Viewing by month: May 2012

From risk to opportunity – build rapport through effective client complaint dealings

In the real estate world client interactions occur on a daily basis - from meetings with vendors who want to maximise the selling potential of their properties to buyers who want the best value purchase for their buck. As in any industry with multiple stakeholders, there is the ongoing potential for client dissatisfaction to arise, which means that real estate practitioners have to be adept at responding to complaints.

Addressing client complaints is an integral aspect of developing client loyalty and retention as well as maintaining a competitive advantage within a market. A  2009 study by the US management consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group entitled ‘Customer Experience Maturity Monitor’ revealed that 81 per cent of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence outperformed their competition – a statistic that indicates how important complaint resolution can be in propelling business success.

Client complaints, despite sometimes being unpleasant, often provide valuable opportunities to get direct client feedback and to ascertain business areas that need improvement.

The reality is that one complaining client probably represents another client who has experienced the same problem, but did not complain. However, in truth, the client that kept quiet is likely the one who went off and told somebody else, complained about you on Facebook or took their business elsewhere.

In addition, effective client complaint resolutions have the potential to turn dissatisfied clients into active promoters of your business, which can be invaluable, particularly in the real estate industry where word-of-mouth holds huge weight.

Here are four simple tips for handling client complaints:

1. Listen

When a client begins a complaint give them your undivided attention and acknowledge their grievance/s in an open, patient and emphatic way.

It is also important to let the client to finish their complaint without interruption. Allowing your client to finish, regardless of their attitude or explanation, conveys respect and concern, which will ultimately put you in a better position to diffuse their anger and identify a solution.

2. Apologise and appreciate

It is always a good move to apologise for the mistake, incident or inconvenience and thank the customer for their feedback. Remember to always keep in mind that the customer didn’t have to tell you about their issue – they are giving you a chance to recover their service; and for that you should be grateful.

Also, steer clear of confrontation with clients as arguing back very seldom leads to resolutions. Even if a client is clearly incorrect or being unreasonable you should always stay calm, composed and choose your words carefully. The words you employ should evoke positive emotions in the customer. For example, refer to the client’s complaint as “important”, “valid” and “understandable”.

3. Find a solution

Undertake to do something to address the complaint at hand. It is widely known that clients experience additional frustration when referred on to multiple people, so if you are in the position to resolve the issue on-the-spot it is certainly wise to do so.  If the problem cannot be resolved immediately, ensure you tell the client what you plan to do to so they feel that some form of action is going to be taken.

Once you indicate a plan make sure that you follow through on your word and deliver results because if you fail to do so there is a very real possibility that you might lose their business altogether.

4. Follow-up

Contact the client to confirm that their complaint has been resolved satisfactorily. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by a phone call, in which you can reiterate your appreciation for their business, their complaint and the resultant opportunity to improve your business.


0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 29/05/2012 at 10:31 AM | Categories:

Avoid the rush – get prepared for tax time early

There is no doubt that the lives of real estate professionals and franchise owners can sometimes be a little bit hectic. Tax time, is often one such instance where things can get busy and stressful, as business owners rush to meet the looming June 30 deadline. Such instances have the unfortunate capacity to lead to unnecessary panic, oversights and sometimes even penalties and funding shortages.

So why not avoid these problems and get into tax-preparation mode now? You could save yourself a whole load of stress as well as put yourself in position to receive your refund in early July.

As a franchise owner there are a number of simple steps that you can begin taking now to ensure that you're ready for tax time.

The first step that anyone will tell you is to start getting your information and supporting documentation organised. Begin this process by ensuring your financial statements are up-to-date and reconciling all of your accounts.

Also, start gathering receipts, banks statements, loan statements, lease/hire agreements and copies of Business Activity Statements (BAS), ensuring that you put them in a safe, central and memorable place.

It is also a good idea to determine early on what taxes and deductions are applicable to you and your business. This type of information can be acquired through several different sources, including accountancy firms, the Australia Tax Office’s (ATO) official website (http://www.ato.gov.au/) and the ATO’s inquiry line (13 72 26).

At the same time, you should begin preparing evidence to substantiate claims you are intending to make for deductions in your business, including invoices and receipts. Remember, there is always a chance that your franchise could be audited and the ATO requires all businesses to keep financial records for at least five years.

