By K.K. Snyder
Great real estate agents will go to any length to provide excellent customer service, even if it means taking an unexpected ride in a helicopter to preserve a deal or personally checking on an absentee homeowner’s property following a natural disaster.
Going to such extremes is always worth it in the end, says Cara Mantovani, who helms Mantovani Real Estate. She tells her agents they aren’t striving to make a sale but, rather, striving to build relationships with clients.
“We’re in a competitive market, and there are many good and knowledgeable brokers in town,” says Mantovani, who once flew by helicopter to a private island to have an addendum signed. “However, it comes down to trust. The real estate business is not a transaction business; we’re not churning stocks here. What we are doing is building relationships. My clients trust me. They call me with questions, concerns and thoughts 24-7.”
Recognized since 2003 as being among the top 3 percent of residential real estate agents nationwide for total sales, Mantovani was named one of the “Top 25 Power Women in South Florida Real Estate” for three consecutive years. She says while customer service is a top priority, her business operates the same today as it did when the doors first opened nearly 35 years ago, offering solid dependable service.
“Our clients are treated like they should be, with care and consideration; it’s the firm’s service commitment that sets the groundwork for all current and future success in real estate,” Mantovani says.
Whether dealing with a hair stylist, waiter, sales clerk or real estate agent, it’s easy to recognize excellent customer service and even easier to get turned off when the customer service is sadly lacking. A good real estate agent knows the return he can reap by providing customer service at the highest level. It’s not enough anymore to just be friendly and knowledgeable. Agents must be willing to go to all lengths to win over clients, especially if they are looking to profit from returning client business.
One of the keys to excellent customer service is to follow up, follow up and follow up again, says Realtor Susan Gale of Majestic Properties. “Follow up on a regular basis via fax, phone, email or personal meeting where possible,” says Gale, who has 19 years experience in the field. “Do what you promise and more. We pride ourselves in offering superior customer services and relentless attention to detail.”
Because many of her clients have second homes in the Miami area, Gale and her team frequently offer to check on properties and arrange for repairs following hurricanes or severe storms. “This provides added peace of mind to the out of town property owner,” she says of this unique form of customer service.
But even excellent service is no guarantee that problems won’t arise from time to time. Heading off stressful situations for clients is another aspect of customer service. And, while issues do arise with lawyers, inspectors and lenders, it’s the agent’s duty to manage all of the parties and solve those issues without involving the client.
Most agents agree that communication is at the top of the list when it comes to basic customer service, but opinions vary when it comes to availability. Do agents have to be accessible 24-7? Some say they do, but others say staying on top of things can keep you from those surprise calls late at night or on weekends when you’re trying to enjoy some down time. The bottom line is that a client will remember if an agent was there for him when he needed something, even if the request comes at an inopportune time.
Agent Minnie Lauderdale uses many options for keeping in touch with her clients and is able to do so without being on call 24 hours a day. “There are so many ways to stay in touch [such as] email and voicemail, and all productive Realtors have at least one personal assistant,” says Lauderdale, an agent with EWM. “I personally shut down my business each day at 7 p.m. unless I am in the middle of unfinished business for that day. I have a voice message on my cellular saying, ‘If you are calling after 7 p.m., I will return your call the next day.’”
Lauderdale admits to going to extremes to provide the highest level of customer service for her clients, but it’s worth it. She’s made beds, relocated pets and cleaned the litter box, sprayed air fresher she keeps in her car, swept up the front door entrance, organized yard sales and washed dishes. “Good customer service is giving the best that you have on any given day and staying connected with your clients,” Lauderdale adds, and her peers agree.
“Anticipate the clients’ needs in advance and fulfill them to the best of your ability,” advises Gale. “Never take anything personally, and stay calm no matter what.”
What might be extreme measures to some agents are everyday tasks for others. Mantovani’s agents share the goal of moving from contract to closing with a minimum of stress and inconvenience.
“So we’re there in the odd hours doing the odd tasks, whether it means opening up an office building or distribution center on Saturday night at 10 p.m. for a business man who can only stop in on his plane quickly to see the property, or arranging for a buyer to arrive by boat and enjoy a sunset with champagne and classical music,” Mantovani adds. “We are there to help.”
By applying the principles of trust, integrity and respect into daily interactions with clients, Mantovani has built a strong client base and a solid real estate business.
“Real estate, especially in a burgeoning market such as South Florida, is a competitive field,” she says. “However, I learned early on that if you work for your clients in the same manner as you would work for your own flesh and blood, then you’re going to succeed in this business. [We] care about the welfare of our clients and will not stop until the service provided exceeds what is expected. That’s our credo, and that’s what we strive to deliver day in and day out.”
Lauderdale concludes with a number of suggestions for agents looking to provide the best service: Stay honest, price correctly, make frequent updates with monthly reports and provide personal assistance with all showings, inspections and appraisals.
Mantovani Real Estate