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Disgruntled Clients (and How to Grow From Them)
by David Brauner, Senior Broker at OREP.org
You may think I’m crazy but I love customer feedback—good and bad. Enjoying positive feedback should go without saying: we all want to make a positive impact in the world—but the negative feedback too? Why on earth would we want that? In my experience, negative feedback is golden! It’s like finding a $100 bill on the street—and here’s why.
Feedback is the best way to understand your own business. The customer’s experience is what pays the bills. For us at OREP, it means listening to our insurance clients. For many of you, it might be listening to a homebuyer or real estate agent who reviews your reports and finds something confusing or not helpful. When you’re wearing many hats, trying to run a small business—home inspector, marketer, IT guru, accountant, etc.—it’s hard to take the time. But that’s how you extract the gold from the rough lump of feedback: listen, consider and then fix whatever needs fixing. I know, simple right? It is and it isn’t. It requires taking a breath when you’re often too busy to breathe and refraining from a kneejerk defensive response when you’re in a pressure cooker of a day.
At OREP, we have a lot of clients, real estate appraisers and home inspectors, and honestly we get many positive comments every single day. I still enjoy and appreciate every one. I see just about every email that comes into our company and have for the 18 plus years we’ve been serving appraisers and home inspectors. When an OREP agent is called out in particularly glowing terms by a client, I send it around for everyone to appreciate—it makes me proud of them and proud of our business. When a critical comment comes in, I try to always follow these three steps: listen, consider and improve, if possible.
Recently, we began using an automated one-to-five star rating system (Blipp Reviews) for customers; it also provides space for feedback, in addition to the star rating. I review every one of these. I love it but I have to admit I was hesitant at first because I dislike most surveys (many seem to be trying to get my data or sell me something). I seldom review anything and typically only if it’s positive. I figure OREP insureds feel pretty much the same way. Well, it turns out we get a fairly high percentage of feedback and much of it very nice; we get a lot of 5-stars. Very few come in with actual written comments, and when they do, most are almost always constructive. Here’s how to turn a bad review into something positive.
Recently, a review came in that indicated the financing wasn’t clear and our insured had problems trying to get quoted for general liability insurance (GL). Interesting, I thought. We have thousands of clients every year who use our financing and I don’t recall ever hearing that the process is unclear. On the other hand, I seldom take those calls unless the issue can’t be resolved by the first person trying to handle it. But as I am saying, I believe things can always be improved and I try hard to keep an open mind.
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The Blipp Review system is new, so I considered that maybe there’s been a problem for a long time that I was never aware of. In other words, maybe the financing verbiage has been unclear for years! I called the client to find out. Regarding the financing confusion, they really had no specific feedback, which happens sometimes. They may just feel like it wasn’t good, but can’t tell you why specifically. I was prompted to take a look. Sure enough, the language did need some cleaning up. By the end of the day, a revised, more coherent set of instructions was in place on our website. Who knows how many people over the years had “friction” when trying to finance, instead of the seamless experience we strive for at OREP (think Amazon). And the added bonus going forward of the clearer instructions is, of course, the many calls that our clients will not have to make and that we will not have to answer—saving everyone time and money. Yeah!
Regarding the General Liability (GL) issue, the insured was a real estate appraiser who said the industry standard GL application was too complex and that he didn’t feel like he got the help he needed in figuring it out. I happen to agree that the standard GL application is confusing but that is not something we can change. I did speak to the OREP agent in question, who is VERY patient and I was satisfied they did their best. Looking at the database I could see multiple, timely return contacts to the client by phone and email. So I called the client back.
I asked the appraiser/insured why they needed a standalone GL policy in the first place. A full commercial GL policy provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage (BIPD) for the subject property walk-through that appraisers do, and also for an insured’s own business office, if they have one. However, his OREP E&O policy includes BIPD when at the subject property—just like the one OREP has for home inspectors. Did he have his own office that needed the expanded GL coverage? It turns out the insured had a home office, not a separate office space out-side of his home, and didn’t need the full commercial GL policy after all. He already had the coverage he needed, included free! He therefore saved $200–$500 because he got all the coverage he needed in one policy. Was he happy? You bet. I think. I’m safe in saying we reversed the client’s experience from negative to positive, with the bonus of improving our processes. Was I gratified? You bet.
Don’t get me wrong; not every one of our customers is always right and neither are yours, but I find that they almost always have some kernel of advice worth considering, if I can keep an open mind and stop to listen. If you take a call from a client who can’t understand something about your report, it’s a sure bet they are not alone. Maybe you can cut down on call backs, questions and even liability issues with clearer reporting. Maybe you’ll get more referrals too. Maybe a clearer and more friction-less process at your point of sale can improve your close rate and bottom line. If someone sounds irritated at your explanation of services and pricing, maybe something is not clear. Let a little bell go off in your head when this happens and circle back to see if anything can be improved when you have time.
When you face criticism, it’s good practice to take a breath (rather than getting defensive) and realize you’re being handed an opportunity. Really. Someone is taking the time to help you improve. Listen to the issue and consider its validity. If you need to make a change, do it! If you don’t, move on and feel good you investigated. Very rarely do I find that “negative” feedback isn’t helpful in some way, if we can listen and consider and change.
About the Author
David Brauner is Senior Broker at OREP, a leading provider of E&O Insurance for home inspectors and other real estate professionals in 50 states (OREP.org). He has provided E&O insurance to home inspectors for over 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) 347-5273. OREP–Organization of Real Estate Professionals Insurance, LLC. California Lic. #0K99465.
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Presenter: David Brauner, Senior Insurance Broker OREP
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