When considering whether to employ a professional accountant, it is important to remember that many professional accountancy costs are themselves tax deductable. 

One of the obvious benefits associated with hiring a specialist is that you can rest assured knowing your business is only paying the amount of tax that is absolutely necessary. In addition, you will put yourself in the best position possible to know what you are owed, where your money is going and how to handle future audits.

At the end of the day tax time certainly does not have to be a complete scrambling nightmare. By actively seeking out information about your business’ tax options and getting yourself organised well in advance, you can move into a new financial year refreshed, with limited hassle and minimised costs.


0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 22/05/2012 at 2:20 PM | Categories:

Protect the futures of your business and employees - implement effective induction processes

All of us remember a first day on the job - the customary handshakes, polite smiles and prolonged office walk-throughs. What many of us probably don’t realise, however, is the profound impact that an employer’s induction program can have on an employee’s tenure within an organisation.

Despite sometimes being undervalued by employers, effective induction remains the first pivotal step in communicating an organisation’s expectations, procedures and policies to new staff members. At the same time it provides a great opportunity to open communication flows, promote your workplace culture and settle employees into their positions, surroundings and the business itself.
Though induction programs may require the investment of time and resources, there is no doubt that employers often receive significant long-term benefits as a result of these processes.  In comparison, ineffective or absent induction processes can contribute to low employee morale, high staff turnover, re-recruitment costs and overall resource wastage.
Many people you come across will note that their best induction experiences began with meaningful interactions with people at senior leadership levels. It is no trade secret that employees feel valued and prioritised when leaders take the time to acknowledge and welcome them. Such acknowledgements do not necessarily have to involve lengthy introductions - they can simply entail a warm welcome and a general insight into hopes for a new colleague’s professional development.

It is also important to note that as an employer you have a mandatory duty of care to ensure that all employees have a safe working environment. As such, all induction processes should clearly communicate health and safety threats and procedures (including fire exits and emergency evacuations) as well as how to use any relevant protective equipment.

Also, bear in mind that you may need to continue to provide proper training and supervision until new staff members are familiar with safety procedures. Try not  to make assumptions as to the familiarity of employees with such procedures, and remember that reasonable workplace adjustments may be need to be made to accommodate the needs of new employees that suffer from disabilities or communication barriers.

At the end of the day effective induction programs are in the best interests of both your business and your employees.


0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 14/05/2012 at 2:39 PM | Categories:

What are your clients thinking?

The various aspects of the real estate market can be complex for many people to navigate, particularly for those who are considering a purchase for the first time or who have not been in the marketplace for an extended period. 

 

Naturally, many of these people will turn to a trusted real estate agency for advice surrounding their questions and concerns.  It is therefore important for you, as the owner and/or manager of a CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise to ensure your office addresses such queries effectively and helpfully. 

 

In order for the management of real estate franchises to be able to respond to concerns the public may have or simply provide helpful information on general areas, it is firstly important to identify some of the common topics that individual clients across the board would like to know more about.  This could include queries about the impact of movements in interest rates, what dwelling price data might indicate, or how demographic information such as predicted population growth may affect a suburb. 

 

There are a number of simple ways to determine such topics of interest, such as:

·         speaking to your staff on a regular basis about the questions they are commonly asked by clients;

·         looking for a common thread in the queries or comments your office receives through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter;

·         considering issues (of relevance to real estate) that arise in the media and appear to be a source of confusion for your clients; and

·         considering feedback received from clients who contact your office directly by phone or email. 

 

Once you have an idea of the topics that your clients are thinking about and would like further information regarding, as manager/owner you can then work with your team to formulate some key messages to ensure that your office can offer clear, informed responses to your clients.  As well as assisting your clients with their concerns, this will also reinforce to the public that your office and agents are expert, clear professionals. 

 

Each office will have tried and true measures of delivering their messages and answers to clients and the public.  This might be through simple, direct face to face/phone/email contact between agents and clients, through a company newsletter, through various social media mechanisms such as a blog or Facebook post or even by issuing a media release where appropriate. 

 

By ensuring that your office is well aware of the thinking of your clients regarding real estate related matters and has an understanding of their questions and concerns, you as a manager/owner can ensure that these questions are addressed efficiently and effectively – reinforcing your agency’s expertise and reputation as being clear and informed.


0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 07/05/2012 at 10:20 AM | Categories: