Managing Expectations

Change brings Change

I'm writing this post specifically for those of you receiving it via email (clients, supporters, followers - THANK YOU for your support!) I have just finished a massive website rebuild (check it out here), and I will be changing some of my processes going forward as well.

image credit - flickr william warby

 

You normally receive my "Email and e-Newsletter tips and ideas for Realtors" emails. Well, starting today I'm combining that email-only information with my website. I will continue to write these tips and ideas, but instead will be publishing them publicly on my blog. You will then receive the blog post via email.

Same great information; slightly different format and delivery.

If everything sounds ok, no action is required on your part. You will continue to receive new content by email.

If for some reason you don't like the new format, please click unsubscribe at the top or bottom of this email, and you won't receive anymore of these types of emails.

Or hit reply and let me know what you think!

Thanks again, for everything,

- Chris Butterworth

ps - for those of you who aren't reading this via email, you might want to enter your email address in the right sidebar, so future articles are delivered directly to you...

What your email address says about you - part 3

Part 3 - The Hidden Meaning

Several years ago my business partner received an email from an out of state buyer - a doctor moving to the Phoenix area who wanted help finding a home. His email address was:

drevilleroy@whatever.com

image credit - flickr clement127

 

I caught his name immediately: Dr Evil Leroy.

I thought it was hilarious, and wondered if Dr Leroy was a huge Austin Powers fan. (If he was, we were going to have a lot of fun looking at houses together!)

It turned out his name was Dr Andre Villeroy, and his email address was supposedly Dre Villeroy, not Dr Evil Leroy.

But first impressions are hard to shake, and I still think of him as Dr Evil Leroy today.

You be the judge:

  • drevilleroy
  • dre villeroy
  • dr evil leroy

Hidden names are more common than you think

Hidden meanings don't just happen to unsuspecting doctors. Here are some actual companies' websites which are active as of today:

  • www.whorepresents.com - this site shows which talent agents represent which talent (who represents). It's not a gift site for women who sleep around - get your mind out of the gutter!
  • www.ladrape.com - this is the website of a French bedspread designer, La Drape. What did you think they did?
  • www.speedofart.com - I think this is a portfolio site for an artist (speed of art), but I can't stop seeing pictures of bubbles in the olympic swimming pool.

There are scores of other examples floating around the web showing hidden meaning hashtags and website names.

Your email address is your Ambassador of First Impressions. It tells a story; it lets people know who you are before they ever meet you. The local part (part 1 of this series), the email domain (part 2 of this series), and any confusing or misleading phrases - they all work together to make that first impression.

What does your email address say about you? If it doesn't tell the right story, you might want to consider making a change.

- Chris Butterworth

bye bye, Babbo!

Happy Valentine's Day! (well, that's how it was supposed to go, right?)

Last week, we ordered take-out at Babbo. Our Valentine's Day plan was to pick up dinner and bring it home for a family "dinner and a movie" night. Unfortunately, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Instead of flawless execution, I witnessed some of the worst customer service you could imagine. It wasn't just "we aren't going to help you"; it was more like "we have too many customers and would be happier if you weren't here." Not only was the restaurant too busy, but their reaction to being overwhelmed was anti-service. Suffice it to say 

we won't be going back to Babbo anytime soon.

 

Babbo is a local Italian restaurant - the food is good and it's near our house, so it's one of the restaurants that comes up when we have our family's "where should we eat" discussion. Last week, however, things didn't go so smoothly..

Here's the play-by-play of what happened:

  • We ordered by phone, and we told our food would be ready at 6:45. OK, perfect. We'll start the movie at 7, have a relaxing night, and the boys can still be in bed by 9. (After all, it's Valentine's Day, but it's still a school night.)
  • We arrived at the restaurant at 6:40, and see the place is packed. They are set up so that call-in orders go back to the bar to pay for their food, and then wait in that area until the food is ready. When we arrive, the line extends from the bar all the way through the restaurant to the front door.
  • We wait in line for a few minutes, standing next to tables where people are trying to have their romantic dinner. Most of the people in line are friendly and make small talk while we wait.
  • At 6:48 we pay for our food, and are told our food is almost ready. We move off to the side, trying to stay out of the way, but it's pretty crowded. There is a large group of people waiting, standing among the tables of people eating dinner.
  • At 7:00 I catch the cashier's eye and ask her to check on our food. She does, and tells me it's almost ready. Hmmm. The crowd continues to grow, becoming more of a mosh pit, and the jovial mood is being replaced by frustration as people begin to lose patience.
  • 7:10, and I ask one of my boys to go check on the food. He reports back and says they are only waiting for one more thing, and then we'll be ready. I wonder (out loud) about the rest of our food sitting there getting cold while we wait, and hear groans of agreement from those standing near us.
  • At 7:25 a server brings us our bag of food. I ask her if everything has been sitting there getting cold, or if they re-did any of the meals. She has a "deer in the headlights" look, and I didn't want to come down on a high school girl just doing her job, so I asked for the manager.
  • When the manager came over, I gave her the short story - 40 minutes late, food is probably cold.. She takes everything out of the bag and reports one dish is hot, one is warm, and two are cold, and then offers to reheat them (with voice, eyes, and body language that said "please say no.")
  • I laid into her for 30 seconds about how the way they were treating all these people was unacceptable, and then headed home. I could hear others begin raising their voices as we neared the exit.

