By Cindy Koebele, EO Minnesota member and President of TitleSmart, Inc., a full-service title insurance company.
The title insurance industry, like many others, has faced incredible change over the past few years. I started TitleSmart, Inc. in 2007 during the collapse of the housing market, precisely because I believe change and chaos breed opportunity. Remaining focused on the core of our business, while others are distracted by temporary circumstances, is at the heart of our business plan.
During the recession, while most companies were pulling back and investing less in their clients, we jumped in with enhancements to the closing process that impressed our customers at a time when they were feeling let down by others in the marketplace. An unwavering focus on creating a superior customer experience saw our company through one of the toughest times in our industry and left us with a loyal base of customers and a clear direction for the future.
According to a report by Walker, by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. And, according to research by Gartner, by 2017, 50% of product investment projects will be redirected to customer experience innovations. I encourage you to look at any upcoming challenges or uncertainty as an opportunity to strengthen and renew your focus on your customer. Here are some ideas that will help you re-focus on and fine-tune your customer experience.
Listen and measure
It’s so important to have a consistent read on what your customers are thinking and saying and to have several ways to gather that information. Your first-hand knowledge of your customer can be one of your biggest competitive advantages. We consistently engage with our customers in person, on social media, and through email and phone calls. We also issue a customer satisfaction survey after our transactions so we have a constant stream of feedback. Staying in touch and actively participating in conversations means we receive information quickly when something goes wrong and we can respond right away. It also gives our customers an opportunity to share their positive experiences directly and we use that positive energy to build up our team and build our business.
In a world where everyone is seeking information, it’s important to create channels of communication that allow you to share your expertise on a regular basis. In addition to listening to our customers, we also take every opportunity to share relevant and helpful information with them. We publish consistent updates on our business, provide a monthly real estate newsletter, and share customer service tips and advice with regular blog posts, videos and radio appearances. All of this helps to establish us as experts and keeps us at the top of our customers’ minds when it comes to choosing a title insurance company or recommending one.
Think about how you felt when you received an unexpected surprise during what you anticipated would be a routine activity. Maybe it was a free gift that came with a purchase you made online or even just fun and interesting packaging. It’s not difficult to find small ways to make your customers’ time with you more memorable. Build those ideas into your service and watch for the results. We offer warm cookies and fresh coffee at every closing. We also include trinkets at the closing tables – everything from pens to Chap Stick to reading glasses. We’ve found these small investments make a big impression with our customers and help set the tone for a relaxed and enjoyable closing that our customers rave about. It’s the little things that make the BIG difference.
Don’t get distracted during times of uncertainty
Use times of change or ambiguity to add extra focus on your customer. 2015 was a year of change and challenge in our industry as regulations came in from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dictating new requirements and restrictions that impact our interactions with customers. Just as we did in our first few years of business, we saw this time of uncertainty as an opportunity to lead the market. We proactively prepared for the impending changes well in advance, ensuring that we could be the first to educate our customers and ease their concerns about the impact to their closings. We had a record number of closings this past year and we see tremendous opportunity for continued growth as we invest in the tools, technology, and people we need to exceed our customers’ growing demands and expectations. We didn’t use the uncertainty as an excuse to divert any energy from improving the customer experience. In fact, during this time we chose to roll out a customer satisfaction initiative, putting even more emphasis on measuring how our customers feel about working with us.
Many changes in the economy are uncertain, but we can predict that customers will continue to raise their expectations for service from every business they interact with. What are you doing to improve your customer experience and insure your business for the foreseeable and unforeseeable future?
During the month of March, EO’s social media channels will delve into the current status of the global economy. Follow #EOeconomy to hear real perspectives on business from the people who know best: entrepreneurs. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram!
Categories: Best Practices FINANCES general Guest contributors Lessons Learned Sales WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS