Here’s a question for all you search marketers out there: given the option, would you prefer to optimize a site that sells products, or services?
Personally, I find product-based websites far easier to optimize than service-based sites due to their generally clearer site architecture, access to photos and videos, and the ability to incentivize content creation through influencer marketing and free samples.
But service-based sites have one ace up their sleeve: experience reviews.
I recently bought my first house; thus, I had my first experience working with a real estate agent.
I had inquired about four or five different properties through Zillow, and out of all the agents I reached out to, she was the only one to return my call. She was very friendly over the phone, and after a few more phone inquiries I decided to go with her as my agent.
Fast forward three months, and I’m on the phone with her again, telling her how thankful I am that she helped us find a great house, and how I would be happy to provide her with a recommendation online or offline to anyone who asked for a referral.
Now let me share with you exactly what she did to get me to the point where I would gladly share my experience with others, and how a service-based business like a real estate agency can use a happy customer to boost its organic rankings.
5 Tips To Create A Positive Experience
For the benefit of a little context, I recently moved from the densely populated state of New Jersey to a mini-farm in rural Virginia. My realtor’s name is Peggy Bouchard, and I‘ll be sharing some stories about what made my house shopping experience so positive. My hope is to inspire other service-based businesses to create great customer experiences which result in online experience reviews.
1. Exchange Knowledge For Trust
You know the old saying, “Knowledge is power”? It’s as true today as ever. Consumers use real estate agents because the average Joe lacks the specialized knowledge on how to find and buy property.
That said, the Internet is empowering the consumer to the point where most common real estate questions can be answered online. That might pressure agents to hoard knowledge about the local area or market until the prospective client signs an exclusivity agreement. This is a mistake. Instead, freely give your knowledge away in exchange for gaining a prospective client’s trust.
Remember, there are two ways to gain trust; authority and intimacy. When you freely share your specialized knowledge with someone, they perceive you as an expert who can guide them through the complicated waters of a large transaction.
In my house shopping experience, Peggy spent a lot of time explaining to me the downsides of buying a house out in the rural country. At one point I actually thought she was trying to talk me out of buying a property in her area, and, in a sense, she was.
What I didn’t realize at that time is she was actually demonstrating her keen understanding of the area by telling me negatives that most agents would not have shared for fear of scaring off a potential buyer. In doing so she gained my trust, which is a big part of why my home buying experience was so positive.
2. Relationship Marketing
One of my favorite Peggy quotes is, “The first house showing is like a first date. You might not like me, and I might not like you.”
I really think that mentality is important to the success of a service-based business. If the client/vendor relationship just isn’t clicking, you’re not going to go out of your way for them, and they aren’t going to do you any favors after the fact. However, when that relationship clicks, you’re going to want to try harder, and that effort can be reciprocated online with a review, rating or recommendation.
Remember, you’re better off focusing your energy on the 20% of your potential clients that you can really do a great job for, and you might even have to fire the clients that aren’t working out. After all, you don’t want those needy, ungrateful clients distracting you from the ones that matter.
3. Do More Than Just Cover The Costs
We spent a total of five full days in the car hunting for houses over the course of several weeks.
Every single time we met, Peggy picked us up at our hotel and drove us all around the state on her gas dime. Whenever we stopped for food, she always paid for the meal, but here is where she went above and beyond.
Before we placed an offer in on our house, we wanted to come back down and check it out once more with my in-laws. Before they arrived, Peggy gave us a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in town that covered dinner for the four of us.
The psychology behind this is fascinating. On the surface it seems like just a nice gesture, but it actually had a much stronger effect on us.
Any couple considering moving to a new area is basing their decision on how much they like the nearby towns. By giving a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, Peggy ensured that our first experience in this new town was the best it could be.
It’s a brilliant way of controlling the environment and the house shopping experience, without being manipulative or pushy.
4. Tip Into The Service Recovery Paradox
Buying a house is a little different for everyone, but for us, finding the house was the easy part. The hard part was the week-and-a-half negotiating process followed by the stress-filled, 45-day closing period.
At one point, we thought for sure that the closing would be indefinitely delayed, and we’d be out of a place to live as we had already given notice on our apartment lease.
The only things that kept us sane were the daily emails, texts and phone calls from our realtor. Whether the news was good or bad (and it was mostly bad for a while), we always got the latest details promptly from Peggy, which contributed to our overall satisfaction with the transaction in spite of some big snafus.
Would you believe that consumers actually have a greater level of satisfaction when a company screws up, apologizes and fixes it, than if the company never screwed up at all?
It’s called the service recovery paradox, and Wikipedia defines it as “a situation in which a consumer has experienced a problem which has been satisfactory resolved, and where the consumer subsequently rates their satisfaction to be equal to or greater than that in which no problem had occurred.”
Now our realtor didn’t cause any of the closing issues we experienced, but she did help get them fixed — which, for me, tapped into the service recovery paradox. The key though, was really great communication and an effort to fix any problem that got in the way of closing on time, regardless of who caused it.
5. Put A Bow On The Door
There are about 100 different reality TV shows having to do with buying a house. On one of them, they always leave a little gift for the new home buyers. Usually, it’s new appliances or a big screen TV.
We opted not to go the reality TV route, but our realtor still wanted to make our first home feel special, so she put a big red bow on the door, and stocked our fridge with basics (eggs, cereal, milk, bread) and some special goodies (champagne, soda, cookies, etc).
I can’t tell you how nice it was to see those unexpected items after a nine-hour drive in a rental truck on moving day — especially since this was a few weeks after the house closed, so we knew it wasn’t sales driven. She just wanted to make sure we had a great experience after a tough move.
There you have it — five tips on how a service-based business can help improve their customer experience.
But it’s one thing to have happy customers, and it’s another thing to have online experience reviews that drive organic rankings. In part II, I’ll show you how to get your customers to talk about their experience online, and how that experience can benefit your rankings.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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