Real Estate Customer Service: Best Practices for Serving Your Customers Effectively

Real estate is, at heart, a service business. You're not really selling property; you're selling your wisdom, experience, and professional judgment.

This has never been truer than it is in the age of Zillow. Clients don't need you for access to listings – not anymore. They do need you to find the right listing for them. And once you've found it, they'll need help navigating the overwhelming process of securing that perfect home.

The most successful real estate agents understand the value of these services and dedicate themselves to building relationships and personalizing their services.

In honor of "Get to Know Your Customers Day" (April 15th), let's take the opportunity to explore this part of the business. Below, you'll find the best practices in real estate customer service.

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Best Practice #1: Pick a Niche and Become an Expert

"Niching down" is common wisdom in real estate, and for good reason. It reduces competition with other agents, makes the most of your advertising dollars, and allows you to build expertise for a specific kind of client.

The last part is the key when we're talking about customer service.

A niche is the best shortcut for "getting to know your customers." When you become an expert in a certain type of real estate, you have more value to offer clients that fall within your specialty.

There are many ways to ethically niche down and refine your specialty, but do your homework and make sure you're not engaged in advertising or prospecting that violates the Fair Housing Act.

Best Practice #2: Understand the Individual and Remember Their Preferences

A niche may give you a head start, but no two clients are exactly alike. Each one has different needs and requirements, and you can only serve them well if you find out what those are.

There's no faster way to frustrate a client than continually missing the mark with your suggestions.  And that will happen if you assume the client's priorities and desires fit some generic mold.

Maybe you have an amazing memory for everyone's life story. But even if you don't, you can build a system for tracking their preferences and reminding yourself. In fact, taking notes can be a great way to demonstrate that you take your clients' specific needs seriously.

First things first: keep track of what each client says they need or want, then take that list into account for every property you show them. It's also a good idea to refresh your memory of what you know before each meeting.

Best Practice #3: Probe a Little Deeper

If you're having trouble finding properties that make your clients' eyes light up, it's time to tap into your inner three-year-old.

Start asking "Why?" and don't stop until you've gotten to the bottom of things.

Sometimes a client's idea of what they want or need is flawed or incomplete. When you dig into why a particular item is on their wish list, you may find ways to meet their desire or need beyond their specific request.

You don't have to wait until you're desperate to employ this technique, either. Helping clients refine their vision based on their input is an excellent service to provide. It's another way to apply your experience and add value.

Best Practice #4: Don't Pass Judgment or Make Assumptions

While you're probing and refining, make sure you're respecting their opinions and desires. Best practice is to guide and suggest – don't push and presume.

If a young couple tells you they don't intend to have kids, don't make suggestions about a nursery "just in case they change their mind." If someone's dead set on city living, don't waste their time on houses in the suburbs. If a client tells you they have a firm budget, don't push too far outside those lines.

Best Practice #5: Keep Clients in the Loop

Clients should never have to wonder where you've gone or when they're going to hear from you, much less what exactly you're doing for them.

The best practice is to set expectations and keep them. Communicate often, using their preferred methods. Explain what you're doing to serve their interests, especially when it's not something they can see first-hand.

When in doubt, the key to real estate customer service is to err on the side of too much information, not too little.

Best Practice #6: Help Clients Help Themselves

One of the best practices for proving the value of your real estate services early on is to empower clients with the information they need.

Home buying is a complicated process and very little of it is truly "common knowledge." Offering bits and pieces of your expertise for free is a great way to build trust with prospective clients, especially early on in the process.

That's why educating yourself on how to efficiently serve clients with online tools will pay dividends.

You can start throwing potential clients a lifeline before they even know you exist – the best bait for gathering leads is often information that will help your ideal prospects get started on their journey.

Once your initial lead magnet reels them in, you can use educational resources to nurture those leads. Sharing resources through social media, blog posts, and email can create a following among clients that aren't quite ready to hire an agent. When it's time to choose, they'll remember the agent that provided "free" customer service far more fondly than the ones that spammed them with self-promotion.

Target the resources you offer towards your target clientele. Think about the questions clients typically ask or the misconceptions you encounter throughout the process.

If your niche is new homeowners, you might consider materials that explain closing costs. If you're a seller's agent, you can help them understand the home inspection and appraisal processes.

If you work with real estate investors, you can wow them with your understanding of tax-favorable real estate transactions.

Best Practice #7: Your Customer Service is Only as Good as Your Real Estate Knowledge

As a real estate agent, you're selling knowledge and expertise – but these days, your clients have easy knowledge at their fingertips. They want advice and information they can't find on Google.

To succeed, you need to constantly up your game and expand your knowledge. One way to do that is to make the most of your Continuing Education requirements. Make the most of your time with online, self-paced curriculum that you can access on your mobile, and focus on real estate courses that will directly benefit your clients, teach you new aspects of the business, and help you provide superior customer service.

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