Original article published in the Houston Chronicle: “On the Move”
In an age where information is readily available to consumers, Realtors have to up their game when it comes to the quality of the services that they provide to their clients.
Today, there is far more emphasis on the overall client experience. It is how the consumer ultimately grades their entire interaction with a Realtor from start to finish.
This is especially true for people who are relocating, as they typically need and expect much more assistance from their Realtor, than merely finding them a place to live.
When people are moving to Houston, they rely heavily on the local market knowledge and expertise of their Realtors. Equally important is the Realtor’s ability to help introduce their clients to the city, and help them to find their place in a new community.
According to Kristie Carruthers, a Realtor with Heritage Texas Properties, there are many additional components to the services that are typically provided to relocation clients today. In many cases, that includes visits to the schools and discussions about everything from community healthcare options, to extracurricular activities for the kids.
“I always start out by looking at what the client’s needs are, and then I tailor the overall experience to that particular couple, family, or individual,” Carruthers explained. “The client experience is important since there are so many opportunities for people who are relocating to go on the Internet and do a lot of the work themselves that the traditional Realtor used to do.”
She added that most relocation clients have already done a lot of preliminary research online before she even meets with them. As such, Realtors are no longer seen as the purveyors of data, but rather the interpreters of that information. This means that Realtors must become more service oriented in their approach.
“It’s our responsibility to find out what the client’s needs are, and to try and understand what they are going through. Sometimes people aren’t happy to be moving here, because they love where they’re living now. So, we have to be ambassadors and cheerleaders for our community, and help the client see how great it is. Houston has a lot to offer, so it’s our job to point that out to them,” Carruthers said.
At the end of the day, she said that clients remember the experience that they had when working with their Realtor, and that they are likely to relate that experience to their friends and colleagues. That often leads to requests by other relocation clients to work with Carruthers.
“The client experience is definitely everything in my business, so I hope that people who have worked with me would say that they were very confident in my ability to handle the transaction smoothly, correctly, and professionally. I also hope that they walk away thinking that I made them feel special,” said Carruthers.
DJ Johnson, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene, said that another key factor for creating a positive client experience has to do with the Realtor’s ability to help reduce some of the stress associated with relocation.
“It is critical for the agent to try to reduce the stress by helping relocation clients to not only identify the house that would be good for them, but also the community and the lifestyle that they are accustomed to,” Johnson explained. “The agent really has to be a little bit more on top of what the client is looking for, and what did they like and don’t like about their current neighborhood, and try to match them up with something that would work best for them here.”
He said that relocation clients might only have three or four days for a house hunting trip. So, helping relocation clients make sense of a city the size of Houston in a relatively short period of time can help to ease that stress.
In Johnson’s viewpoint, a successful client experience is best measured in the ability to create a raving fan.
“One of the core values of our company is not about trying to get a satisfied customer, but to actually create raving fans. If somebody has an excellent experience, they will relate that experience when somebody asks them about it. The difference is that a raving fan will want to tell people about their excellent experience,” said Johnson.
He added, “Each client has their own set of expectations, so it’s important for the agent to understand what those expectations are. It’s all in how we communicate with them, and help them to feel very comfortable in overcoming their concerns and points of stress, and being able to fulfill their needs.”
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