A week before Thanksgiving, our extra refrigerator broke. We needed it to store a feast for 23 people, so right away we headed to the local home improvement store to replace it.
We ended up scoring a great deal: $300 bucks for a scratch-and-dent fridge. It wasn’t pretty, but it would do the job, and for far cheaper than we’d anticipated. Plus, the customer service was stellar. The manager went the extra mile to get us that discount and make sure we were completely satisfied.
Walking out of the store, here’s where we were:
Basically, we were ready to go online and write a rave review. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned from there.
The store used a third party for deliveries, and the fridge was set to arrive between 3 and 5 p.m. on Friday. That window came and went with no delivery.
We called up the manager from the home improvement store, who informed us that the driver was tied up. Could we reschedule for Saturday between 7 and 9 p.m.?
We agreed, but we’d gone from really, really happy to somewhat happy with our experience.
Then delivery time came and went—again. We called up the manager at the home improvement store, and he told us the driver would be half an hour late. We said okay.
When the driver arrived, he wasn’t in any mood to unload a fridge. This was understandable—it was after 9, and he’d been working all day—but he dragged the fridge up the driveway so roughly it broke, one of the prongs falling off the plug.
Thankfully, the fridge still worked, which was all that mattered. But we’d gone from unbelievably good service, to lukewarm service, to slightly negative service.
Then we woke up the next morning. Overnight, the fridge had busted. Our pies, vegetable casserole, party potatoes and butternut squash casserole were all spoiled.
By this time, it was Sunday morning. I headed back to the store, exhausted. Our customer service experience was now firmly negative.
It took three hours, but our original manager did rectify the situation, selling us a brand new fridge for the unbelievable price of $275 and letting us use one of their delivery trucks for free.
As a result, our customer service experience ended somewhat positive, but let’s think about what it cost the store. Instead of making a $300 profit from the start, they’d had to refund the $300 and sell us a brand new fridge at a discount of probably $450. That’s a swing of $750 bucks!
Okay, so what’s my point, here?
The customer service experience at the home improvement store was consistently fantastic. But anytime they outsourced their service (their fridge supplier, their delivery service), our experience went south.
No matter how great your service, if any part of your process is substandard, you pay the price.
This is incredibly relevant for real estate agents, who have to send clients to several third-party providers: for home inspection, mortgage, title, etc.
If any of these providers aren’t offering the same level of service you are, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. Your clients’ experience will be doomed from the start.
Make sure each link in the chain is strong.
Vet every third-party provider that’s part of your process thoroughly. This simple step will ensure the client’s experience stays high from start to finish—and you don’t have to sacrifice your profits or reputation because of others’ mistakes.
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Matt Mittman and Eric Rehling are the owners of RE/MAX Ready in Conshohocken, PA. See articles from them about good training, measuring profitability, routines, taking the right kinds of risks, real experience of being a real estate agent, communication styles, building an audience, and more.