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Commentary by Cliff Baird

RISMEDIA, Dec. 7, 2007-I have been in this exciting business for over 30 years and have attended many seminars and read many articles on the importance of customer service. All of them have shared a plethora of excellent ideas, thoughts and principles. But a few days ago I was privileged to be part of a corporate session of the Leader’s Choice Real Estate Training Courses. This particular gathering was the quarterly evaluation of goal attainment with the current trainers and also the audition of new trainers.

I especially listened intently as Mark Leader encouraged his trainers to continue to focus on the essential need to provide excellence in customer service. His talk was noticeably devoid of the usual “quid pro quo” benefits of personal gain and corporate success. Rather, it harnessed a “value proposition” with true integrity and positioned the concept of service exactly where it should be for all of us.

He told the story of “Mrs. Weber.” Apparently when Mark and his older brother Chris were teenagers they often helped their father Harvey in their clothing store in Barrie, Ontario. Their dad had worked at several jobs and finally he had developed a successful family enterprise. He was constantly teaching and training his sons in every aspect of the business and most important in their development was the treatment of the customer.

One particular customer, Mrs. Weber, a very wealthy lady would frequent the store regularly and spend a considerable amount each time. Needless to say Harvey looked forward to seeing her as her purchases would often total the daily sales on regular days. Mark was on duty when she arrived one fateful day. After a time of searching throughout the store Mrs. Weber left without any purchases. Harvey had picked up that she seemed upset with Mark who does not recall why she was upset to this day. But he will never forget the next couple of hours as they are imbedded in his memory forever.

As they were closing the store, Harvey asked Mark if he wanted to go and get the new hockey stick he needed. Later on while holding the stick Harvey asked Mark if he had the money to pay for it. Mark was shocked and told his father that he thought he was paying for it. After some dialogue about the payment, Harvey took Mark aside and told his young son to never forget what he was about to hear. Harvey seized the moment to tell Mark that he didn’t pay for it …Mrs. Weber did. In fact it was all the “Mrs. Webers'” who paid for their lovely home, the family cars and the food on their table every day. He instilled in young Mark that it was customers that paid all their bills and gave the family a great lifestyle. Mark never forgot that conversation and it is the foundational philosophy of his company.

Feed, Clothe and House…such a simple concept but it will keep us on track. If we live our lives embracing this philosophy it will prevent us from swelling up with the obnoxious pride which will inevitably come by too much indulgence in our own marketing materials.

Before you ask for a referral you must give the client something. The law of give and receive is alive and well. The dynamic of reciprocity is a function in our society that works. Most individuals feel the necessity, if not the obligation, to respond to any legitimate request. The secret to getting the response you want is to give the client what they want. What do they want? They want timely communication. They want your undivided attention. They want your honesty and integrity. They want to feel special. They want to know you are working diligently in their best interest. Simply put, they want exactly what you would want if the roles were reversed. You will always provide that to them when you remember that they feed, clothe and house you and your family. Referrals will be the natural compensation.

Cliff Baird, MBA, PhD, is a business therapist and real estate sales management coach, helping agents and managers for over 25 years. He recently introduced ReSTAR (Real Estate Sales Temperament and Aptitude Report) a customized, online recruiting program for brokers and managers.