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Good for Business
by David Brauner, Senior Broker at OREP.org
Great reviews can be good for business—just ask Yelp. But “negative” feedback also can propel your business success—if you pay attention to it. Let me explain why.
Good companies, even those with a staff of one, can benefit from negative feedback and even criticism. When we’re too busy or struggling, the impulse may be to not take criticism to heart. Staying positive while you forge ahead may seem like self-preservation…and it probably is—I’ve been there. But while you shouldn’t let criticism defeat you, you shouldn’t ignore it either. Taking the time to take a clear-eyed look at client feedback is good for business.
OREP set up BlippReviews, an automated customer review system, as a way to encourage client feedback and measure how we’re doing. The good, bad and the ugly. It works! This may not make sense for your company right now but when feedback in any form is offered, make up your mind to not ignore it because it’s valuable. If you’re busy, make a note and set it aside for when you have the time and patience to review it. Maybe you can schedule an hour a week dedicated for this; just giving it some thought on the drive home or in the shower can be all it takes to evaluate the validity. A good part of this involves taming our egos and resisting the impulse to be defensive. We all know people who believe that everyone else is the idiot. That’s not good for business.
And not all criticism/feedback is obvious. Keep your ears attuned and your radar on because feedback can be subtle. Sometimes it’s in the form of a question, such as this from years ago: “Did you receive my renewal application?” If you hear the same question over and over, like we did at one some point during our early expansion, figuring out how to fix the issue will save you time by not having to answer it over and over, while creating a much better experience for your clients— which is good for business. Do you hear any recurring complaints or questions?
In response to the question above, we set up an automated response to let insureds know that their application is received and to set expectations as to what happens next—to avoid that question. I know, “duh.” But if you don’t take the time to listen, review and act, even a simple fix like this…is never fixed. If it’s your business, the buck stops with you. No one else will do it if you don’t. That’s challenging but also exhilarating, especially if you’ve ever banged your head against the wall working for someone else.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all negative feedback is justified, reasonable or even fixable. You should sort this too. Before we had our own insurance program at OREP, we had to wait for quotes, policies and other documents from our underwriters. We had techniques to improve service but it was a thorn in our side until we got the underwriting control that we have now. What I told my staff back then is, that while you can not manufacture the insurance documents our clients want right then, you can return their calls/emails promptly. You can set proper expectations and lean on the underwriters for an expedited request: repeatedly if necessary. Know what you can fix and what you can’t. If you can’t fix your customer’s experience, can you at least improve it?
Also important is whether the problem is a “one-off” or part of a process or entire system that can be improved. Sometimes the fix involves reminding your staff or yourself about an already established procedure. Sometimes it’s simply human error and the circumstances surrounding it are unlikely to ever happen again. Sometimes, it’s something else. Did you forget to return the client’s call/email this one time or do you do it frequently? That’s not good for business. If something like that happens often, a simple solution like putting a sticky on your monitor or phone can work, such as: “Returns Calls” or “Smile.” It takes time and effort to form a new habit but once you do, it’s auto-pilot.
As mentioned, sometimes a complaint can lead to a fix that applies to every piece of business you handle; a routine or procedure that makes everything more efficient. You might realize that certain explanations or notes in your inspection report consistently prompt questions from clients or agents. Maybe there is a way to make these sections of your report clearer to the reader. Or you might notice that there’s a breakdown in your processes and you aren’t getting your pre-inspection agreement signed on every inspection (which increases your risk!). Are there “hints” in your day-to-day business that you can use to provide a better client experience, build stronger reports, and limit your liability?
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If I see an email from an anxious client waiting for a quote as their expiration draws near, my radar turns on because they might be losing business without proof of new coverage. What is their expiration date? Have they waited too long? Do we need more staffing? If I see in the file that they have a claim that requires additional underwriting from the carrier and that they just submitted their docs two days ago, I understand what’s going on. That it is not a system problem is resolved in my mind for now but not finished, for two reasons. First, we need to set up a reminder that the quote is still pending. And we also must acknowledge our client’s feedback. Responding to your client is another way of saying “thank you for your business.” And that’s good for business.
Ask yourself: if your expectations are not met by a service provider, but their explanation is timely and reasonable, aren’t you okay most of the time? If a mistake is involved, aren’t most of us willing to understand and accept that if the issue is fixed quickly and not repeated? In this case, I might also remind the agents that this type of question can be avoided by preparing clients with claims in advance, that their renewal process may take a few days longer than usual if they have a claim. This ultimately saves our clients and ourselves time. For my own part, I send periodic insurance bulletins reminding our insureds that if they have a claim or complaint, it’s best to submit renewal documents early. It’s good advice whether you’re an OREP insured or not.
Out of 400 total BlippReviews, OREP has enjoyed over 350 Five-Star reviews! And, yes, with a couple of “one and two stars” also (stuff happens). But kidding aside, a high level of customer satisfaction is not accidental—it takes focus. But it pays off. Happy clients mean better client retention (more money). Better procedures reduce mistakes and liability (less costly). And a tighter ship reduces the stress and workload also, which makes the staff happier and hopefully more patient, kind and courteous to clients, which is…good for business!
Most importantly perhaps is that it’s good for us as human beings. Enough studies and our own life experience are proof enough that we are happier when we like what we do, when what we do matters to us and when we believe we are helping others. Being happier and liking what we do is…well…good for business. That’s how and why suggestions, questions and negative feedback can translate to a more successful business and greater satisfaction.
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. Calif. Lic. #0K99465.
OREP/WRE Coronavirus Discussion and Resource Page
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Free Risk Management Online Course Claims and Complaints: How to Stay Out of Trouble
Presenter: David Brauner, Senior Insurance Broker OREP
David Brauner, Senior Broker at OREP, shares insights and advice gained over 25+ years of providing E&O insurance for inspectors, showing you how to protect yourself and your business. Watch Now!
Note: The Summer 2021 issue of Working RE Home Inspector is mailing now to over 25,000 home inspectors nationwide. OREP Insureds enjoy guaranteed delivery of each print magazine and many more benefits.