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7 min read

Executive Letter #6: The Importance of Daily Connections

Aug 15, 2021 6:00:00 PM

Make the Call

For a society that spends so much time on our phones, we don't seem to be making a whole lot of phone calls.

I'm not just blaming the phone epidemic on the younger generation. More and more people of all ages and walks of life are spending time glued to their phone. Why are we so reluctant to use our phones to do what they were intended to do? Why are we reluctant to make calls?

Too often businesses are opting out of connecting by phone call. Whether they are warm calls to leads who are interested in doing business, or even clients who would love to hear a friendly voice on the other end of the line. One excuse I hear often is the ease of communicating by other means and methods. For example, emails, texts, and social media are easy and convenient ways to pass information back and forth, but they leave something to be desired when it comes to customer service and managing business relationships.

It's sad that a lot of businesses and consumers today consider making personal phone calls to be "old school." Of course it's old school! It is how I built each of the businesses I started! I made my teams pick up the phone and dial.

We tracked every metric you could imagine—from dials to connections to eventual conversions—and guess what? Those companies and the teams we had put together thrived.

Quit Listening to the "New Experts"

We recently spoke at a conference of some of the larger privately held property management companies from around the country and I can't say for sure if we'll be invited back. Our time slot was at the end of the event and our advice was 180 degrees opposite of the advice given by other industry experts.

You see, these experts were peddling products and services to the attendees that were essentially tools to make your life easier... kind of like easy buttons. And you know how I feel about easy buttons!

One speaker in particular made an entire presentation on why doing business "old school" like making phone calls was dead. Today, he argued, you need to have slick websites with do-it-yourself buttons that are easy for your clients to find.

What?

I get that websites and having a strong online presence is important to help your clients find what they need quickly, and we've invested in those of course. As entrepreneurs, we have to remember that one way of doing business is not always going to work for every client. But 55 years of business acumen taught me that at some point you have to put your foot down and decide to stand for something. I'll be old-school any day of the week if it means I'm going to attract a client that truly values the way I do business.

Did you know that 90% of businesses and consumers expect an online portal for customer service? 57% of customers would rather contact companies via email or social media than use voice-based customer support; but, for more complicated needs, 40% of customers prefer talking to a real person over the phone.

With those statistics against us, we who pride ourselves on employing that real person on the other end of the phone stand out that much more. I'm not here to compete for every investor who may be a client of my company. I am here to dominate as the Gold Standard for that 40% who prefer our style of doing business!

Don't Outsource Your Values

You know by now that I believe in aggressively excellent customer service. That's become part of our DNA at REI Nation. It's also become part of the reputation and personality of our business and is one of our most talked about core values.

When I first decided that we were going to make personal calls to every single one of our owners each month, people told me I was crazy. They thought I was even crazier when I said we were going to make those calls in-house.

With most businesses outsourcing their call center to the other side of the world, I saw an opportunity to make things more personal and customer-centric by having all of those calls being made one floor beneath my feet.

This decision has become a signature of the way we approach relationships with our investor-owners and a cornerstone of our customer service reputation.

And it's all based on something as simple as picking up the phone and making a call.

Speaking to someone directly on the phone is the easiest way to find out the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's also the most effective way to show that you value that person and the service they provide. By setting aside time to call a lead or a client, your action alone shows them that you mean what you say and that we value our clients.

Don't think for a minute that this is a job that gets pawned off on just anyone in the company. Picking up the phone, making a personal connection, and proving that we are here for our clients is a responsibility for everyone—including me.

Set Aside Dedicated Phone Time 

I imagine some people are rather surprised to see my name popping up on their caller ID, and I'm sure you can guess how surprised they are when they find out I'm just calling to check on them.

Through the years, I've made it a regular habit to check in on our clients and call to congratulate them on special milestones, like purchasing a fifth property with us. Same goes for simply picking up the phone and calling a vendor or even a team member. Something doesn't have to be wrong to receive a personal phone call from me.

In fact, it can be powerful to get a call when things are going right, because it means I'm paying attention and interested in my people. I want to call them after the wins, not just call them out on their failures.

Imagine for a second how you would feel in some other settings if your phone rang unexpectedly and the owner or maitre d of the restaurant you dined in over the weekend called you to check on your experience and meal. How amazing would it be if they listened to your feedback and offered to make a reservation right there on the phone for your next visit? You might wonder what in the heck is going on! In another example, it would leave a pretty strong impression if your kid's principal called you at home just to check in and let you know that they're doing great in class, wouldn't it?

Life is literally filled with opportunity to leave an impression.

Now, this doesn't mean I never have to call folks when a problem arises. But it makes the call go easier when we have a relationship because we've had other kinds of conversations first. Putting in a little effort builds real bonds and serves as a fantastic reminder to our leadership team of why we maintain these systems of connecting with our clients.

My sons call my style "managing by walking around." It works in an office setting, but it also works when managing parts of the business you don't see every day.

Pretty much everyone's got some sort of Bluetooth option for hands-free calling these days. And pretty much everyone's got at least part of their day when they're doing something mindless that could also be used to make calls.

For me, it's driving. As I've said before, I drive around to check on our properties. A lot. That's when I make my "drive time" calls. This way, I'm getting twice the work done in half the time. And I'm reinforcing my company's culture with these personal calls because almost no one else operates this way anymore.

Commit to The Grind

The unique value I see in this approach to customer service has become a passion of mine. I'm passionate about finding those special touches that only my team can provide, and developing those into skills that set us far and away above the competition.

Now, am I 100% old school? Of course not! I recognize the need to incorporate new technology, and at the end of the day we love to test new programs and ideas. It's not solely about the method, it's about the ability to make a connection. Believe it or not, we will soon be implementing a test program with our customer service teams to text our customers in addition to making phone calls. Regardless of whether it's a text or a phone call, the goal is to be personable, and to connect with our clients.

There's plenty you can't control in the real estate investment business, or any business for that matter. So, focus on what you can control, and never waver from your values.

Start with making personal connections. You'll be amazed at the effect it has on strengthening relations, sidestepping problems, and setting you apart from your competitors.

Until next time,

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Kent Clothier
Chief Grind Officer

 

About Kent Clothier

CG5A0010-1Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor, Husband, Dad, and Granddad. Through decades of personal experience, and a few other titles, Kent built a strong community around him at REI Nation. But it didn’t start there. It took 22 years of entrepreneurship – of losing money and making money, building small businesses and multimillion dollar companies alike – before he founded a family business-turned-empire. His sons Kent Jr, Chris, and Brett have worked alongside him, as well as leading successful ventures of their own. Real estate trends, managing towards efficiency, excellent customer service and leading the industry are what fuel him. Over the years, the skills he’s come to value are financial acumen, honesty, and forging new paths in business, investing, and winning.