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance Group, a Medallia customer who has gone on record saying, “As Net Promoter Score has gone up, the retention in our business has gone up. It’s gone up about 3 points in the last three years, and that’s about $500 million annually in revenue.”
It also should be noted that in real estate the voice of the agent is also critically important to capture and analyze. So many brokerages and brands are focused on agent retention, recruiting and productivity. NRT, Realogy Holdings Brokerage, recently appointed executive leaders that are “bringing heightened focus on service delivery, defining a comprehensive integrated growth strategy and leveraging the resources of NRT and Realogy to drive a superior experience for affiliated agents, employees and customers.” And according to RISMedia, ‘“To maintain profitability in the midst of a shrinking inventory environment, Mike Schlott, CEO of Kinlin Grover Real Estate, along with Power Brokers across the country, are ramping up efforts and investments designed to empower agents with a competitive edge. “The biggest opportunity for our firm in the coming year involves our agent population,” explains Schlott. “We believe that by investing in their success we will continue to flourish as an organization. This means developing and implementing programs that allow our agents to do their job more efficiently.”’ By collecting and analyzing agent feedback along their journey, the industry can create a real opportunity to drive a better agent experience ensuring that retention, recruiting and productivity are all increased.
Bottom line, if you want your brand to separate from the pack in real estate, you should start by focusing on the voice of the customer and the agent to take action and improve their experience. When you take a close look at the brands that embrace this philosophy, you’ll see that the real estate industry is not represented. Being a first mover could have major payouts for the company that is willing to take the first step to listen, capture and act on this feedback.