Here are some things that did not happen, at all:

  • No Acknowledgement of any problems.
  • No Apologies to anyone standing around waiting for their late food, or to those trying to eat at a table surrounded by people standing, waiting, and complaining.
  • No Comfort given, whether by finding a more spacious waiting area, or by offering a drink while we waited.
  • No Discounts, coupons, or other offers to compensate, whether on this particular order or for the next time somebody visits.

Here is what would have made a difference:

  • Ideally, they would have expected a huge turnout. Tuesday is their "pasta special night", which is usually a busy day, and this Tuesday was Valentine's Day, which is a very busy day. They should have been fully staffed and had some ideas about where people could wait for tables and for take-out food. But, even if they got caught off guard, they could have handled the situation a lot better.
  • Acknowledge and Apologize - they should have been proactive in admitting their mistakes, apologizing to everyone - liberally and often, and asking for patience.
  • Offer a way out - they could have offered a refund and a deep discount coupon for a return visit to anyone who would prefer not to wait. This would have given the cooks less to cook, it would have cleared up waiting space for those who waited, and it would have shown everybody that waiting was their own choice - no one was being forced to wait.
  • Offer concessions for waiting - an offer of complimentary drinks (non-alcoholic) and/or some finger food appetizers would make the wait more pleasant, and would show they cared. How hard would it be to have a server carry over a tray of bruschetta?
  • Comps and Coupons - throw in a free dessert, or a coupon for a free entry on your next visit, and have people feel like at least the wait was worth something.
  • Table Diners - for those sitting at a table with people standing all around them, All of the Above! That would be a terrible eating experience - you could at least let them know it isn't supposed to be like that.

In the end

Maybe Babbo is too busy, and they don't need more customers. I doubt that, however, as the restaurant industry is notoriously competitive, and there are a half-dozen other Italian food restaurants within a short distance.

Maybe Babbo tastes so good that everyone will come back anyway. No, that isn't true either. Their food is good, but it isn't "oh my god I'm craving Babbo and we have to go there tonight" good. And it isn't inexpensive, either.

In the end, they lost my family's business that night for sure, and I imagine there are more than few other people who won't be in a rush to go back. It's too bad, too, because a little customer service effort could have changed the story in a big way - they could have had a large number of people talking about how great Babbo is. But they chose to go the other way, and so will I.

- Chris Butterworth

What your email address says about you - part 2

Part 2 - Email Domain (the second part, after the @)

Last time we talked about the first part of your email address. This time let's take a look at what impact the second part of your email address can have on your clients' first impressions.

image credit - flickr clement127

 

Fair or not, many people make assumptions about you (including your technical and communication abilities) based solely on your email's domain. Since most email domains fall into a few different categories, it's easy to separate them out for comparison:

1.) Your Own Domain -

This is where your email domain typically matches your own website.

  • @8dollarfarming.com
  • @thephoenixagents.com
  • @butterhomes.com
  • @chrisbutterworth.com

These people are professionals. They may or may not be tech-geniuses, but they run a serious business. They have their stuff together, and know what they're doing.

2.) Company Provided Domain -

This is where your email address matches your company's name and/or website.

  • @danschwartzrealty.com
  • @thompsonsrealty.com
  • @realtyonegroup.com

The vast majority of people won't bat an eye. You're a real estate professional working for a real estate company and have a real estate company's email domain - nothing unusual there.

A small percentage of people, however, may wonder why you would want to tie your email address to the company, thus making it much more difficult to move in the future. Does this maybe give a sense that your aspirations aren't as high as some other Realtors'? And maybe, if you're content to simply "work for the real estate company", you aren't going to work as hard as somebody who is working for himself?

3.) Cable Providers -

These are the email addresses the cable companies give you when you pay for internet access each month.

