Customer Service Tips for Real Estate Agents

Real estate has always been a competitive field, but with the arrival of online services such as Redfin and housing search sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com, real estate professionals are under more pressure than ever to show their worth and build long-lasting customer relationships. Offering exceptional customer service is a great way for real estate agents to earn trust and customer loyalty.

By applying the Service Values of The Ritz-Carlton to the real estate industry, we have compiled the following list of customer service tips:

1) At The Ritz-Carlton, we “build strong relationships and create guests for life.”

As real estate agents, you are also building relationships. Your end goal may be to make a sale or sign a lease, but you should not treat your client as simply another transaction. When you express genuine care to your clients, you’re opening the door to repeat business and referral business. We live in a very connected world. When people ask your past clients, “Is there a real estate agent you would recommend?”—you want the answer to be a resounding, “YES!”

You can express genuine care by acting respectfully:

  • Value your client’s time. Don’t show up late for appointments.
  • Actively listen to your clients. Don’t multi-task when clients are talking.
  • Communicate regularly and manage your clients’ expectations. For example, if a client asks a question or an offer is made, you should tell your client when you expect to have an answer. If an answer is not found within that time frame, you should tell your client that you’re still working on it. Proactive communication builds trust.

2) At The Ritz-Carlton, we are “responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

Real estate agents must meet the expressed and unexpressed wishes of their clients as well. People don’t buy homes on a regular basis—so even if they’ve purchased a home in the past, they tend to forget what it is all about. Think of their ignorance as their unexpressed needs. It is your job to act as their real estate “Sherpa” and guide them through the process—pointing out all the important steps.

You also have to be responsive to their expressed needs. You have to listen to what your clients want—and you have to be patient if they need help figuring out what they want. For example, if you show your clients the type of homes they asked to see but they don’t like any of them, pay close attention to their comments and feedback. Ask leading questions that will help unearth more specific information such as, “When you say the kitchen is drab, are you referring to the lighting, the cabinet color or the flooring?” When you better understand your clients’ preferences, you set yourself up for greater success.

3) At The Ritz-Carlton, we are “empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.”

Real estate agents should also create unique, memorable and personal experiences for their clients. In order to do this, you must engage with your clients. Learn about their hobbies, their children and their pets. Small acts of kindness can make a big difference:

  • While house hunting on a hot day, bring a cooler of cold water bottles for clients.
  • Send a birthday card to their pet.
  • Point out where the local dance studio is located if their child is a budding ballerina.
  • After you make a sale, consider giving a personalized closing gift. One real estate agent gave clients a glass box with their new home etched into the top.

4) At The Ritz-Carlton, we “own and immediately resolve guest problems.”

Real estate agents want to make the process as seamless as possible for clients. If your client has questions, try not to give a pat answer like “That’s the market right now” or “It’s all about location.” Try to offer actionable suggestions and solutions such as how to improve curb appeal. You might have to say tough things that your clients will not want to hear, and you won’t be able to solve all your customer’s problems; i.e., you can’t make a home sell for $2 million if it’s only worth $200,000. However, you can respond to your clients’ concerns with helpfulness, tact and compassion.

5) At The Ritz-Carlton, we are “involved in the planning of the work that affects [us.]”

Real estate agents need to keep clients informed through every step of the process. Let your clients know what you are doing to sell, lease or find a property. Don’t make your clients track you down and ask for an update. By communicating regularly, you can circumvent frustration and build trust. You should also base your communication on your clients’ preferences. Would your client appreciate a weekly email, or would a quick phone call work better for them? You and your client are in this together, and communication will be appreciated.

6) At The Ritz-Carlton, we are “proud of [our] professional appearance, language, and behavior.”

Real estate agents make a good or bad first impression depending on their professionalism. When you meet with clients, you should dress for a business appointment, and you should be prepared. If you’re not organized and you can’t find your listing sheets—you will not instill confidence in your customers. If you’re driving clients around, your car should be clean and you should know where you are going. Getting lost will not instill confidence. You should also be knowledgeable about the real estate market in your area. When you appear engaged, competent and efficient—your clients will feel more comfortable and safe.

7) At The Ritz-Carlton, we “protect the privacy and security of our guests….”

When you build relationships with clients, you become privy to confidential information. You may even have celebrity clients. Although it may be tempting to name drop or even gossip, you need to practice discretion. When you share private details about your past clients, you lose the trust of your current customers.

Building client relationships takes time. You have to earn trust through consistency and reliability, and you have to demonstrate your commitment to the client by offering excellent customer service. When you make the extra effort to truly engage with your clients, you’ll not only see how this impacts your sales—but you may also make some life-long friends in the process. 

On Thursday, November 12, 2015, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center presents Your Journey to Service Excellence at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner near Washington, DC. Herve Humler, President & Chief Operations Officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., is a panelist along with other senior executives. Early-bird pricing is available through August 1, 2015.