When my fourth child was born I picked up a comment card at the hospital on our way out. It had a picture of 4 circles on it and the words "Service ~ Teamwork ~ Quality ~ Integrity" printed around the circles. The card opened up and there was their Mission Statement and a few questions and lines for comments. I grabbed two cards. One so I could respond with how impressed I was with the level of care they showed and the other I kept as a reminder that these were absolutely four characteristics of our company. These were four areas that not just the owners, but every single person at Memphis Invest had committed to work to improve on every day. I saved it for a day just like today.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on BiggerPockets.com Blog about this exact topic, but the article was written more from a standpoint of "how to be" excellent; how the four areas and a commitment to getting better in each was a great way to achieve excellence in your real estate investing business. But on BiggerPockets.com I don't get a chance to really go into the details of our company, our culture and our people. So I decided to write a series of articles on the topics for our blog where I could really go into some detail about how a commitment to these four areas has changed our business and left us with few, if any, equals in this niche industry.
What Sets Great Real Estate Investing Companies Apart?
It All Starts With Customer Service
Customer service is a great slogan and anyone can throw it around in marketing materials or blog posts or in on line articles as something they are great at in their company. But I know! Being great at customer service is not a mantra or a statement. It is a daily commitment. And believe me, there will be days when it will test the limits of your composure, generosity and desire to be in the service industry. But those days are few and far between the days when the heartfelt and unexpected 'thank-yous' from clients and hours long conversations on the phone with investors from halfway around the world make that commitment worth it!
For Memphis Invest, great customer service is about relationships and a desire to change the way investment and rental property management is viewed. I can not point to the day when it happened, but there literally was a time when the three owners looked across the table at each other and said we only want to do business with investors who like, respect and appreciate our company, our employees and the value we bring investors. We absolutely do not want to sell investment property to "any and every" investor who wants to buy property from us. We wanted real relationships that were built on mutual respect and mutual trust. We did not want bottom line driven relationships that only went as deep as our profits and the investors' rate of return. Those types of relationships end...and usually end badly.
So we told our entire team that we were going to be the BEST in the business at customer service and building real customer relationships. We simply decided that we were going to change the way our company operated. Anyone can sell a house....anyone. It takes a deeper mission to actually tell an investor "NO" when you recognize that you are not a good fit for them or they are not a good fit for you. We only wanted to do business with investors who recognized our value and commitment to their success and we were willing to say "no" when we knew they would not respect our drive for excellent customer service.
Customer Service Takes Commitment
We call investors every week for four weeks after they close their property to make sure they have all of their paperwork, their deed filing, questions answered and following up that they have their property management on line accounts set-up. We follow up each of those weeks asking how we can help and making sure that their experience so far has been exactly as they expected. We don't ask those questions for pats on the back. We ask those questions because when we hear that a client has questions or did not like a part of the closing process we can immediately take their comments and improve our company. Suggestions and even some complaints are often the most helpful pieces of information as company can get. While the compliments are always appreciated...we expect our company to be great. The suggestions of how we can improve are the comments that mean the most because they show how we can get better!
Then we call Every client, Every month for as long as they are a client of our property management company or until they ask us to hold the calls because everything is great. That has happened a few times! The reason for that monthly call is because NO OTHER PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY is going to make that effort to connect with real estate investors. The costs are enormous for a small business to implement this kind of program from office space, computer hardware and software, infrastructure, phones and the biggest is payroll. There are three full-time customer service experts in our company who do nothing but take care of our clients every need. Those are not inexpensive commitments and yet, their job is the most important of all in our company. This was a massive investment on our part to fundamentally change the way our clients viewed their investments. No longer were they investing in property. They were investing in a long-term, real relationship and it is the job of our customer service experts to build those relationships, build trust, build communication and develop transparency with the most important person at every one of our meetings. Who is that person?
We recently read an article in Forbes magazine about Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. What was so interesting about this article was his obsession with the customer and their experience with Amazon. We were thrilled to see that such a corporate giant is not driven by the bottom line, but drives the bottom line by being driven by customer experience. We learned of an interesting meeting tactic that Jeff Bezos uses to remind his meeting attendees of who is the boss. If you think he has a big, regal chair all for himself that might be a little higher and a little bigger than everyone else, you would be wrong. He leaves a chair at the table empty and tells his managers to consider that chair occupied...by the customer "the most important person in the room!" If we could all be so lucky as to learn from such a smart business person.
Next up: 4 Circles of Excellence - Quality