Most habits are actions you have taken for so long that they now come naturally and you no longer need to think about them – like tying you shoes, for example. When you first learned, you probably felt as if you were all thumbs. Now, you can do it with your eyes closed.
Experts have found that it takes 21 repetitions for an action to become a habit. And those bad habits are never really “broken.” Instead, we simply learn to build new and better habits that replace them. But to do that, we must repeat the new habit 21 times. That’s one reason it’s so hard to change. We try something new, but don’t do it long enough for it to become a solid practice. Then the old habit is lying nearby in dormant brain cells ready to resurface before the new habit is entrenched.
In our profession, developing good habits is crucial to success – especially when it comes to customer service. Following are some basic habits every salesperson should develop to maintain a consistently high level of customer satisfaction.
1. Be on time: Retired professional football player Gale Sayers is quoted as saying, “If you are early you are on time. If you are merely on time, you are late, and if you are late, you are forgotten.” Being on time is a statement of respect. Conversely, making others wait until you show up creates a negative impression and is disrespectful of your customer’s time and agenda. Occasionally, you’ll encounter situations and challenges that force tardiness, so the cardinal rule is to notify others as soon as you know you are going to be late. The sooner you let your customers know you are delayed, the less irritated they will become. Do not wait until the last minute, hoping that it all works out.
2. Follow up on your promises: If I hear one major pet peeve from customers across the board, it is this: Builders and their teams promise something and then do not follow through. For example, a customer is told that she will be given a weekly status report on the progress of her new home, and then, as if the promise were a dream, no one delivers on the commitment. Always call a customer (and your prospects) back by the time you promised, even if it’s to say you do not have the answers they want to hear and you’ll have to get back with them later. Customers are so unaccustomed to good follow through that even that kind of contact scores you big points.
3. Under-promise and over-deliver: Sometimes, with enthusiasm to give the customer what he wants or to avoid confrontation, you may find yourself promising something that is difficult to deliver. By making that promise, you have created an expectation in the customer’s mind that, regardless of difficulty, he will come to expect. If you find yourself in this type of situation, your best approach is to only promise what you can be sure of and not what you hope will happen.
For example, your customers need a 120-day delivery time of their new home; yet they want to make structural changes to their floor plan. Your production history proves delivery of the home takes 135 days minus the delay of re-engineering the plan. You are better off explaining that what appears to be a small change involves an immense amount of work and, although you would like to promise 120 days as a possibility, it is not guaranteed. By promising 145 days, you avoid disappointing your customers and delighting them if the home is delivered earlier.
4. Go the extra mile: Make going out of your way for your customers a habit. By doing small extra things for them, your commitment to customer satisfaction is remembered and you create a residual of referrals. By far, the best method to develop an extraordinary relationship is frequent contact. For example, buy a camera and carry it in your car. Take photos of the home under construction or the neighborhood as it changes. Then e-mail, mail or hand-deliver the photos. Absentee owners, as well as local residents, appreciate pictures of their home and community.
5. Express empathy: No matter how strong your commitment is, you will occasionally have an unhappy camper as a customer. At such times, expressing empathy is imperative. Empathy means understanding your customer’s point of view, regardless of whether or not you agree. Employ these empathetic phrases to help your customer realize you are on his or her side:
I understand how you feel.
I hear what you are saying.
I’m sorry that happened.
I see your point of view.
Even when you aren’t dealing with a dissatisfied customer, it’s a good practice to match the tone of your customer. Some call it “taking a psychic photograph,” but basically it’s taking a moment before you even say the first word to determine what mood your listener is in. Does she look bored? Is he zoning? Do they look buoyant, happy to be where they are?
If you can match their mood with your voice tone only briefly, it helps establish an immediate connection. “Speech syncing” adds to your charisma and creates a welcomed camaraderie.
As an experiment, take one day and consciously speak at the same rate of speed with the same tone as everyone you meet. Then watch to see how people warm up to you – how they relate to what you’re saying.
6. Treat your customers as the most important part of your job: With all of the functions of your job – meetings, paperwork, phone calls and so on – perceiving your customers as an interruption is normal. Remind yourself that, although the customer may not always be right, she is the very reason your business exists and the one who indirectly signs your paycheck. By focusing on your customers as the reason you do your job, you will make them feel important.
7. Treat your coworkers as customers: The quality of customer satisfaction you deliver is often only as good as the quality of relationships you have with your coworkers. Results depend upon relationships and treating your workmates as valuable customers raises the overall quality of satisfaction they deliver to the new homebuyer.