Customer Service

Service, not Systems

My wife and I bought a new car last month. (Yay - new car! Boo - spending lots of money!)

The car is awesome. The experience was… meh.

Here’s the short version: We spent 6-8 weeks deciding whether we wanted a big or mid-sized SUV, and we looked at several different brands. We stayed in touch with the sales guy for each dealership throughout the process, either by answering their follow-up calls, or calling them with questions, or stopping by to see the car in person (again.) Eventually we narrowed our list down to a couple of options, and bought the one where we were able to negotiate the best deal.

That’s it. The process was over. We have a new car, and each dealership’s sales guy knew if/when they were out of the running. End of story - or at least it should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t.

We then received multiple sales emails over the next 2-3 weeks, from the dealership where we had just bought our car:

  • Hi Chris, it looks like you missed an appointment you had scheduled with (sales guy’s name). Did you want to reschedule your appointment to a more convenient time?

  • Hi Chris, we are having a big sale this weekend on (model name). Please give (sales guy) a call to schedule an appointment to come test drive a new (model name) and get a great deal on a great car.

  • Hi Chris, it looks like you haven’t been by our store to see (sales guy) in a little while. Please give us a call or stop by anytime if there’s anything we can do. We would love to help get you a great deal on a great car.

Finally we called the sales manager and asked to stop sending us emails.

This was worse than bad customer service - it was insulting.

We spent two months in constant communication with your sales guy, then spent a lot of money at your dealership, and you can’t even move our contact information from your “prospect” list to your “customer” list?

It’s a good idea to use systems to help increase your efficiency and stay in touch with as many people as possible.

It’s a bad idea to take the customer, and the service, out of a customer service business.

Systems are great; personal is better.

- Chris Butterworth


Every Phone Call Counts

To build a tribe, and have a raving group of fans (contacts) out there who wouldn't even consider working with somebody else, you have to do something to create that raving fanaticism... Make every phone call count!

image credit -  flickr eric kilby

image credit - flickr eric kilby


Today I spend far more time typing than talking - text messages, messenger, email... I make fewer phone calls than I used to.

Which makes every phone call that much more important!

Each phone call is a personal interaction, where the person you're talking with can hear and feel everything you're giving to the conversation - both verbal and nonverbal cues, regardless of the message.

  • Energy Level - are you the Energizer Bunny, or are you yawning while last night's lack of sleep catches up with you?
  • Mood - are you upbeat, uplifting, positive, and friendly, or a Debbie Downer?
  • Outlook - a cool head and a calming presence, or frantic-frustrated-discouraged?
  • Focused - is this phone call the most important thing in your life right now, or are you talking to other people at the same time while clicking on a keyboard and/or shuffling papers around?
  • Prepared - do you know the history, the details, the options, and the potential outcomes and alternatives, or are you just winging it?

It's easy to come across as the hero when the news is exciting:

Great news - the Buyers want to give you more than your asking price! ... Yep - they’re going to pay cash, which they’ve already deposited into escrow. Oh, and they can close by the end of the week but are willing to let you stay in the house as long as you need to until you’re ready to move! :)

Tribes are built, however, on the other kinds of news:

  • "They didn't accept your offer, but I'm confident we'll find a similar house in your price range soon."
  • "The buyers' loan has been delayed, so they can't close on time. Here are some options to consider as this will relate to your moving date..."
  • "The offer is lower than we had hoped for. Let's look at the comps again and discuss the benefits & drawbacks of accepting this offer compared with waiting for another, potentially better one."

Every time you pick up the phone, whether you're sharing good news, bad news, or no news at all, the goal should be the same: At the end of the call, when the other person hangs up, they should be happy they talked with you.

So pause. Take a deep breath. Smile. And say hello.

- Chris Butterworth

Ps - One way to pre-sell your contacts on your knowledge, ability, and helpfulness, is to send them a monthly or twice-monthly eNewsletter - every month, like clockwork. I can help you do this, if you want - it's what I do best..


Grow Your List, Grow your business!

Your customer service is superior - so much so that any of your former clients would be happy to work with you again and refer their friends and family to you.

And you send out your newsletter consistently, right? So all those friends and family members and former clients are thinking about you month after month.

Then the best way to increase your business is to grow your email list.

image credit: flickr yair aronshtam


Anyone you meet (and strike up a friendship-relationship with) should be added to your list. So the question then becomes:

"How can you meet more people?"

The best thing about that question is that anything (and everything) is fair game!

Get involved. Get a hobby. Join a club. Play a sport. Coach a sport. Sit on the HOA. Or the school's PTA. Volunteer for a charity. Or a school. Or a political party. Just get out there and explore your interests!

Be genuine.

Network about the things that matter to you, and discussions about real estate will come around organically. Then add the people you meet to your contact list.*

Dive Deep, or Cast Wide

Dive Deep: Long term, some people might stick with the same group/hobby for a decade or more. They become pillars of that community. They know everybody who's involved, or who has been involved over the years. Their reputation (and the amount of people they've met) help them convert many of their "new" contacts into clients.

Cast Wide: Other people might have multiple hobbies which interest them, so they change their groups & activities every couple of years. This can be equally effective, as they get to meet a whole new group of people each time they start a new activity, and their list grows consistently over the years.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Regardless of the who, what, and how you do it, growing your contact list (and then keeping in touch with everybody on that list, every month!) is a fun and effective way to increase your business.

