PERSON OF THE WEEK: What is “good customer service?” In many ways, the answer to this question depends on the industry and the specific service being provided. In the case of real estate services providers, it means providing the necessary tools and training to representatives – as well as clear, concise and patient communication with customers.
To learn more, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Nick Nikolenko, customer service manager for RES.NET, a wholly owned subsidiary of USRES that provides a variety of specialized technology portals designed for various aspects of the real estate industry.
Q: You have a background that includes the hospitality industry as well as coaching high school baseball. How did these experiences shape your views/thoughts on customer service and training?
Nikolenko: Both experiences have similar principles. Establishing trust and loyalty are fundamental principles required in each of the roles and are shared in what we do today to achieve excellent customer service and support. Accessibility and efficiency drive the hospitality industry. Happy customers yield returning customers. Approaching each interaction with this same mantra in our business today increases the likelihood of repeat business and our success.
When coaching, giving each player the tools they need to succeed as individuals is critical, and providing necessary training and guidance brings cohesion to a team. This experience is not unlike the ongoing motivation and training required to foster and maintain a good company culture – and the company benefits.
Q: A vital part of customer service is training. Not only training for employees providing services but also for third-party service providers and vendors who also use your platform. Why is this important and how often does training need to occur?
Nikolenko: There are a lot of different constituents that use our platform to support our customers. Real estate agents and attorneys to title and closing firms, and it is essential they understand how to use the system tools that are vital to performing their services. There is no one size fits all – different aspects are tailored to different functions.
We offer bi-monthly online training classes. This has been a longstanding offering for our users. It is easy to follow, accessible and convenient to users’ schedules. Refresher classes are also offered providing training opportunities in target areas. This is especially helpful where job responsibilities or roles might have changed. We want them to be completely comfortable and knowledgeable in using the system. Additionally, when updates or modifications are made to the system, we offer training to provide familiarity to workflow changes.
Q: Customer service is often off-shored but your service representatives are stateside/local. Why did you all decide that this model was a better fit?
Nikolenko: Whether your service is local or handled from a remote location or another country – it needs to be what works best for your company, your team and your client base. For our team, having the ability to collaborate is paramount. We often receive repeat questions from different users at varying companies. So, when we can discuss these questions or issues amongst our team, we can then share the solutions to expedite the next call and enhance future training. This is also beneficial when a call requires escalation. Collaborating with the representative, explaining the situation, and transferring a call is seamless, requiring no hold times. It is all about the end user experience.
Q: Let’s talk about customer wait time after a call is placed or an email received. What is a good rule of thumb on this?
Nikolenko: No one likes to wait. We live in an era of immediacy. Unfortunately, the longer a customer waits, the likelihood they become more agitated and aggravated increases with each passing minute. Regardless of the caliber of company on the other end of the line, it is just a fact. Being placed on hold or locked in a computerized rotary system is less than ideal.
The goal is that the caller is addressed – live – within 60 seconds and their issues is resolved within 4 to 5 minutes. Offering online chat options directly within the website also allows users to click the “live chat” button and connect to a representative in true time to address any questions.
For our team, all call teams are measured – how long each person is on a call and the time it takes to get a resolution. Additionally, notations are made if the same user calls in several times with questions. When this occurs, it is an indication there is something that is out of the norm, and we address the issue as best we can to get a successful resolution. This requires clear, concise and patient communication.
Communicating clearly so that the user understands what is being said is important – no matter how long it takes to get the resolution. We want that user to leave the call feeling they are the most important person we talked to that day, and their problem was our number one concern.
Q: What are the three pillars for truly differentiating good customer service?
Nikolenko: That is easy:
Rapid and accurate responses.
Communication that is clear, concise and respectful.
Training, and the understanding of the solutions you are supporting.
If you have these in place, you should truly excel at excellent customer service.