Talking customer experience with Sachin Pabari
The first in our guest blog series from some of the best names in property and proptech.
We’re lucky enough to have Sachin Pabari, CEO of Olivia (one of the best customer experience and customer qualification tools we’ve ever come across) to answer some of our hard-hitting questions on just what is customer service and why should it be a major focus for anyone in the property industry.
Over to you and thank you, Sachin…
What's your definition of customer experience?
Defining Customer Experience (CX) is difficult as the inputs are expectations, emotions and behaviour. But, a clear definition helps to know the goal and to start to understand what to measure. My definition:
Customer Experience is the magnitude you exceed customer expectations at every touch point with your company during their customer journey.
Neutral customer experience is when the customer leaves with their expectations met. Many think this is a great customer experience - it’s not! This is just the MINIMUM to stop customers from talking negatively about you.
Think about a great present, an amazing party or a brilliant birthday, you must have been surprised about a part of the experience, one or many touch points exceeded your expectations. How was this achieved? By the level of thought that went into your experience by the creator.
Quite simply, great CX is created by listening (quality of customer feedback) and putting thought into their experience.
Also and interestingly, the magnitude you outperform their expectations is directly correlated to how much people recommend your service. Think about when you had the most thoughtful present ever - you couldn’t wait to tell anyone you could about it.
Work on ways to surprise and be more thoughtful about your customer.
This is why Olivia is such a powerful tool, we surprise customers and always try to go the extra mile. They never expect a response within two minutes and they certainly never expect it to be a real person.
You need to consider the product or service not just at a functional level but the underlying needs and desires of their customers. For example, if I go to a restaurant I may be purchasing a good meal, but what is my real desire? A small break from my kids and time with my wife over a pleasant meal. The quality of the food is just one touch point in my whole experience, my greater desire is a temporary escape. I can find great food in a lot of places, but I will decide based on which meets my underlying needs at every touch point.
(Jumping in on this one from a property point of view - Sachin has just articulated what REAL estate agency is all about. Yes, you’re there to sell or let a property. But outstanding customer service is about solving your client's problems, taking their stress away, making their move as smooth as possible, educating them on a process you may take for granted, guiding them through a heavily emotional decision. If all you do is ‘get a result’ but left all that other stuff out, you haven’t done your job.)
Why does customer experience matter?
It affects the bottom line!
Invest in CX and your company will grow faster than your competitors. Read that again.
A research study from Forrester showed the companies with high customer experience ratings grow twice as fast as companies with a neutral CX rating.
Expectations have changed
Apple build products that consider the simplicity of the user experience, attending one of their stores is unlike any other. Amazon personalises and makes experiences as pain-free as possible. EE can send a customer success engineer with your device to unlock the full value of your purchase.
You may think what does Amazon, EE, Apple have to do with estate agency?
Well, they have shifted goal posts in what is outstanding CX, nearly every one of your customers will have experienced their services at some point, you need to make sure you are not the last through the door in adapting.
Everyone loves to share
CX matters most because at a deep level we need to share experiences, the more extreme the experience the more likely to share, good news travels fast and the bad news even faster.
We share incredibly fast thanks to the network effects of social media. Facebook and Instagram have gamified sharing and we play every day. Our reach is unfathomable, 100 years ago only an emperor could influence 1 million people, now you could be in your bedroom with great content and people will follow you. As recommendations and referrals are still the best largest provider of business in the estate agency sector, great CX gets customers to share experiences and is the cheapest and best form of marketing.
What does the future of customer experience look like?
There will be real-time tracking and changes made on the fly.
CX data tools are mainly just surveys built for looking backwards by that time it’s too late. We need to avoid a bad review at all costs, we all know that feeling of panic when you get one. I regularly see this in FB groups, we are not willing to invest in superior CX, because we haven’t properly quantified the risk of bad reviews and the reward of good reviews.
In the future, companies will adapt real time to a customer's needs based on much more predictive data than feedback. We will always rely on people to judge, assess and adapt to customer interactions, but we should be able to give more relevant and real-time data to help. Olivia plans to record every agent interaction, tag videos to build our knowledge base, increase service levels and evolve our product. We want to know real-time what is a great or poor interaction so we can react.
