Russell Rhodes was having a bad day. A clerical error made while he was out of the office caused confusion when a seller received misinformation about a commission agreement with the buyer agent. In the original conversation, closing costs were waived. Now the seller was going to have to bring money to the table, to the tune of $8,500. Hearing about the situation, Rhodes stepped in without hesitation and said, “We’ll make it right for you.” He showed up to the closing with his own check in hand for the amount due.
Delivering customer value has always been at the root of a successful real estate business. And no one is executing it better than The Rhodes Team in Dallas, Texas. Their relentless focus on and dedication to delivering exceptional experiences for every single client has catapulted them to the top of their market and the entire Keller Williams system.
In 2011, the team; comprised of Russell, his mother Verna Rhodes, 14 agents and seven administrative staff members; closed 357 transactions totaling $109 million with more than $2.5 million in gross commission income (GCI). By August 2012, the team had already ousted those numbers, closing 361 transactions totaling more than $112 million in volume and more than $2.6 million in GCI. Today, roughly 70 percent of the team’s business comes from a robust referral engine – the result of a systematic approach to customer service.
Here’s how they do it and some helpful tips to apply in your real estate business.
Get a Great Customer Management System
At nearly 450 contacts, The Rhodes Team’s database is surprisingly small for such a successful group. Its strength, however, lies in their ability to methodically leverage their database while continually generating leads.
The Rhodes Team’s administrative staff manages detailed lists of prospective and current clients which power the team’s long-term prospecting program. Those annual activities determine their day-to-day lead generation actions, so that on any given day, someone is receiving a touch from The Rhodes Team. Touches range from an online newsletter, a post-sale survey, a gift, birthday card or a phone call.
Tune the Process with Team Members
“The first few years of the program were really about refining a system that had legs,” says Russell. “Our staff kept track of every detail about a prospective or current client. When he or she indicated they were looking for more information than one of our touches could answer, they would be added to a list of contacts I would call individually to find out where he or she was in the sales cycle and what our team could do to help at that point in time.”
Convert Leads at a Higher Level
The Rhodes Team has a communication protocol to safeguard against any pitfalls that might occur throughout the buying or selling process. Agents work with administrative staff to update client information after any emails, phone calls or meetings. This step helps when, for instance, a prospect turns into a buyer, at which point the administrative staff assigns an appropriate action plan. Thursday staff meetings also give the team a chance to discuss any challenges, opportunities or ideas which helps streamline any gridlocks that could cause the customer service experience to falter. “Our systems are consistent, predefined, repeatable and automatic,” says Russell. “They are powerful and deliver results.”
Check in with Customer Satisfaction
Shortly after a closing, clients receive a survey that requests honest feedback. “Ask tough questions and pay attention to the answers,” says Russell. Positive comments are great, but it’s the negative ones that offer the biggest insights. “At this point, I’m more concerned about the negative publicity. In a neighborhood where I sell 50 to 60 homes per year for the past 10 years, a bad job could cost me over a half-million dollars.”
Think Beyond the Basics
“I noticed other agents providing moving trucks and other amenities related to the real estate process,” he says. “I thought it was a great idea but wondered why we had to limit it to just the moving part. Why not acquire a host of items that clients might need and allow them to be borrowed at any time?” Born out of that thought was The Rhodes Team’s Customer Appreciation Program which lends clients tables, chairs, chafing dishes, power washers, air compressors, tile cutters and even a frozen margarita machine. Russell also hosts several events for his best clients. Roughly 200 of them are invited to order free pies around Thanksgiving. “We always get business from that event,” he says. At Christmas, he and his team deliver popcorn to clients, and at Easter, clients have been known to get hams, flowers or even a Waterford crystal vase.
“Clients are delighted and it just reinforces the ongoing value and benefit of doing business with our team,” says Russell. “The more I focused on what I could do for them rather than what they could do for us, especially in the form of referrals, the more our business grew.”
How will you provide exceptional customer service to your clients in 2013?