Complaints – Crisis or Opportunity?
Even winners upset people from time to time. Winners speak to scores of people in a working week. The Law of Averages works for and against them. When you speak with many potential clients, you are going to meet some who are a delight. With others you won’t get along. Perhaps you just caught these people on a bad day, or perhaps they aren’t very nice people, but when you speak with lots of people the chances of offending are higher.
Whether it is with potential sellers, and winners constantly look out for new business, buyers, or existing sellers, winners know that somebody is going to be unhappy occasionally. When handled correctly, however, complaints are an opportunity, not a crisis.
How to Handle Complaints
Here are the steps a winner used to handle a complaint from a seller whose property had not sold.
Hear them out. Don’t interrupt. Ever. Show the client that you are listening by saying such things as, “You’ve got a point there,” but let the clients say all that they want to say. This could take a while, so be prepared to stay silent for as long as it takes for the clients to say what they want to say.
Don’t take it personally. Remind the clients that you are on their side. You both want to see the clients happy. Thank them for giving you the opportunity to talk about this. Point out that although they are upset, you appreciate the fact that they chose to talk with you personally about this. Many clients wouldn’t be so forthright.
Ask what they would like to see happen – “How can I make you happy?” Here your clients tell you the solution that would satisfy them. Often it is something you can deliver, sometimes it isn’t. If you can give them what they want, do so immediately. End of complaint. Now you have a client who is grateful that you acted so quickly.
Feed both the problem and the clients’ desired solution back to them. You do this for two reasons. The first reason is that you want to be sure that you understand the problem from the clients’ points of view and to be sure that you also understand the clients’ preferred solution. The second reason is that you want the clients to see that you have listened and are making every effort to understand and satisfy them.
Question both the problem and the solution. “Let me be sure that I’ve got this right. You say that you want to sell and are angry we haven’t sold the property yet, is that correct?” Here you have questioned the problem. “And you would be very happy if we sold the property for you, is that right?” Now you have questioned the solution. “You say that you believe that your property hasn’t sold because we haven’t advertised it enough.
Is that a correct assessment of your concerns?” Get to the root of the problem, and show the clients that you are trying to understand how they feel the problem should be solved. You don’t have to agree with the solution in order to question it. Your aim in this questioning stage is to understand what the clients are complaining about and how they would like to fix it. Your agreement with the clients’ proposed solution is unnecessary at this point.
If necessary, suggest alternative solutions. By these questions, and others that follow, you examine alternatives to the clients preferred solution. It is important to remember that you are the real estate expert. If the clients are, as in this example, insisting on more advertising, the onus is on you to provide a solution to the clients problem – a solution that may be far removed from what the clients say they want. You need to propose your solution tactfully, but firmly. Remember, there is a big difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness.
Begin your proposal by asking the clients whether they believe that you have their best interests at heart. Tell them that your office is making many sales at the moment, and that you have a solution to their problem, which you now recap: “Let me get this right, you want to sell your house, it’s not advertising that you want, but a sale. That’s it, isn’t it?” Then you put forward your proposal, which could be a reduction in the asking price. Explain why it is impossible to under-sell a property if it’s priced properly.
Great leaders force their salespeople to face complaints and to work on positive outcomes for their clients. Every team member needs to learn how to handle complaints and how to turn them into an opportunity to delight clients. If they won’t learn, you have to force them. This is no easy task. Most salespeople avoid complaints. It’s bad enough to avoid them by ducking for cover and passing them to the leader – at least you will have a chance to wow the client. But what about the complaints you never hear because your salespeople avoid situations with conflict potential? I’m talking about the ‘courage tasks’ – prospecting, asking for adjustments to the asking price, delivering feedback after inspections – you know the ones I mean. If team members avoid these tasks they may not get complaints, or you may never hear the complaints even if there are any, but the salesperson won’t achieve many results either. Teach them how to handle complaints well – to turn complaints from crisis to opportunity – your office’s results will climb, and so will your company’s overall level of client satisfaction.
Nobody is perfect. You are allowed to make some mistakes. Remember that. If a client complains, welcome the complaint, genuinely apologise if you are in the wrong, and then make sure that what follows is a positive solution that will solve the clients’ problem.