As someone deeply involved in customer service and the overall customer experience, I am interested in identifying companies that share my love of service and how they tend to the customer’s needs.
Using a process like customer journey mapping, companies can clearly show how every role impacts the end customer.
A great example of this is Little Real Estate, Australia’s largest independently owned real estate agency with over 23,000 properties under management and 23 offices nationally.
I recently met with Brock Fisher, the National Manager of Customer Support at LITTLE, to discuss his approach to customer service.
Ben Motteram: Hi Brock, one of the things that has really impressed me about LITTLE Real Estate is their commitment to customer service. As the National Manager of Customer Support, what are you responsible for?
Brock Fisher: My “customers” are all of our Property Management staff so my main role is running an offshore team of forty personnel in The Philippines. They relieve Property Managers of much of that repetitive, process driven, “behind the scenes” administrative work that is normally a prominent aspect of the role. This enables our Property Managers to spend more time providing a high level, value add service to our clients.
To me, it’s all about understanding where the value in each role is from the customer’s perspective. In my view, the best use of a Property Manager’s time is when they are communicating and having actual conversations, solving problems, boosting yields on investments, resolving conflicts and so forth.
BM: It’s a great point you make, Brock.Everyone in a company is either directly serving a client or supporting someone who is. Click To Tweet
Whether it’s a finance department that takes 24 hours to respond to a request, a legal department that penalizes 99% of customers because of the risk posed by 1%, or a product manager whose idea of a Minimum Viable Product is a lot more “minimum” than customer expectations. Everyone needs to understand how they are affecting the customer experience.
So what is the main challenge you’re currently facing in your role and how are you addressing it?
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BF: Communication technology and societal attitudes continue to evolve at warp speed. As an industry, real estate, and property management in particular, is often viewed by consumers as being very “old school” and “behind the times”.
To address this we are building a base that will enable us to offer “omnichannel communication” to our tenants, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Building our omnichannel capability will enable a tenant to get the answers and response that they want, whenever they want it, and on whatever platform they prefer to use to communicate with us,
BM: Yes, it’s important for companies to stay on top of customer expectations using systems like a Voice of the Customer program. More important though is acting upon the insight that is delivered. Does LITTLE have such a program?
BF: Yes, we constantly survey both our owners and tenants. We base our surveys on trigger events so we can drill right down into what areas we’re doing well and what areas need work, so that we can improve those processes and coach our people to achieve better outcomes.
All comments and concerns from our clients are captured, acted upon, and responded to. We view feedback as a gift so it’s really important to close the loop.
It will also improve the chances of them responding when you survey them again in the future. Can you give me another example of how you’re using technology to improve the service you’re offering?
BF: Another project I am particularly excited about is the release of an app for tenants. For so long in real estate, the focus has been solely on pleasing the party that pays the fee – the property owner – rather than the party that pays the rent – the tenant. Without tenants there are no fees to collect!
A major part of LITTLE’s service strategy is to focus on the tenant experience. So we give tenants real time access to our systems to enable them to lodge and track maintenance, check their payment history and status, review their tenancy documentation and a range of other features.
BM: I love that you’re differentiating by focusing on a segment of the market that has traditionally been neglected.
I often tell my clients that the internal experience determines the external experience. How important is employee engagement at LITTLE and what are some of the things you’re doing to improve it?
BF: Property Management is renowned as a transient, high turnover industry with burnout a common problem. So in this particular industry a healthy and engaged workforce is the ultimate competitive advantage.
LITTLE recognizes this and is the first place I have worked to have a dedicated full time Engagement Manager. There are so many cool things that the company offers: we have weekly yoga and personal training sessions for our staff, we get fresh fruit delivered to each office every week, and we offer bottled water and lunch packs for staff who have busy roles out on the road. Staff are also able to take a “healthy day” every 3 months, if you haven’t had a sick day, just to get out of the office and relax.
David, our Engagement Manager, is also overseeing peer driven “Continuous Improvement Committees” in each state, and is about to unveil some really powerful Social Conscience and charity-based initiatives for all our team members to be involved in.
And that’s before we even start talking about the parties and social events….
BM: Sounds like a great place to work! Lastly, where do you find inspiration to become a better leader?
BF: I’m really interested in sport generally, and see a direct correlation between achieving results on the sporting field, and in the office, because both largely depend on effective people management, cohesion, accountability, and executing a plan.
BM: It’s been great talking to you today, Brock. Thank you again for your time.
BF: My pleasure.
About the Author
Ben Motteram is the Principal at CXpert, a Customer Experience consulting company that helps their clients grow by placing the customer at the centre of everything they do. With over 20 years’ experience in customer service, Ben has been recognized many times for the thought leadership articles that are regularly published on his blog.