  • @cox.net
  • @comcast.com
  • @centurylink.net
  • @qwest.net

These email domains give off a less tech-savvy vibe, both because not many tech-type people use them, and because you're putting your livelihood at the mercy of the companies who are notoriously bad at keeping customers happy. Also, you don't always get to take your email with you if/when you move, which may be a cause for lost repeat and referral business down the road.

These domains aren't bad, inherently, but I wouldn't recommend using them to run your real estate business.

4.) Free Providers -

These are the email domains, usually web-based, that you can sign up for, for free, and access your email from any computer that has an internet connection. The popularity of each service has come and gone over the years, although many of the domains keep their email services active even after the domain itself has fallen from grace.

  • gmail
  • yahoo
  • icloud
  • live
  • hotmail
  • aol
  • prodigy

Most of these providers run through a life cycle of "That's a common, popular email address", to "That email address seems a bit outdated, bro", and then eventually to "Dude, your email address is for dinosaurs."

These emails offer great benefits - they are location-independent and job-independent, while also being free. But you'll want to be careful about tying your business to a service which can become outdated over time.

Today, gmail has managed to retain most of its "common, popular" status, and even has a bit of tech-savvy connotations with it. The rest of the list is in various stages of decline, or already dead.

Think I'm crazy? Check out the infographic below, published by the oatmeal:

Remember, there isn't necessarily a right or wrong email address, per se. But you are a Realtor, and you want your email address to help let people know what a great Realtor you are. Keep this in mind when choosing a domain to provide your email address.

- Chris Butterworth

Missed Part 1 of this series? Read Part 1 here.
*Update - here is a link to Part 3 of the series.

What your email address says about you - part 1

Part 1 - Local Part (the first part, before the @)

You're new to the business, and you want to create the perfect email address - one that lets everyone know what an awesome Realtor you are.

image credit - flickr clement127

 

Or you've been using the same email address since 1995, and figure there's no reason to change. After all, this one works great, and you don't want any of your contacts to not be able to reach you.

Stop right there. Take a breath, and take a look at your email address. What is it telling your contacts about you?

The first part of your email address is the part you get to pick - it says exactly what you want it to say. It's also the first impression some people get about you.

Here are the types of email addresses I see most often:

Your Name - names are the most common email addresses out there, and for good reason. A name is simple, and somewhat expected by the general public:

  • chris@
  • chrisb@
  • chrisbutterworth@
  • cbutterworth@

Name with Short Description - if you're using a large email provider, there might be other people with your name. In this case it isn't uncommon to add a short description with your name:

  • azchrisbutterworth@
  • chrisbutterworth2017@

Nicknames and Hobbies - can be acceptable, and even tell people a little bit about yourself, if they're done right. However, they also open the door for unintended consequences:

  • butterdad@ - not bad. It's a play on my last name and shows I have a family.
  • captainchris@ - was I in the military, or do I love boating? And how much do I think of myself that everyone else needs to call me captain? This could be a turn-off to some people out there.
  • loveazgolfing@ - ok, I get it. You love golfing and you live in Arizona - cute. But not everyone out there loves golfing; are you going to turn off a potential client because he thinks golf is boring? Also, a round of golf takes several hours - are you losing a potential client because he's worried you might be on the golf course instead of selling his house?
  • sellingazhousesfast@ - these types of emails lean into the "cheesy Realtor" category. I've never heard the general public say "my Realtor sells houses fast - I know this because his email address says so." But I've seen a number of people in the general public roll their eyes when they see an address like this.

Outdated, Confusing, and Unprofessional - it may be an email address that you like, or that you've had for awhile, but that doesn't mean it's a good address for your professional business use.

  • cutest88@ - you might have been the cutest awhile back; now you're pushing 30 and it's time to grow up and get your big-girl email address.
  • shadowplayer@ - what does this mean, and who are you?
  • crazygirl69@ - I don't care what year you were born; this is a terrible email address.

Your email address has a very important, yet very simple, job: it lets people contact you.

A good email address is short, easy to type, easy to remember, and gives others a simple description of yourself.

It shouldn't do your marketing, and it shouldn't be a remembrance of the good old days.

Always remember - you're a Realtor, at all times. You're willing, and able, to help people with the marketing and legal aspects of a several-hundred thousand dollar transaction. Choose an email address that's right for the job.

- Chris Butterworth

 

This was Part 1 of a 3-part series. Click here to read Part 2 and Part 3.

Sometimes the path is the destination

Image Credit - flickr olga oslina

 

Sometimes the path IS the destination.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the work laid out in front of you? So many emails to answer, and the phone keeps ringing - every one of them needing your help to solve their "crises." And you're thinking to yourself, "If I can just get through this chaos, I'll be able to relax and enjoy my day."

