In some parts of the country there are more real estate agents than there are transactions! That can pose a disturbing problem for the consumer -- with so many sales professionals vying to help buy or sell homes, how can the best agent for the job be selected?
How about from a website? But not a real estate agent’s own personal website; instead an independent website operated by Quality Service Certification (QSC), a San Juan Capistrano, California-based company. The website, qualityservice.org, displays a customer service satisfaction rating for agents who carry the designation throughout the country and Canada.
Agents listed on the website have received training from QSC as well as a special designation. The agents commit to using home buyer and seller guarantees and agree to be evaluated by their clients. Following the closing of each transaction a survey is sent out to the agents’ clients by Leading Research Corporation, the sister-company to QSC.
“It makes sense to a lot of my buyers. So they are really, really, pleased to hear that I am held accountable in many, many ways,” says Carolynn Thelemaque, RE/MAX Welcome Home in Concord, Calif.
It makes sense not just for buyers but for any industry. Think about when you are going to make a major purchase of an electronic device. Many consult independent technology magazines for a rating on the equipment being considered before making a decision to buy. And Consumer Reports Magazine is respected by people because of its unbiased look and reporting on the quality of products.
In real estate, consumers are faced with a difficult problem. They are bombarded by agents who make promises but sometimes don’t keep them. “Consumers are looking for four things from professional service providers. They are looking for consistency, reliability, professional accountability and responsiveness,” says Larry Romito, President and CEO of Quality Service Certification, Inc.
Ensuring that consumer needs are met and quality customer care is delivered is a tricky task. Systems and processes are in place for the beginning of the real estate sales process and the end, but QSC claims from the start of a transaction to the closing of it is where consumers often don’t get what they’re promised.
That is exactly why Thelemaque chose this particular designation. She says it gives her clients the confidence that they will be given quality service. It also helps set and manage customer expectations of the transaction process -- by using guarantees, Thelemaque says what she will commit to doing for her clients is all spelled out in writing at the start of the business relationship.
“I don’t get lax because I know at the end of the transaction when it closes my client will be getting that survey,” explains Thelemaque.
As more non-traditional brokerage firms such as discount brokers enter the marketplace, traditional companies are finding they must change the way they do business in order to compete and maintain value to the consumer. Creating a system that manages customer service is part of the necessary process. Thelemaque, however, believes yet another important aspect is needed -- a neutral third party to contact past clients for survey information.
“Having a neutral third party -- I’m not in the mix at all, my company is not in the mix -- I think [clients] tend to be freer, they’re more honest,” says Thelemaque.
Real estate agent Cari Corbalis says that consumers are inundated by agents proclaiming to be the best. She thinks seeing a customer satisfaction rating is a far better way to prove a particular agent is the best choice.
“[Consumers] can open up a newspaper and everybody is the best at this area or the professional in this neighborhood but when they hear word-of-mouth because they’re reading from other sellers what they think of you it holds more water,” explains Corbalis.
Corbalis says that her QSC designation recently helped a woman who came into Corbalis’ open house decide to work with her. The woman was initially reluctant to commit to Corbalis until she saw her agent rating on the consumer website.
“She said that after reading the comments and information, it made her decide that she wanted to work with me and since then I have listed her townhouse,” says Corbalis.
As the marketplace softens in many parts of the country, consumers need guidelines and expect high quality professional assistance. How they determine who is best suited for the job may have to do with which agent makes the grade.