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Customer care: Lessons from the pandemic

By Geoff Smith

After 30 years in real estate I thought I’d seen it all, but then along came 2020. Our selling process, customer relationships and daily operations were thrown into upheaval by the Covid-19 pandemic — along with the rest of the world. Our customer-led approach seemed in jeopardy with in-person interactions restricted and our operations changing almost overnight.

By sticking to fundamental customer care principles and rapidly innovating, our team at Ray White Lower North Shore Group and I were able to not only weather the storm but to come through it unscathed.

Here’s how we did it.

#1. Maintaining a hands-on approach

I’ve always had a hands-on approach to real estate and it was important for me to continue that same level of care in a Covid-safe way.

It sounds like an impossibility — staying hands-on when in-person interactions were banned — but we maintained our dedicated hands-on customer service approach in several important ways.

Challenge: Home viewings

Solution: One on one inspections, viewer vetting and touch-free appointments

As it was impossible for large groups of people to gather for open home inspections we conducted one on one viewings with potential buyers. This process was of course time-consuming, however, we were able to better vet our potential buyers prior to inspection which led to more qualified leads for our vendors.

We conducted touch-free inspections whereby any doors viewers wanted open or household items touched, our staff would personally perform those functions for them then thoroughly sanitise any touched surfaces following the inspection. Viewers checked in with QR codes, sanitised their hands with sanitiser we provided, wore masks and observed social distancing.

Lesson: Trust was a key factor here. Homeowners had to trust that we were properly vetting the people allowed into their homes and viewers had to trust that we were doing all we could to protect their health and safety. We went above and beyond the required Covid safe measures to assure our clients their safety was a priority.

The Ray White Lower North Shore Group Sales Team

#2. Maintaining customer focus

With an understandable emphasis on Covid safety, it would have been easy to let our focus slide from customer care to public health. While we certainly went above and beyond the required Covid safe requirements we also maintained our customer focus led philosophy by innovating and adapting our customer relationships.

Challenge: Maintaining a high level of service while safeguarding the public

Solution: Daily phone calls and weekly virtual meetings

I’ve always had a very hands-on approach with vendors and the sudden need to build relationships remotely definitely posed a challenge. Ordinarily, I like to speak daily with sellers and conduct weekly or twice-weekly in-person updates. The solution was to keep up these daily phone calls and turn those in-person meetings into virtual calls. All I can say is thank goodness for modern technology. Being able to see our customers, albeit on a screen, provided that extra level of connection, especially on calls with multiple parties.

Lesson: While I must admit the technology aspect of virtual meetings took some getting used to, it also enabled me to maintain genuine customer relationships and provide the level of service that our customers deserve. It shows that there are always ways to maintain and improve customer relationships however challenging the circumstances may be.

#3. Embracing technology

Challenge: Selling properties at auction while social distancing

Solution: Virtual Auctions

As crowds could no longer gather for in-person auctions we developed a Virtual Auctions platform to ensure our customers had the same outcomes. Prior to auction, we would verify the identity of each bidder and during the auction each bidder could see the current amount but not the person making the bid, ensuring a private but effective auction process.

Lesson: The crucial factor with developing our virtual auctions was that the end result was as positive as an in-person auction. We found the technology worked extremely well and clients saw the results they wanted.

Virtual auctions – safely and successfully selling online

#4. Leading with genuine care

There’s that old cliche that you can’t pour from an empty cup — in this case, staff can’t provide exceptional service without feeling supported and up to the task. As the Covid-19 pandemic threw challenge after challenge at our team, they graciously adapted and innovated to keep providing exceptional service to our client’s thanks to our priorities of health, safety, support and mental wellbeing.

Challenge: Staff morale

Solution: Flexibility and strong leadership

From the first outbreak of Covid in Australia we encouraged our team to make the right choices for themselves and their families. Those who felt safer working from home were encouraged to do so and any who chose to work in the office had to adhere to strict Covid safe measures.

Every team member from the top down took a Covid test every weekend and had to provide a negative result before returning to work on Monday. We also performed daily temperature checks, QR code check-ins and required anyone who had the slightest Covid symptoms to work from home. This wasn’t a matter of obligation but one of genuine care. We decided early on in the pandemic everything we did had to safeguard the wellbeing of our staff, our vendors, our buyers and their families and community.

Beyond protecting our team and the public from Covid, we knew it was also crucial to safeguard their mental health. We implemented daily and weekly team leader check-ins to make sure each team member felt supported and had the resources they needed to perform their role.

Lesson: I’ve always had a customer focus led approach and the pandemic has underlined what I’ve long known to be true: excellent customer care happens when staff feel supported, safe and empowered to perform their jobs.

Conclusion

This pandemic has shown us that everything can change in the blink of an eye and we have to be ready to meet the challenge. By maintaining a strong customer focus and embracing new technologies customer care can remain a priority under even the most trying circumstances.

We’ve seen that there are ways to prioritise customer care while maintaining safe public health practices during a global health event like the Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of the day, time, dedication and genuine care are what make for a good customer experience whether it’s in person or virtual.

If you have any questions or would like to know how my team and I can help you on your property journey, please get in touch.

Geoff Smith, Director
Ray White Lower North Shore Group
geoff.smith@raywhite.com
0418 643 923

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