This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com
The biggest difference between luxury and standard real estate properties is not window treatments or fancy decor ― it’s customer service. When I say ‘customer service’, the first thing a lot of people think of is “Hi, can I help you?”or getting stuck on the phone with a credit card company. Sure, that’s one way of thinking about customer service. But in ultra-luxury real estate, if you want to excel at serving the customer, it means making your client, customer, renter, or buyer feel as though they are the exclusive focus of all your efforts.
This lesson applies to any business. You have to learn to be a little clairvoyant. The best way to do that? Prep like crazy:
1. Google is your first impression.
Before Google, a handshake and ‘Hi, my name is Dan’ was how you made your first impression. Now, your search results are the virtual handshake. So, never underestimate the power of branding and marketing ― especially free branding and marketing. Your website and social media feeds will speak for you, so make sure that they are up-to-date and create a positive impression. Though this may not seem like it should fall under customer service, it absolutely does, because you won’t be getting any customers if you look bad online.
Google goes both ways. If you’re expecting a meeting with a big client or buyer, Google them and find out everything you can about them. We research our clients and takes notes of what they like to eat, drink, and do before they walk through our doors.
The more you know about who your clients are and what they value, the more you can get a feel for what type of real estate will be a perfect match. Additionally, creating a personal connection will enhance their customer service experience and create higher levels of overall satisfaction.
2. Create a niche for yourself.
I’m a huge proponent of sustainability. As one of the few developers in NYC with solar panels on my properties (which is the tallest building in NYC to have solar panels and an outdoor skating rink), I know the value of standing out.
Carving a special place in an industry will help you become more memorable and differentiate your services from the masses, making it more likely that you’ll receive clients through word of mouth, targeted online searches, and good press.
If you’re in a niche, you better know your industry better than anyone else. You should able to speak comparatively and authoritatively about whatever space you want to dominate through great customer service. You need to know what your competitors are doing before you can seek to deliver customer service even better than theirs.
3. Perks Work.
As a long-time New Yorker, I’ve definitely had my fair share of good restaurant experiences ― and horrible ones. What are some things that give me a sense that I’m being taken care of in a restaurant? Complimentary amuse bouche (bite-sized hors d’œuvre). A signature cocktail while I’m waiting for a table. Entrees that come quickly after the appetizers are cleared. Even if a dish ends up being lackluster, what the diner remembers is how the dinner made them feel. Little things like timing, charm, and effort still work, because nothing is a little thing when it comes to customer service.
When I sold the penthouse apartment of the Atelier, I made sure the buyer would have a number of luxurious perks — a $1 million yacht, keys to two Rolls Royces, courtside seats to Nets’ games, and reservations at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Daniel twice a month for a year. People like to feel like they’re being taken care of, and providing comfort and value through thoughtful perks will often do the trick.
4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Do you know how James Cameron made all that money from Titanic? People watching the movie over and over again. The movie broke record box office records because of repeat fans. There is a reason this movie from 1997 still holds the third spot of all-time worldwide box office grossing films. If there is one thing we can learn from James Cameron ― and there are many ― it is that you need to be consistent and keep your loyal customers coming back. For our repeat customers, we make sure they have excellent, attentive service, and access to complimentary concert tickets and dinner.
Too many businesses get caught up in marketing themselves to the new customer, and though they are certainly important, you can’t afford to lose the ones you’ve already won over. Getting customers in the door is the easy-ish part, keeping them is the challenge. Do it by being consistent and paying attention to every single detail, again and again and again.
5. Devil’s in the Details.
You may have noticed that the recurring theme of this article is that details are important. Customer service exists in nailing the details. Paying attention to detail takes a bit of a Type A personality, and in my experience, most people who are superior at customer service are Type A. If you need to be a little compulsive to get better at delivering detailed and personalized customer service, so be it.
Excellent customer service isn’t difficult to spot. We all know what it looks like, or rather what it feels like. We also know when it’s done badly. When I receive great customer service, I take note of what that company, restaurant, store, etc. is doing that evokes that taken-care of feeling, then replicate it. There’s no rule that says you can’t take what you’ve learned from other people and do it better. Figuring out what works as a customer helps me the most to develop plans for how to accommodate my customers when the tables are turned.