Avoid/Resolve Complaints from Clients
Here at Real Estate Pipeline, complaints are viewed as a double-edged sword. We believe that receiving an occasional complaint isn’t the problem. Regardless of how hard we try, glitches will occur and on occasion, those glitches will lead to a frustrated client calling us to complain.
What is critical to us is how we address that complaint when it is registered. For the most part, clients who call with complaints want to continue working with us, they just want to have their problems addressed. So, of much importance to us is how we address those issues when they do come around.
If we address problems to a client’s satisfaction, they probably will remain with our service. However, if we don’t handle a complaint properly, a client can quickly become a former client who is taking their business elsewhere and sharing their dissatisfaction with their friends and associates.
Most of the time, it is up to us how it plays out. First, we try to limit the amount of complaints raised. At Real Estate Pipeline, we have a template of how we do things to keep complaints to a minimum. We recognize what usually will prompt a complaint and have specific procedures for when we are working in those areas.
As a real estate agent, do you know what activities cause the most complaints to be filed against others in your industry? Do you have a thought out approach when working with a client in one of those potentially troublesome activities?
Following is information from the North Carolina Real Estate Commission on what agent activities lead to the most consumer complaints. While the list is specific to North Carolina, the areas of concern remain similar in other states as well.
1. Misrepresenting material facts. This is at the top of the list of common complaints lodged against agents in North Carolina. Clients rely on you for information to make informed decisions. Make sure the info is clear and correct.
2. Mishandling trust accounts. Remember, the broker in charge – not a bookkeeper or agent – has ultimate responsibility for managing trust accounts.
3. Disputed earnest money accounts. Always have written agreements on how this money should be distributed to avoid most of these.
4. Drafting legal papers. Unless you also are a licensed attorney, leave it to one to prepare paperwork. As an agent, you can help a client fill out documents, but don’t try writing them or amending a complex agreement without an attorney’s help.
5. Disputed contract acceptance. Just remember, all accepted transactions involving property must be made with a written – never an oral – agreement. A verbal agreement is not a binding agreement when buying or selling real estate.
6. Loan fraud. If an agent helps a client with a down payment or other fees, they may be committing loan fraud – something no agent wants to be accused of.
7. Conflict of interest. Whenever you represent someone in a transaction, make certain to disclose to them if you have acted in the interest of any other party involved in the deal.
8. Discrimination. This is illegal under federal law. If you discriminate for any number of reasons, you probably are breaking the law.
9. Records violations. Keep records longer than required by your state’s law. Complaints can be filed even after your obligation to keep records may have lapsed.
10. Lack of communication. Try not to leave a client uniformed. That means, return their calls, offer complete answers to their questions and keep them informed of developments.
Remember, tread carefully when working in one of the above areas and always remember they are common sources of complaints when not handled properly.
Fine. But what should you do when things don’t go as planned and a client does call with a complaint?
Well, again, remember that if they were so upset they no longer wanted to work with you, they probably wouldn’t be calling to complain. Most complaints are made in hopes of having an issue resolved.
When working with a client who has a complaint, always:
1. Listen. Give the client a chance to vent. Ask them specific questions. Take the time to truly understand the frustration. Find out what a client thinks would resolve the issue.
2. Apologize. Sincere, well crafted apologies can go a long ways to resolving a sticky situation. For a site with good advice on how to apologize, go to: http://www.wikihow.com/Apologize.
3. Offer real solutions. Once you clearly understand the problem, offer a solution that fixes the source of angst.
For more pointers on how best to handle complaints, check out http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/crmindset.htm.
Also, when talking with a client who is unhappy and complaining, keep cool, positive and helpful. DO NOT be defensive or rude, don’t take it personally and don’t blame it on someone else.
Just remember, avoid most complaints by being aware of what usually triggers them. When a complaint is made, address it quickly and properly and you can usually keep it between you and the client. Don’t handle it in professional fashion, and the odds increase dramatically a client’s friends and associates will hear all about it and you will be reading about it on an Internet site.
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