Friday, December 31, 2010

Customer Relation & Real estate

If you can't turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn't be in the business at allLeo Burnett

Unfortunately when it comes to real estate with all due respect it seems that some where till recent past we have forgotten such quotes or the zest behind the same! Because the fact remains that this is one industry where the customer relation has taken a back seat or at least apparently that’s the scenario. Many a wont agree with my opinion & with pages of every news paper are filled with the advertising & numerous hoarding displaying various projects & prodigy of the developers, it’s hard to believe. Yet the truth remains that when ever a customer approaches to a developer the confidence level about the product getting delivered is pretty low. This can be judged from the questions a customer asks for e.g. is the rate the developer telling correct? , Can he assure the possession date? Are the amenities given going to be there in reality? What about the specification? Is the rate going to be same till end? Are all legal documents clear? And so many! Have you ever seen somebody asking such questions in a car show room or white goods shop?

Nothing wrong, the home isn’t like a daily buy type commodity as for most of the customers its one time buy in life! And the fact with real estate is it has failed to generate the confidence in the minds of customers about their product or the way deals are done. That’s why the customer is fussy & not sure about the developer’s commitments.

Now when we call customer, who exactly is in our mind? Many a will think this as an absurd question! Because even a kid can tell, the one who comes to you to buy your product is your customer! Well that’s what you expect a kid to answer but ask any MNC’s (multi national co) marketing head & he will say Customer is the one who by any way is in contact with the company! He may be your supplier, contractor, employee or even a courier guy coming at your office to deliver any package & off course the person who wants to buy your product too! Now that’s the way how you look at your customer as unless you identify him how you are going to make him confide in you? You can’t generate confidence in any customer by just advertising or spending budgets on PRO, but you make others confide in you by number of small acts for a longer period consistently! That’s the way people start trusting you, for e.g. take name of Tata, Wipro, Kirloskars, Toyota or any such name. They haven’t got the trust of their customers in one single night! It’s the years of service & following commitments have made them reach at the stage where they are right now! There are two categories which we can divide customers in: a. direct customer i.e. who is buying or have bought your product & b. All those agencies who are part of that product means right from your employees too suppliers. This is what real estate industry needs to pick up.

First we will consider direct customer & the grievances by them in real estate. For e.g. se the information brochure of few developers (which any way any customer is bound to do while on home hunt) & see the way area table is written! Most of the time it just mention one figure & then some shows chargeable area some didn’t & no ratios of what rate per sft is being offered or what’s the exact package is being offered? And he is just unable to compare the price range vs. product offered (which is area here) & then how he will trust us? Why we can have a single linear system like automobiles have on specification form to offer the customer? Same, hardly any brochure consists possession date as that’s another question followed after the money matters are taken care.

This is about the customer who is enquiring, once the flat is booked how many times the principal developer or his senior staff remains in touch with the customer? Gone are the days when means of communication were limited, today we can be accessible in any part of the world by means of cell phone, net etc. Being accessible is most important part in generating trust as many a time main complaint about the real estate is, once booking done the builder is not just available for any quarry! Here many of my collogues wont agree but that’s what market speaks & it's not my personal view! One need not have to be personally available, it’s just somebody should be available who can take care of the quarry of the customer is the zest behind it! And this leads to another important aspect of real estate & that is Employees. Maximum job changing happens in real estate, though exact figures aren’t there as this isn’t an organized segment but continuous staff shuffling does hamper communication with your actual direct customer. For e.g. some arrangement has been agreed between the flat holder & your sales man about payment terms & the sales person lefts the job & the next person again starts from ground zero saying he don’t know what has been agreed earlier!

These types of scenes are common amongst customer at marketing staff, site staff, and legal staff as well accounts staff. And these small things though may get resolved yet it annoys the customer & shatters the trust on us. Here what we can do is to take more efforts on assuring our employees to be with us for longer period at least project to project & try to formulate proper systems to document such communications instead keeping oral between personal levels. It will help in reducing conflicts with customers. And another common complaint heard is the customer has to follow the matter number of times with the developer what ever it may be! Here too we can make an arrangement of noting down ever communication as well giving some number to the same so we can give that number to him & he will be assured about getting proper attention. Also we should train our all staff about our responsibility towards our commitments. Never the customer has required following us instead we should be prompt on giving him feed back about his demands.

Here I remember sharing of experience by a senior officer in MSEB. He said in remote village when the light goes off because of any line fault & if the line man there is sleeping or is been drunk & unable to repair the fault, the public says “ MSEB is useless!”. But if the same guy attends the fault & restarts the electric supply then the public says “MSEB is real good & improved!” This shows the importance of behavior of your employees in trust building process of the customers towards your product as well company.

At my previous work place I have started taking get together of the flat holders on ongoing site at different stages of works along with site staff, marketing staff, contractors, and a practice which I am still following. This makes them possible to interact with all those who are associated with the project & understand the efforts we are taking for them in better way. Similar exercise we are doing for completed projects & there residents too. Many developers are afraid of such practices saying what’s need of educating the customer unnecessarily? As there are some bad experiences from the customers too, taking undue advantage of the developers friendliness! But then such things do happens in every industry!

Ultimately we have to decide for whom we are working & that only decides what we are going to get!

Sanjay Deshpande
Sanjeevani Dev
Envo_power Committee,Credi,Pune

Please do visit my blog to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !

Think Green, Think Life