By Heino Molls

I have been thinking about two companies I was involved with in the past, one as an employee (The Toronto Star) and the other for a time as a business partner (Rogers Corporation). I am curious to see how they conduct their business in today’s increasingly competitive environment.

The Toronto Star is one of Canada’s leading newspapers. It has made the content of their pages its greatest priority. The reporting is second to none, the columnists are compelling and the investigative journalism is the best in the country. The Star’s interest in delivering the best product they can to their customers is genuine and it shows on every page.

Yet The Star is held back in its fight for readers with other newspapers because the people who answer their phone have no interest in selling the paper. That function has been contracted out. People who are representing The Star on the phone in customer service are rude and inconsiderate. They turn customers away in droves. The Star might be the best paper in the world but sadly the people selling the paper on the phone have no interest in its success.

On the other hand, Rogers is probably the worst company in Canada in terms of its interest in customers and the product quality that it delivers to its customers. People who wish to buy Rogers services are locked into buying other services they do not want. No other company seems to have the inconsideration bordering on contempt that Rogers has toward its customer base.

Yet Rogers has arguably the best customer service of any corporation in the country. While Rogers is notorious for leaving customers with complaints or service questions on hold, things are completely different if you want to buy any products or services from Rogers. If you want to buy cable channels or cellular services or any other product, a customer service representative will be on the phone quickly, cheerfully and pleasantly to explain how fast their products can be delivered. They work for Rogers. They are trained by Rogers. They are not contracted out. They have a vested interest in the company. Do you want a new channel on your cable? Certainly, we can deliver that overnight. Do you want a home phone with that order? Anything you want to buy we’ll be happy to arrange, and more.

So what does that tell me about our business? It tells me that we must always strive to do more than deliver a great product here at REM. When someone calls wanting to receive copies of REM or needs information about advertising in REM, we’d better be running around with our hair on fire to do everything and anything that we can to get that person the info they need. (Unless the person answering the phone at REM doesn’t have hair to set on fire and I only know of one person in the whole organization like that.)

What else does that tell me? It tells me I should share this bit of information with those I serve. We have heard it over and over and it may be obvious to most but it is surprising how many people in the real estate industry overlook the fact that the most important person in their entire organization may be the one who simply answers the phone. The person who gets up and says hello to the customer who just walked into the office. The first contact will make an impression of your company that will stay with that potential customer for years to come and who may possibly become a lifelong customer. That first contact person must be a lot more important to you than just the “guy who talks to people when they come in” or the “girl who answers the phone”.

This is hardly new or stunning information that I must breathlessly give out to those who are uninformed. I know it is a fundamental to anyone in the real estate business but while I am repeating what I first heard probably 50 years ago, I can tell you that today there are plenty of good, hard-working, well-meaning people in real estate who have forgotten this fundamental and can’t figure out what happened to their business over the past couple of years.


  1. Hi Heino, I am also a transplant from the Toronto Star. I had the pleasure of working in the accounting department for 10 years from 1987 – 1997. Some of the best years of my life. However accounting really was not in blood. Real Estate I love it.

    Further to your topic, Customer Service regardless of your job is always extremely important!

  2. There is a Brokerage in Ontario that has 256 phone lines attached to that brokerage in 2015. In 2010 that Brokerage had 13 and only 5 were controlled by agents.

    256 first contacts with the public where calls are answered for the Brokerage and it’s clients with how many answered by someone trained in handling a phone call??

    RECO allowed Direct Phone Lines on signs and Ads but no one thought about the consequences to the Brokerage Owner who alone is responsible for any listing or buyer contracted to the office.

    A well trained, experienced and fully engaged front desk grab enough business from phone calls to pay the entire registrant staffs desk fees. This is why training, empowering and proactively motivating front desk staff, should be the #1 objective of any sales office. NEVER EVER allow Agents to answer the phone.

    There is a reason the TOP selling agents in the province use trained staff to answer their phones and keep off those lines until the call is handed off to them.

  3. Heino,

    You have cleverly addressed one of the most damaging mistakes Broker/Owners make today and yet another example of how FEAR controls the industry that has transitioned to desk rental model.

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