28% Customer Satisfaction? Not here.

I wrote the following post for LinkedIn and, although it’s not Long Beach centric as this blog typically is, it does apply to real estate and other interactions in life. Let me know what you think.

As the fodder of comedian’s jokes, airlines have struggled with their customer service perception – or lack of – since airline deregulation in the late 1970’s. Once airline travel moved from the elite to the masses, the issues began and only heightened in the age of such online agencies as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, pushed into warp speed by websites such as Yelp, Kayak, CheapFlights, CheapTickets, GetMeThereFree, etc. Okay, the last one doesn’t exist, but I think you follow me.

The current environment, where weather delays, misplaced bags, a surly gate agent or a sideways glance from a flight attendant sends passengers raging on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter or a letter to the Department of Transportation, makes consistent customer service a challenge. It’s so difficult that a major carrier has set 28% as its goal for customer satisfaction. They are either discounting the other 72% as not particularly valid complaints or they only think they can only make 28% of their travelers happy. And that’s the goal, not necessarily what is actually happening. Either way, it’s not a good story.

Most businesses – dare I say any – struggle with customer service issues when the number of employees in contact with customers increases. Look at the recent press on the Comcast phone call. I know someone who supervises customer service agents at Comcast and that’s not the type of service you would get on her watch – if she knows about it. However, she can’t control what happens with every individual, on every call. Airlines have tens of thousands of employees. A great plan for phenomenal customer service in Dallas might not translate to that overworked gate agent in Scranton when one flight is delayed for weather, there is a creeping mechanical delay on another, a flight crew went illegal on their hours to cancel yet another and all she has is a mass of screaming, unhappy passengers in front of her.

All she can do is communicate facts, stay calm, keep them updated and be empathetic. Will that please 50% of them? 28% of them?

When we can get to the one on one interaction, where most of what is happening is under our control, we can get pretty close to 100% satisfaction with our customers if we do the basics: communicate facts, stay calm, stay in touch, be empathetic. In the real estate business there is much that is out of our control when it comes to the loan funding, the behaviors of the party on the other side of the transaction, the unexpected news at a home inspection. We can still keep our customers satisfied and feeling valued when we communicate facts, stay calm, stay in touch and are empathetic.

We don’t have dozens of angry passengers screaming at us, when making 28% of them happy would seem impossible, but we do have one or two clients in front of us who might be making a lifetime investment and are scared to death when they hear their loan approval is delayed. My goal is 100% customer satisfaction by not only going beyond expectations, by delighting my clients, but by doing the basics: communicating facts, staying calm, staying in touch and being empathetic.

Come to think of it, that could work in our personal relationships as well as our professional ones. Think about applying that to your partner, spouse, sibling, parent, child, friend, insert-relationship-here.

Communicate facts, stay calm, stay in touch, be empathetic.

Guaranteed to keep more than 28% satisfied and engaged.