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Recently I tried to use my corporate American Express card while on a business trip to New York City. I tried to pay for a taxi, but it was declined. I ran it through twice to make sure it wasn’t “operator error.” Although I was positive that the card wasn’t frozen for lack of payment, it was a bit embarrassing, and I could feel the judgmental eyes of the cabbie glaring at me. Of course, being pulled over, with traffic backed up and horns blaring, just added to the intensity of the situation. Thankfully I had cash, paid a larger than deserved tip and hastily made my way out of the cab. That isn’t the end of the story.

I quickly called the toll-free number on the back of the card and spoke with a customer service rep. I wish I had his name, but I didn’t expect to need to remember it later. Rather than being greeted with the DMV-style voice/tone that we’ve come to expect when calling customer service, he was inviting and empathetic… it was actually a bit disarming. He said things like “You are a valued customer” and “How may I serve you?” rather than the standard “Thank you for calling. How may I help you?”

The fact that he used the word “serve” struck a chord—not because I feel the need to be served, but because of what the word infers. There is a reason that the employees at Chick-fil-A are trained to say “How may I serve you?” and “My pleasure.” It’s because words matter.

When a customer service rep offers to help someone, he is agreeing that there is a problem (which was likely caused by the company), and he is implying that the client needs his help to resolve said issue. Neither of those responses is positive.

“How may I serve you?” has a completely different feel to it. It may be semantics, but his word choice changed the tone and trajectory of our conversation. It made me feel that he was on my side, that he wanted to make it right, and that we were going to figure this out together. In that moment, I went from frustrated business traveler to a “valued customer” with a friend on the “inside.”

What is your mentality with your real estate clients? Do you see yourself as helping them? Servicing them? Or truly serving them?

The best way to serve your clients in real estate is to keep your focus on what is right for them.

Here are some examples of service versus help:

Service – Understand that you couldn’t be successful without this client.
Help – Have a mindset that the client couldn’t do this without you.

Service – Welcome questions, as that shows engagement.
Help – Have a set idea of how long a conversation should be or how many questions a client should ask.

Service – Think of only what is best for your client. Period. Your client doesn’t care that you are getting a bonus for selling that house. They want a house that is a perfect fit for their needs, not yours. Think of the old police adage “To Protect and Serve.”
Help – Think about the quickest way to get the transaction closed.

Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (LeadingRE) is a service organization first. Our clients are the top independent real estate brokerages in the world. While we offer a referral network, vendor relationships and proprietary platforms, service to our members always comes first, and we are guided by our mantra of Making the Best Brokerages BetterSM.

We vet and hire the right people, but we also invest resources in the ongoing development of our employees. We never lose sight of the fact that serving our members is our reason for existing as company.

The next time you go to meet a client for the first time, try a service mentality, and maybe even go as far as saying the words out loud: “How may I serve you?” You’ll experience positive results and will be glad that you did.

For more information on LeadingRE, visit www.LeadingRE.com.

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