Should I go to Italy or Should I Serve My Customer?

I used to put all realtors and mobsters in the same group. Now it’s just some of them.

In 2002 I received a new assignment in the Army. We were moving to Fort Hood, Texas, one of the largest military installations in the United States, and knew that we needed to find a home to live in. While there is military housing available on Fort Hood it was old and less than desirable.

We found a realtor who served that part of central Texas and arranged flights and hotels for my wife and I to go to the Fort Hood area for four days to look at houses. We were really looking forward to the trip because of the impact it would have on our family, the opportunity to learn about the area and to visit family in Austin, just to the south.

We talked with our newfound realtor about the things we wanted in a home and about the dates we would be in town. We arrived and spent the first evening with my cousin and the next day we started the house search. There is nothing like a deadline to motivate your decision making, we just didn’t understand how short of a deadline it really was.

We looked at about 15 houses in three different cities that first day and then went back to the realtor’s office thinking about what we had seen and the next few days. She then asked if we were ready to make an offer because she was flying to Italy that night and would not be able to help us over the remaining three days of our house-hunting trip.

WHAT? YOU’RE LEAVING US? WE’RE HERE FOR THREE MORE DAYS!

Maybe I was jumping to conclusions and flying off the handle. Maybe she did decide just that day to leave for Italy for a week…but probably not. There are those who have the money and time to decide to leave for Europe at the drop of a fedora, but she was not in that boat. Even if she was, she made commitments to us, her customers, who spent our precious money and time to be with her.

This was just the most egregious of the sins some of our realtors had committed as we moved around the world. She is also the primary reason I combined realtors and mobsters into one undesirable group.

Let me share two examples from the other end of the spectrum.

When we retired from the Army and moved to Utah in 2011, I knew we needed to break that cycle. The way we did was to ask my youngest sister for a referral to a trusted realtor. Because we did that, we had a wonderful experience and love the home that Marilee helped us find. She learned what we needed and she focused on us, not on her trip away.

When our daughter and son-in-law decided to buy a home, we gave them Jaci’s name as the realtor to work with for the area they were looking at. Their experience with Jaci was as good as our experience with Marilee.

The difference was the focus. Our Texas realtor was focused on herself while Marilee was focused on us and Jaci was focused on our daughter.

There are three ways to make money: coercion, manipulation and service.

The IRS is the best example of coercion. Our Texas experience was an obvious example of manipulation and our Utah experiences are great examples of service.

Service is the only long-term way for any business to stay in business. Customers know where they are being abused and will go elsewhere the next time they need that offering.

While it didn’t take a well-tuned BS Meter to see we were being used in Texas, we all have BS Meters and love to tell painful stories about business manipulation.

Help your customers tell great stories about you by offering exceptional customer-centered service.