Well, maybe that chaos is your day.

You chose a career where people rely on you to help with a large financial transaction which causes them lots of stress. You're the expert - the one person they rely on to make sure everything goes smoothly and according to plan.

Those emails, those phone calls, that chaos? You're in the right place; that's your path and your destination. Enjoy it. Embrace it. With a smile on your face.

Congratulations on your success.

- Chris Butterworth

Bad policy or bad service - same result

Budgets are tight. Competition is fierce. Putting your head down and hiding from your customers' wants and needs is a surefire way to *not* grow your business.

Image Credit - flickr mnxam opena

 

The Scenario

There's a little Mexican food joint in our neighborhood which is in our rotation of "good and not-too-expensive" restaurants, mostly because their rolled tacos and refried beans are fantastic.

Yesterday I came home from work and Cheryl was making tacos for dinner, except the boys had a friend over and we didn't have enough ground beef to feed a crowd. No problem, I said, and I headed out to get some supplemental rolled tacos.

The Order

Unfortunately it didn't go as smoothly as usual. Here is the transcript of me placing my order, as best as I can remember:

Girl (over the drive-through speaker): Can I help you?
Me: Yes. 12 rolled tacos, please. 6 beef and 6 chicken.
Girl: We can't do that. We can only do all beef or all chicken.
Me: (incredulous). What?
Girl: It has to be all the same. 12 chicken or 12 beef.
Me: But that's what I always order, and we've been coming here for years..?
Girl: Sorry, I'm not allowed to do that.
Me: (thinking she must be new). Can you ask your manager if you can do that, because - like I said, we've been coming here a long time and that's what we always get.
Girl: She isn't here. You can call her tomorrow if you want, but I can't do that.
Me: So how can I get 6 beef and 6 chicken rolled tacos.
Girl: You can't. You can order 3, 5, or 12. Do you want 5 of each?
(At this point I got frustrated. Not only was she being unhelpful and unfriendly, but either she didn't see the math (3+3=6) or she was being rude on purpose. So of course I pushed further...)
Me: So I can't get 6 chicken and 6 beef? It's not possible?
Girl: It's impossible. We can't do that. You can order 5 of each, or you can order 12 of just one.
Me: Even if price isn't an issue, and I was willing to pay extra? (because 2 sets of 3 is about the same price as a dozen.) Maybe a 5 piece and then a single, or something like that?
Girl: Sir, we can't do that. You can only get 3, 5, or 12 of the same kind. Do you want to order anything or not?
(Here I realized it's game over. She's not going to help me, and she isn't much fun. I can either order and get home, or make a stand and "take my business somewhere else." Unfortunately I wanted to get home and eat.
Me: Sure. Just give me a dozen chicken rolled tacos. (because realistically I didn't want to pay double to get 6 of each.)
Me: Can you do me a favor and put all the toppings on the side, because my son can't eat dairy. (they serve the rolled tacos with heaping scoops of guacamole, sour cream, and cheese over the top of them.)
Girl: No problem.
I then get home, only to find my chicken rolled tacos covered with cheese and sour cream. (my fault for not checking this one while at the drive-thru..!)

The Aftermath

Maybe this was a new employee who didn't realize she's allowed to mix n match, and that it's ok to make customers happy.

Or maybe the store changed policy, thinking they could make more money if customers are forced to buy 2 sets of 5, or 4 sets of 3, rather than a simple 12. If this is the case, it's dangerous thinking. This store competes on price. Raise prices too much, and there are a half-dozen other Mexican food restaurants within a 2-mile radius that become a lot more attractive.

I doubt it's store policy. Since they sell chicken and beef for the same price, what would it matter to them if we split up the order?

I'll probably give this taco joint another chance. We've been eating there for a long time, it's good food, it's reasonably priced, and it's right around the corner from our house. Hopefully the new girl gets some training and things go back to normal.

If not, and my experience was the new normal? Well, I'm not going to say I'll never eat there again. But I will eat there a lot less frequently. If I'm going to have to pay the same price as the full menu sit-down restaurants to get what I want, I might as well just eat at one of those sit-down restaurants instead.

It doesn't matter whether this was one employee giving bad customer service, or a change in the restaurant's policy to be less flexible to customers. This one interaction was almost enough to lose a long-time, local, repeat customer.

Great customer service can have a major impact on your business.

Bad customer service? Even more so.

Keep this in mind whenever you pick up the phone or answer an email.

- Chris Butterworth