June 18, 2018

How to Build a Client-Centric Culture

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How to Build a Client-Centric Culture

Learn techniques for putting clients first and how they’re garnering results for broker-owners across North America.

It seems too obvious: In real estate, put clients first. But sometimes the day-to-day grind can distract from this mantra.

Broker-owners across the nation recognize the importance of prioritizing clients’ best interests as a foundation for their agency culture. In resurging markets across the country, agency leaders are sharing their tips for keeping clients’ needs as their unwavering North Star.

Part one of this four-part series kicks off with Joseph and JoAnn Callaway, broker-owners of Those Callaways in Scottsdale, Ariz., sharing insights on how to put clients’ best interests at the heart of their business.

Be Committed

When it comes to putting clients first, Joseph and JoAnn Callaway literally wrote the book on it: Clients First: The Two Word Miracle (Wiley, 2012).

The Callaways say their philosophy of making clients’ needs their own helped them sell $1 billion in real estate over 10 years. It isn’t a gimmick, but more of an “interpersonal art,” they say. The approach permeates the actions of their whole team and creates an atmosphere of trust with clients.

“If you commit to clients first, the challenges melt away,” Joseph Callaway says.

Part two: Patricia Choi, president and principal of Choi International in Honolulu talks about how consistency and southern hospitality have helped her build a client-centric brokerage.

Part three: Kelly Yock and Steve Nassar of Premiere Property Group in Portland, Ore., talk about how freeing up agents' time allows them to build better customer relationships.

Part four: Find out why Nelson Goulart, broker-owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Signature Service outside Toronto, swears by the power of ratings and reviews.

Most of the Callaways’ team has been with them for 15 years. Everyone has a copy of their book, which focuses on three core principles as the key to putting clients first: honesty, competency, and caring. They have created a contagious culture that even seeps into the attitude of the vendors the Callaways have been working with for years, such as contractors, roofers, and title companies, says JoAnn Callaway.

They reinforce the clients-first mantra by teaching team members to answer every client question with this underlying thinking: What’s best for the client? It’s now to the point where agents go to Joseph or JoAnn with a question, only to stop themselves and say, “Oh, I know! What’s best for the client.”

“We set the expectations and everyone lives up to them,” Joseph says. “I’ve had people who don’t have interpersonal skills and then all of a sudden they do, by adopting a clients-first [attitude].”

The Callaways also stress the importance of listening for 50 percent of time spent with clients. This gives agents the chance to find new opportunities to care for their clients.

For example, a young couple was on a tight budget to buy a home and also planning a wedding, so the Callaways worked with their own marketing vendors to design and print wedding invitations for the couple.

Joseph says they make an effort to put themselves in their clients’ shoes. “Whatever their needs and dreams are, we make ours,” he says.

While honesty and caring are demonstrated more in the moment, competency takes hard work outside of the transaction. So the Callaways bring in experts to keep their agency up to speed on the latest policies and trends in real estate.

Most of their marketing efforts simply focus on building relationships with clients: cards for every birthday and holiday, an e-mail update on what’s going on in the couple’s personal life, and contests with prizes. Their most recent 4th of July contest asked clients to guess how many digital devices the Callaways’ entire staff had among them. The answer was 183 and the prize was a mixer.

Of course, difficult people and situations are inevitable, but time and again the Callaways see the fruits of the effort, if not immediately.

They say they can count on two hands the number of challenging customers who have made their job really difficult. And despite common advice telling practitioners to fire troublesome prospects, the Callaways have never walked away from a client.

Joseph says difficult clients often turn out to be the most appreciative and the biggest source of new clients for the Callaways.

“It’s not the easy job you did, it’s the hard job that makes the biggest fans and gives us the most praise,” he says.

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