While I’m far from a major real estate investor, with a partner I own a vacation rental property that is about 3 hours from my home. For many reasons, including the shear distance and weekly activity, we pay a management company to run the day-to-day for us. Overall, I’m happy with the job the management company does for us.
Despite this general satisfaction, I really dread phone calls and emails from them… all of them. Why you ask? I only hear from my management company when they want us to spend money… something broke, they want something upgraded, they’re suggesting carpet shampooing, etc. I’m not debating the need for the work, but their approach to communicating with me is flawed. The ONLY time I hear from them is when they need to send me a bill or suggest I spend additional money.
Stick with me. I’ll get to the part where this is related to being a trust agent.
As I thought about the feedback I could give to my management company, I was reminded of customer management trainings – those that preach multiple positive contacts throughout a relationship to minimize or negate the impact of a negative contact. If all I ever hear from my property manager is bad news and bad feedback, then I associate them with bad things. Paying for things, despite their necessity, FEELS bad. Most people don’t like to part with money unless the experience surrounding the purchase feels good.
It takes a big effort to offset a negative. Many will tell you it takes five or more positive touches to offset one negative touch. If I got a monthly phone call, or maybe even a monthly email from my management company sharing a positive review from a recent renter, I wouldn’t hate hearing from them so much. My severe dread of their communication would almost certainly switch to indifference at a minimum… At least I’d take the call when it came in instead of sending it to voice mail. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the bad news I associate with their communications, I’d be really happy. They may even get some evangelism out of me.
So as I thought about this relationship between positive contact and customer service, the correlation between it and the teachings of the social web became clear. The general tenet of the social web is that you must give before, and a lot more than, you receive. Chris Brogan suggests that you promote others 12 times more than you promote yourself. As is with most successful offline relationships, its not a good idea to walk up to someone you’ve never met and ask them to do anything, let alone give you money. A warm relationship, one where a connection already exists – a connection that is not solely dependent on the transfer of money – will be much more likely to develop into a long and beneficial professional one.
So back to tying all this up.
The example reminds us that an abundance of positive associations with a product or company make the impact of the occasional negative associations less or non-existent. We know that generally people associate parting with their money as a bad thing, and that this feeling is amplified when doing so in a unfavorable business relationship.
So what if I was the recipient of these positive associations before I was even a customer? What if instead of always asking for money (asking for the sale), a business also built a valued relationship where a friend or prospective client associated said business with positive insight and experiences. Wouldn’t that make it easier to ask for the sale at the appropriate time? Isn’t this really what we talk about when describing online etiquette… helping people buy a lot more often than asking them to buy?
What I really want from a company is customer service when I’m still a prospect. I want good things from them before they ask for my money. I want to know that my relationship with them is not solely dependent on a financial transaction. If there’s enough positive connection, I’ll feel good about parting with my money when the time comes.