Recently I witnessed first-hand the importance of being found whenever someone goes searching for services. A friend of mine lost her mother years ago, and just a few weeks ago, her father passed. Now she is left to wind up the estate as executor, and she has to sell a house.
Now, you might think that selling real estate is completely different and possibly even unrelated to dry cleaning, but the process of researching a service provider and choosing one is identical, regardless the industry. Follow along.
My friend began her search by asking her friends if they knew any realtors that could be recommended to her. She used to live in this city years ago, but had moved away and began her life elsewhere. She has already bought and sold property where she currently lives, so she is not a complete stranger to the process. But because she lives a thousand plus miles away, has no permanent reliable ties to this local market and her close personal social network is now at her adopted home, she really doesn’t have a reliable social network here where she has to sell a property and wind down affairs.
So, now my friend has a list of names, but no personal experience with any of the realtors recommended to her. She now does what most people do, begins a process of ‘checking out’ the list of people she has been given.
Her first stop is good old Google. She types in the names of the realtors she has one at a time and begins to read through the search results.
Of course, not every real estate firm or real estate agent has been keeping their online profiles updated. Information that was relayed personally as an accomplishment or a positive attribute now appears as an embellishment or outright lie. Worse yet, dated information that is no longer relevant is still out there because nobody, either the realtor or the firm, has bothered to take the little time needed to have old outdated information deleted, removed or updated. This old information clouds current information, confusing the potential client, making what should be a fairly straightforward process more complicated and confusing.
Sad to say, good realtors that have been focusing on their profession were eliminated from my friend’s consideration simply because they did not have much of an online presence. My friend’s reasoning for eliminating these realtors was: ‘If these people cannot be found online, they must not be any good. Performers who get results are usually bragged up by their firms and clients and that, of course, would mean some sort of coverage that would get picked up by search engines.’ I know some of the Realtors as they are former customers of mine from when I had my dry cleaning shop and I know some of these Realtors are not internet savvy, they tend to spend a lot of time networking face to face, making deals, moving houses and getting the job done for their clients, they simply do not invest much time in creating an online profile as their efforts are better rewarded via their networking. I witnessed a number of good Realtors get passed over simply because they didn’t show up in a google search.
The Realtors that did show up in search results went through a more in depth screening process. My friend went to reputation web sites and began looking for feedback left by former customers and clients about their transaction with some of these realtors. Of course, nobody satisfies EVERY customer and client, so there were some bad reviews mixed in with good reviews. My friend read a lot of reviews. What was interesting was HOW she gave weight, or completely dismissed a review that was left. Glowing reviews praising a certain Realtor were discounted as either a friend of the Realtor, or perhaps fake, or just ‘too good to be true’ to be believed. Yet, other reviews that were highly critical of a Realtor were reasoned to have likely been left by some overly demanding nut case that likely couldn’t be satisfied by anyone. I found it rather interesting that my friend didn’t try looking up or researching the people who left reviews, they were simply taken or dismissed at face value. So to sum up, overly positive reviews were dismissed, as were overly negative reviews. The middle of the road reviews seemed to be given the most credibility and form the basis of her preferences.
From those names that survived the Google search test, and the reputation checks, a short list was left. From those few names, a further round of asking what friends still remained and neighbors of her father, personal meetings were scheduled for final interviews. Finally, one name withstood all the research and the decision of who to go with was made.
But, even after all this ‘process’, one would think there would be a happy ending, the property sold and everyone left happily ever after. Well, no.
Despite the decision being made of whom to go with, this is just the start of the process of doing business. Despite a Realtor being chosen, there is still ‘probation’ between client and service provider. You see, a decision is still only a decision. Unless you have a signature on an ironclad contract (and I have never seen a cleaner put any customer under contract unless they were renting uniforms), the customer can still go to any other competitor out there. In fact, we dry cleaners are pretty much only as good as the orders we have hanging in inventory because once a customer comes in and picks up their clothes, the customer is free to go to any other cleaner out there they want to. That’s right, every customer that leaves your store is free to go wherever they want with their next order.
So, we have to establish a relationship, form elements of trust and that occurs by meeting deadlines, keeping our word and our promises, delivering quality service in a timely manner and being professional. And despite doing our jobs and our work, even to a 100 percent success rate and then some, customers are STILL free to leave us at any time.
So, it all starts with the simple act of being found. If you’re not coming up in a very, very, very simple search engine search, you are likely to be eliminated from the pool of possible service providers at the outset. Then, if you do not have enough of a reputation to come up on a prospective customer’s radar, you can be passed over. Don’t fret about a few blemishes on your reputation and certainly don’t focus on having a 100 percent spotless reputation, customers are smart, and human, meaning they will balance out the whackos and the outright blatant BS of a perfect record (because NOBODY is perfect!). Finally, you should have enough of an online presence between social media and a web site so as to have a rudimentary sales funnel in place to steer prospective customers into a process of converting them from a suspect customer, into a prospective customer and close them to become a customer. Finally, from there, you can get to work on slipping golden handcuffs onto the ‘good’ customers that return again and again as regular customers.