The Customer Experience

The purchase of a product or service is not just about the product or the service. It’s also about the experience that is part of the purchase – both leading up to the purchase, and the transaction itself. Successful retailers are well aware how important the pre-purchase experience is. If they don’t get it right, they don’t even get a crack at having the would-be customer become an actual customer. And then there is the experience of the purchase or transaction itself. Even post-transaction, if they don’t get it right, they may have made a transaction, but they lose the customer. And with the pervasiveness of social media and information sharing apps, they have probably lost a bunch of other would-be customers as well.
 
For many the experience of purchasing real estate is not pleasurable. It’s not enjoyable. In fact for many it is a very tense experience fraught with difficulties.The pre-purchase experience can be frustrating. The transaction itself stressful. And then post-transaction: the chances are the agent has received their money and disappeared.
 
Perhaps those who are part of the industry concerned with buying and selling real estate should be thinking (and acting) about how they can enhance the customer experience. In part, that may enhance their own reputation, certainly more than the very dubious loyalty schemes that some operate.
 
The usual interface between would-be purchaser and vendor, is an agent. It’s a very one-sided relationship. The agent knows everything about the industry, and the customer doesn’t even know what they don’t know. The agent knows the “usual” processes. The customer has no way of knowing whether what he is told is valid or bunkum.
 
We have always contended that because of that position of information imbalance the agent has a duty of responsibility, moral if not necessarily contractual, to the potential customer.
We are not just talking about the legal responsibility of disclosure. Too often we are seeing agents whose main concern is making a sale, irrespective of whether the property is right for the purchaser, or the tenant suitable for the landlord.
 
The agent should be significantly better versed in every aspect of the industry. and therefore able to use that knowledge to the advantage of all parties to the transaction.
When I go to my local knitting shop, I expect to be able to tap into a vast knowledge, and experience, of knitting patterns, wools, yarns and knitting needles. And I can.
Similarly the Stihl Shop I frequent advise me knowledgeably on chainsaws, mowers and hedgetrimmers.
 
But how often are those many seekers of warehouse space able to be knowledgeably informed regarding racking aisle widths, pallet slots, lighting requirements or indeed roller door attributes? Too often what we see is simply: “here it is”.
 
Ultimately the purchaser must make their own decision as to whether to buy or not. And the landlord must make their own decision as to whether to accept a tenant. But we believe that a part of the job of the agent should be to make the experience of the transaction less traumatic for all parties by utilising their knowledge in the same way that the knitting shop and the Stihl Shop do.
 
Too often we find that businesses lose sight of the pathway to sales. And of course making sales enable us to stay in business.
Right from the outset, there are some businesses who don’t answer their telephones, or don’t answer emails. Even worse is this  when the telephone is answered with a recorded message saying “we value your business” - which of course is a nonsense. If they really did value my business they would answer the phone.
 
And being in the real estate business should be about enhancing the customer experience – and making it easier for the client to buy or lease or sell. If we cannot make it easier for the client, then in time they will surely do it themselves.
What are the ways in which we can make that customer experience a simpler one?  How can we give the potential customer greater understanding of the process – and thereby create a smoother path for transactions.
These are some of the challenges the industry needs to face up to if it is not to eventually face redundancy.