A REP­U­TA­TION FOR THE EX­TRA­OR­DI­NARY

HOW IM­POR­TANT IS cus­tomer ser­vice in grow­ing and sus­tain­ing your busi­ness? For Michelle Wil­liams of @home Prop­erty Man­age­ment So­lu­tions, it's ev­ery­thing. How­ever, she was dis­ap­pointed when in­stead she re­cently learned many busi­ness own­ers are look­ing for

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - MICHELLE WIL­LIAMS is the Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of @home Prop­erty Man­age­ment So­lu­tions. She also reg­u­larly shares her knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence as a guest speaker at con­fer­ences through­out Aus­tralia and New Zealand. For more info, visit ath­ome­rentals.com.au.

Michelle Wil­liams

RE­CENTLY I WAS asked to be part of a round ta­ble dis­cus­sion fo­rum where each speaker had a dif­fer­ent topic around busi­ness growth; ev­ery­thing from busi­ness de­vel­op­ment strate­gies and list­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to mar­ket­ing and cus­tomer ser­vice. I was so ex­cited to be asked to speak on cus­tomer ser­vice, be­cause I had so much to share around our ex­pe­ri­ence with ser­vice ex­cel­lence and how it in­flu­enced the rapid growth of our busi­ness.

When the room started to fill with del­e­gates, pre­dom­i­nately busi­ness own­ers, I no­ticed that they were in­stantly drawn to the ta­bles la­belled Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, List­ing and Mar­ket­ing Strate­gies. The trend con­tin­ued dur­ing the ses­sion and it be­came glar­ingly ob­vi­ous that peo­ple were look­ing for a ‘quick fix’ so­lu­tion to build­ing their busi­nesses. I be­lieve it was the topic it­self, cus­tomer ser­vice, that failed to ap­peal to some busi­ness own­ers – well, I hope it was; oth­er­wise it was me!

I be­lieve that if my ta­ble sub­ject was la­belled rather than

Cus­tomer Ser­vice, the ta­bles would have lit­er­ally turned. I found it con­cern­ing that so many busi­ness own­ers have not worked out that sus­tain­able growth has no quick fix; no amount of mar­ket­ing or list­ing pre­sen­ta­tion skill will out­weigh word of mouth around ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly with the var­i­ous so­cial me­dia plat­forms avail­able to­day.

SUC­CESS BY DE­SIGN

I be­lieve that suc­cess can only be achieved by de­sign. We started out with a com­pre­hen­sive busi­ness plan for the first five years, and this has been the driver of ev­ery­thing in our busi­ness: our core val­ues, our mis­sion, our growth strat­egy, our ser­vice prom­ise, our man­age­ment cri­te­ria, cul­ture, re­cruit­ment stages, job de­signs, men­tors, ad­vi­sors and so much more.

In sum­mary, @home Prop­erty came with in­struc­tions, a ‘user man­ual’ and we re­fer to this con­stantly to keep us on track.

I apol­o­gise if you get to the end of this ar­ti­cle feel­ing over­whelmed. Trust me, I feel this way most days! But it needs to be said: there are no short cuts to sus­tain­able and con­sis­tent growth. I have wit­nessed too many small busi­ness own­ers start with­out a plan. The first six months are ex­cit­ing and there is an ini­tial buzz. The next six months be­come more chal­leng­ing as the owner starts to un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of run­ning a busi­ness, and af­ter a year it all starts to fall apart.

Why is that? I be­lieve it is be­cause con­sumers like ‘new things’ when they are new; they are shiny, un­tar­nished and full of prom­ise to de­liver amaz­ing things. Prom­ises are eas­ily made; main­tain­ing the prom­ise, how­ever, takes plan­ning. To re­tain the busi­ness and con­tinue the con­sis­tent growth is the chal­leng­ing part.

Why is it that eight out of 10 busi­nesses fail within the first 18 months? I be­lieve it is usu­ally be­cause the busi­ness has no idea why con­sumers should choose them over the com­pe­ti­tion. The busi­ness is not in touch with what the client or cus­tomer needs from their prod­uct or ser­vice. If you don’t know why, how can you com­mu­ni­cate the value in your ser­vice? This is gen­er­ally when dis­count­ing comes into play. The leader of the busi­ness must

NO AMOUNT OF MAR­KET­ING OR LIST­ING PRE­SEN­TA­TION SKILL WILL OUT­WEIGH WORD OF MOUTH AROUND SER­VICE.

have a clear vi­sion and the en­tire team need to know why they are the best choice.

GOOD SER­VICE IS NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGH

Another in­ter­est­ing point that came from the cus­tomer ser­vice ses­sion was when I asked the ques­tion, ‘Do you be­lieve you pro­vide great cus­tomer ser­vice?’ One hun­dred per cent of the del­e­gates said yes, quite proudly. But when I asked them to demon­strate how, many stum­bled.

Why would a new client be­lieve you when you say you pro­vide great cus­tomer ser­vice? They have heard the same thing from three of your com­peti­tors; it’s al­most a yawn mo­ment. I per­son­ally cringe when I hear peo­ple say they give great ser­vice. It’s like when a job ap­pli­cant says ‘I’m a hard worker’, then you call the ref­er­ees and they think oth­er­wise.

Here’s the key: they need to hear it from some­one else first, some­one they trust. Bet­ter still if they hear it from sev­eral peo­ple they trust.

HOW TO CRE­ATE RAV­ING FANS

So how do you make this hap­pen? For­get about mar­ket­ing to the masses, spend­ing thou­sands on mar­ket­ing strate­gies to at­tract peo­ple who don’t know you and don’t trust you. Fo­cus on the peo­ple you al­ready know, the peo­ple who can spread the word about how ex­tra­or­di­nary your ser­vice is.

If some­one were to ask me the ques­tion ‘Does @home pro­vide great ser­vice?’ I can proudly re­spond, ‘Yes we do; let me demon­strate how. Take a look at what our clients and cus­tomers say about us, and th­ese are a num­ber of na­tional awards @home has re­ceived based on our ser­vice and re­sults.’

The thing is good ser­vice is no longer good enough. If you want peo­ple to rave about your ser­vice, give them some­thing to rave about! Good ser­vice is ex­pected. Where are the rav­ing fan mo­ments in your ser­vice?

Ev­ery sin­gle process in our of­fice has a rav­ing fan mo­ment. Our team com­pete around th­ese mo­ments and we cel­e­brate our new rav­ing fans. The good news is the best mo­ments cost the least.

To give you just one ex­am­ple, re­cently one of our new prop­erty man­agers de­cided that be­fore each rou­tine in­spec­tion she would find out a lit­tle about the ten­ants, how many chil­dren, ages, pets’ names, and so on. On this oc­ca­sion, she left a hand­writ­ten note to an eight-year-old boy: “Dear Jamie, thanks for keep­ing your room so nice. I love your Star Wars theme – I am a big fan too.” She also left a bag of jelly beans on the kitchen counter with another note say­ing, “Thank you for keep­ing your home so lovely, we ap­pre­ci­ate it. Kind re­gards, Catie”. The next day I had a call from Mum Deb­bie, who could not be­lieve the per­sonal touch. From such a small ges­ture, another rav­ing fan was born.

To main­tain strong growth you must have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary. There is no se­cret to our suc­cess. It takes a good plan, strong sys­tems, com­mit­ment, con­sis­tency and a col­lab­o­ra­tive team of like-minded in­di­vid­u­als with a fo­cus on client and cus­tomer care. Our com­peti­tors are con­fused by our growth be­cause we do it with­out big brand mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, with­out print me­dia and with­out dis­count­ing our man­age­ment fee – ever.

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