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With a strong sense of service, your client relationships can hold up even when transactions take a long time or stall out all together.

Clients expect more from you in a tough market. They evaluate you from the moment of your first phone call or meeting, and they’re still weighing highs against lows even beyond the closing table.

Ask yourself whether you’re doing all you can to help them achieve their goals. And engage them throughout the home-buying or -selling process to determine whether they see it that way, because it’s their opinion that matters in the end.

I’m immensely proud to share that RE/MAX earned both the buyer and seller awards this year for overall satisfaction in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Home Buyer/Seller StudySM. The real honor is that the recognition comes straight from the consumers—the most important people in any real estate transaction.

Here are some key elements to building an award-winning customer-satisfaction track record:

Be There
You have many reasons and opportunities to connect with clients during a transaction. Ask your buyers and sellers about their communication expectations early on, including how they want to stay in touch and how often they want to hear from you. You may be most comfortable picking up the phone, but your clients may prefer email or text message. While some clients want to hear from you daily, others want less frequent updates.

Rally the Troops
Whether you’re an individual agent who relies on the staff at the office to greet clients or you’re a team leader who’s hired your own support staff, make sure your standards of service are being met at all times. Perhaps you can’t be available to every client at every moment, but the reality is that someone should be. Constantly evaluate whether your support team is representing you appropriately. Check in with your clients after they’ve contacted someone on your team to make sure their questions and concerns were addressed. It never hurts to ask whether they feel the person they spoke with took good care of them. If problems emerge, address them in a quick, professional manner.

Be Confident
People respect professionals who are confident in demonstrating their knowledge and expertise. Whether the market is up or down, buyers and sellers are nervous, and dealing with an agent who second-guesses every move and decision doesn’t help. That doesn’t mean “stick to your guns at all costs,” but be sure in your educated opinions. Your confidence will pay off when responding to objections of buyers and sellers; when negotiating the terms of a sale or service contract; when adjusting pricing on a tough listing; when choosing homes to list and show. The steadier you are through these and other stages of a transaction, the easier it will be for your clients to understand and heed your recommendations when it is time to change course.

Use these themes as a roadmap to evaluate your existing customer service plan. No adjustment in favor of the customer is too small, especially for the buyer or seller who benefits. It’s the little considerations that can add up to big results.

Margaret Kelly (CRB) is chief executive officer of RE/MAX.

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