I’ve spotted a hole in the market – something every business used to offer, but that has virtually disappeared from the customer service landscape. The thing is, consumers want it, but no one is offering it as part of their service.

It sounds like a riddle, doesn’t it?



Everyone wants it, less and less seem to have it, and even fewer offer it to everyone who wants it. What is it? I guess it could be two things. Wisdom, for one. There’s definitely too little of that…

But that’s not the thing I’m talking about here. The thing everyone wants that virtually no business seems to offer is in-person service and connection.

You know what I’m talking about. How many times have you heard, or even said yourself after pressing umpteen phone menu selections only to land up at the wrong one … or worse, get disconnected, “I just want to talk to a human!”  Or maybe you are, like me, watching all these self-checkout kiosks pop up, and wondering how long it will take for machines to replace humans.

The fact is, despite all this innovative, progressive technology, our clients need (desire) human contact. In-person service. And it’s almost completely gone, but we’ve hardly noticed it’s missing because it went away slowly. Instant bank tellers, automated incoming phone systems, internet-based customer service and the list goes on.

It used to be the store clerk knew your name and people would meet in person or at the very least, chat on the phone. But in-person meet-ups became replaced with phone calls, which soon were replaced by text and email.  Now, automation is king. For service press one. For returns, press two, visit us online. To buy these items from our store, please use this robot.

As a consumer, you know the power of personal service. You’ve received excellent service somewhere, I hope. The attentive clerk at the book store who asked about your interests and offered to help you find some related books. The shop mechanic who heard you mention an upcoming road trip and suggested a pre-trip inspection to make sure you weren’t stranded somewhere because of an overlooked issue. Or how about meeting someone in person who you had only ever known online?

This is the kind of simple, personal touch that can give your business a huge advantage.

Two years ago, I started reaching out to other agents to meet in person. At some point during a transaction, we would have to cross paths to exchange papers. I wanted to use that as an opportunity to meet in person – to put a face to the name, to establish a connection with a never-met colleague. Most agents were happy to meet in person. There were one or two out of 10 that would prefer not to meet, instead opting to scan and email or leave papers at a location for pick up, for example.

But those who met with me appreciated the personal connection as much as I did. Even the ones who didn’t want to at first eventually came around and, in the end, commented that it was nice to physically meet rather than digitally communicate.

Here’s the thing about digital communication versus personal communication. Only seven per cent of what we communicate is derived from the words we use.  Seven per cent! That means 93 per cent – almost all – of what we communicate comes from intonation, facial expression and body language.

Say hello to abundant opportunity to miscommunicate. (Maybe that’s the big contributor to our greater culture of highly sensitive, overly offended masses. But I digress…)

Here’s the bottom line.

People will be more apt to respond to those businesses that offer some verbal or physical communication and provide an excellent, personal experience.

It’s easy to succumb to the convenience of digital communication, but in the end we foster stronger bonds and longer lasting relationships with our clientele when we offer that personalized service.

As a professional, what is one way you can add a more personalized experience to your clients?

Jeff Stern, a 27-year real estate veteran with Re/Max Performance Realty in Winnipeg, received the 2017 CMHC/MREA Distinguished Realtor Award. He is an instructor for the Provincial Real Estate Licensing program, a member of the Education Committee and sits on the Professional Standards Investigation and Hearing Committee at MREA. He gives back to the community as chair of the MREA Shelter Foundation and writes stimulating and enlightening articles on his blog. The opinions expressed are those of Jeff Stern and not the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

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