- Chris Butterworth

*Note: I wouldn't join a new club and immediately add the club's entire database to my newsletter email list - that sounds too "spammy" to me. But I do subscribe to the theory that if I've met someone in person, and they would know who I am if I called (and would accept my phone call), then that person should be added to my list and should be receiving my monthly newsletters.



What is your word worth?
Other posts tagged Building Tribes
1 year ago: Consistency Wins
2 years ago: Know what the trend is telling you
100 posts ago: Great Customer Service - Slidebelts wins loyalty

Build Bridges - Grow your Business

image credit: flickr peter thoeny

Stay Connected.
Expand your Reach.
Build Bridges.

Grow Your Business!

When you're in the business of networking, and being available when needed, and providing value upon demand - staying connected with your contacts and building bridges between your contacts is the best way to grow your business.

Any Realtor can run a CMA when your contact is ready to list his house for sale. It's the value provided during the several years prior to that moment which determines whether or not he even needs to call another Realtor.

- Chris Butterworth


More Reading / Previous Posts

Video Marketing - from the users' perspective
Other posts tagged Picture Quotes
1 year ago: Consistency Wins
2 years ago: Chromebook Review - ready for prime time
100 posts ago: Do it for the Money, but do it right

Availability is the best ability

I had an uncharacteristically rough month recently.

I caught the flu, then had Christmas week and all the distractions which go with that, immediately followed by a family vacation (the one we canceled in October when Anaheim was on fire!) Then, the day after we got back into town, I somehow got viral bronchitis; it was two more weeks before I finally felt normal and got back into the swing of things.

That's a full month of out-of-the-ordinary, and out-of-the-ordinary isn't good for productivity...

image credit - flickr chris zielecki


Yet, during that unproductive month, I was able to:

  • Get an offer accepted and open escrow for a new buyer-client.
  • Have a previously referred buyer-client open escrow on a new purchase.
  • Write and deliver my late-December and mid-January eNewsletters.
  • Publish 5 blog posts for
  • Publish 12 charts for
  • Enjoy a terrific Christmas holiday.
  • Enjoy an awesome family vacation.

It's not that I did great work last month, or even that I worked at full-speed. But I was able to work through a tough month; to be available, and to press forward.

And it led to a very successful month.

Many coaches and general managers at the pro-sports level say any athlete's best ability is avail-ability.

An athlete doesn't do the team any good if he's injured often or subject to multiple suspensions. The best of the best - the ones who are counted on game after game, year after year - are always available.

We all have bad days, bad weeks, and even bad months. The trick is to keep the process moving forward - to stay available - even if you're not moving full speed or doing your best-ever work.

- Chris Butterworth

Make yourself as valuable as Amazon Prime

Last month I saw an Amazon charge hit my credit card for about $100.

My first thought was, "another Christmas present is on the way."

My second thought was, "wait, I haven't ordered anything in the last couple of days. Did somebody hack my Amazon account?"

Then I realized it was my annual charge for Amazon Prime, and I paid the charge with a smile on my face!

image credit - flickr william warby


How is it that I can pay money to Amazon for the privilege of shopping there, and I feel like I'm getting the better end of the deal? (Same thing with Costco, now that I think about it.)

And more importantly, what are you doing for your clients so they feel the same way about you?

When you get to the end of the transaction, and your clients see the commission amount paid to your office, are they going to think:

"Worth every penny and then some! She was two steps ahead of the game from start to finish."


"Wow - that's a lot of money for basically opening the door for us and sending a few documents. And we had to keep calling him to get questions answered."

If your clients think you're worth every penny, and then you keep in touch with them consistently for the next umpteen years, you'll have repeat clients and referral sources paying for your services year after year. (kind of like Amazon Prime!)

- Chris Butterworth

This Year

2017 was terrific. It was difficult and sometimes frustrating, but overall I am proud of what I accomplished compared with what I had set out to do. (2017 was also terrific from a global perspective, according to the folks at Future Crunch.)

As for 2018 goals and resolutions? Google reports 5.7 million articles about how to keep your resolutions, so I don't want to write that type of post - everybody else already has.

I want to take a minute to talk about the things we can all do, every one of us, every day - which will make everybody's lives better. (and yes, they'll ultimately help you make more money, too.) Ready or not, 2018 is here, and we're already going full speed!

image credit - flickr dave_s


Here are 15 ways to make this year even better:

  1. If you make a promise, set a date. No date, no promise.
  2. If you set a date, meet it.
  3. If you can't make a date, communicate. It's easier to adjust if we know what's happening.
  4. Clean up your own mess.
  5. Clean up other people's messes.
  6. Overcommunicate.
  7. Question a company's agenda. (that includes media companies too.)
  8. Don't question goodwill, effort or intent. Be appreciative.
  9. "I'll know it when I see it," is not a good enough description. Let people know what you want, then let them get to work on it.
  10. If what you're working on right now doesn't matter to the mission, help someone else with their work. (or work on something more important.)
  11. Make mistakes, own them, fix them, share the learning.
  12. Cheap, reliable, public software might be boring, but it's usually better. Because it's cheap and reliable.
  13. Care more.
  14. Always be seeking outside resources. A better rolodex is better, even if we don't have rolodexes any more.
  15. Talk to everyone as if they were your boss, your customer, the founder, your employee. It's all the same.

It seems like a long list, but it's really simple. Be good. Do good. Expect & demand good from others. The good will snowball to more good..

(hat tip to Seth Godin, who published most of this list previously.)

Happy 2018 Everybody!

- Chris Butterworth