The more you train employees on the customer feedback, the better your staff will deliver exceptional CX.
I think agent matching by bots, where based on the tone, language and data collected in the initial conversation, the potential vendor is matched to the agent most likely to close based on historical data (this will be seriously cool).
Right now, I imagine in most big agencies it’s fairly random, an appraisal gets booked in with John who is 30 and likes rock climbing, yoga and uses millennial language. The Client is a family of 4 looking for a new home to build their future, is affluent and are city workers. The data should dictate which agent takes the valuation even if they have to travel from a different location.
Agencies will move to a central communication hub with CRM’s that are built to integrate. We should really only need a few interfaces, this will help to deliver much better customer experience. Teams should instantly know the history of conversations and adapt to still deliver great service. If Client X calls your business for an update and speaks to John, then WhatsApp and speaks to Kate and finally calls to speak to Tim, the experience should be consistent throughout. Front line communication systems like the email inbox or within your CRM are not built for great CX.
Where do you see the true improvements being made?
By extending estate agency client services to cover all the pain points when moving home.
Estate agency has been about just selling homes and mortgages, but the greater reality is you're in the business of moving people to the next chapter of their life.
In that context, there are so many pain points, stress arises from everywhere, estate agents will handle everything from point of listing to settling into your new home.
Packing, removal, organisation, finding the next home, design and decor of the new home, odd jobs to prepare the new home, a settling in package (shopping delivery, community discounts, gym discounts, etc) transferring bills, post, utilities etc all the little things that also contribute to the stress. Interview home sellers and all these things are included in a list of to do’s for them, the most stressful part of my business is the to-do list!
The future might be a long way off for some, what can companies do to serve their customers better right now?
Address the main problems with your CX immediately. From customers, we speak to and research undertaken here is the list of what they hate:
- Long Wait Response times.
Fix - GetOlivia :), Money Penny, Answer Connect, OneDome.
- Employees don’t understand customer needs.
Fix - Training on mission and culture. All customer feedback needs to be logged, monitored and made transparent.
- Unanswered Questions
Fix - Slack, Front and Intercom. Get team communication tools.
- Too much automation and not enough personal touch
Fix - Get all support tools on mobile for every employee. Phone or message first, keep automated emails for marketing not response, use WhatsApp, Olivia and Messenger to communicate with leads.
- Services are not personalised
Fix - Set-up a pre-market appraisal script and a post-market appraisal script. Collect the data and start to track any patterns or trends.
More importantly, map out your customer journey and all the company touch points. Get into the mindset of the client and with a blank slate, think only of what the customer needs (functionally and emotionally) at that touch point and the best way to deliver it.
Focus on feedback, surveys tools like Survey Monkey, Typeform and NPS software to collect scores are a good starting point, but lack deep insight. Follow up questions on the survey are great, but keep things to the point as no one wants to fill a long form. Conducting feedback interviews in person is gold dust and will shape your product,
“It’s always month one” is what I remind myself. In your first month of business you would be desperate for any customer feedback and that should never change.
Make calling for feedback a non-negotiable, initially one team member should own the whole process. The data should be made transparent and monitored over time.
As soon as someone completes with your Agency ask the following questions and obviously for a review. This is a starting point, adapt as you wish.
- What attracted you to our Agency over others?
- Did you have any concerns before signing up to our service?
- What do you wish we could have done differently during your time with us?
- Since signing as a client what has been the biggest benefit to you?
- If you could describe this Estate Agency X in one sentence, how would you describe it?
- What is your favourite part of our service?
- (Finally, the standard NPS) How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
Asking these questions consistently will help you improve your marketing, customer onboarding, service, messaging, value Proposition and referrals.
Ultimately, it’s not rocket science, build a closer relationship with your customer.
Finally, invest in the people that deliver the Experience.
Culture is the heartbeat of the company and all the employees have to be aligned. They have to subscribe to a mission that is greater than the transaction.
I can sense when this doesn’t happen a mile off, it just radiates that every single staff member cares about a bigger mission.
If you have a CX initiative involve the whole team, your front line staff will have as much or more input as the executive team
That’ll do from me. Thanks!
Wow. What an insight into customer experience and why it needs to at the top of your list when it comes to business success.
Thank you, Sachin! Let’s do this again.