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Title News - March/April, 2006

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March/April, 2006 - Volume 85 Number 2

Retaining and Growing Your Customer Base

Keeping your current customers happy and growing your business are two different concepts. Each necessary, but each done a bit differently. by Darryl Turner

With the undeniable slowing of the existing markets around the country, it has never been more important to have a plan to continue to keep your current customers happy and a plan to generate new revenue. Unfortunately when times like these come upon us, we in the title industry have been known to make moves that look more like moves of panic than moves of strategy. Let’s discuss some ways to retain and grow your business.

CUSTOMER SERVICE IS NOT ENOUGH
According to Webster’s New Revised Dictionary, the first definition of the word service is “the occupation of a servant.”
Have you ever considered that what we do each day in reaction to a customer’s requests will not be what drives that customer to continue to work with us?
During sessions we conduct at The Title Institute, we ask sales professionals from title companies across America to tell us what their company’s product is. What I find so amazing is how the industry has incorrectly indoctrinated them so that they believe their product is customer service. It does not matter where they are from Florida, California, Alaska, or New York. The industry somehow has reached each area of the country with the same myth. The myth is that their product is customer service, or just service.
Anytime we view our product to be something that marginally meets the expectations of our customers, we are in danger. The simple thought of title companies thinking that their product is “service” means that they have been misled into believing that as long as they provide good service (like a good servant), their customers will never leave. This is a dangerous myth that can be a hindrance to the growth of any title company
. There are actually three realms of proper perspective when it comes to customer expectations and service. These three realms will help you understand that customer service is not enough to retain and grow your customer base.

REACTIVE SERVICE
The first realm is reactive service. Reactive service is the most common definition of the literal word service. Reactive service is what we provide when someone asks us for something. It is what we do when we return phone calls or deliver a farm or marketing package to the customer. It is the service we provide when we drop off a commission check. In other words, with this type of behavior, we are reacting to someone’s request. Anyone can do that. If we think this type of service separates us from the competition, we are not only wrong, we are fooling ourselves. Reactive service confirms that we are exactly like the competition!

RESPONSIVE SERVICE
The second realm is responsive service. Have you ever considered what your operation would be like if your closers were never asked to return a phone call? The reason they would not be asked to return a phone call would be because they were available to take the call when it first came in. What would things be like if we could respond to our customers’ needs by making ourselves available to them at the time they needed us?
Our extensive studies show that the single greatest complaint customers have about their title company is that it does not return phone calls quickly, or at all.
It is sad that customers no longer complain that their title company representative is unable to take their initial call. They have gotten used to it. They have become desensitized. They no longer expect anyone to be available to take the call. This is a very good reason for them to take their business elsewhere.
In order to be more responsive to customer service, you will have to realign some priorities in your office. Ask your closers to be available to take customer calls by giving more of the filing tasks to an assistant. The closers need to be more active in their role as the relationship manager.

PROACTIVE SERVICE
The third realm is proactive service, better known as surprising the customer. If you want a customer to never forget your service, surprise them! The concept of surprising your customer seems simplistic, and yet, from our surveys, we know it is not being done. What do I mean by surprising the customer? The more you do for your customer, without him/her asking for it, the more you have surprised them.
Have you ever considered calling a customer when something is going right with a title file instead of just when something is wrong?
If the only time customers hear from you is when you need something or something is wrong with their file, they learn to dread hearing from you. That is a simple psychological fact.
When was the last time you or someone in your company called a customer proactively and let them know the closing was going well? (There’s the surprise.) When was the last time you picked up the phone for no other reason than to tell the customer how much you appreciate his/her business? (There’s the surprise.)
I remember an escrow manager saying to me that she found it odd to make a call for no reason. Wow, what a confirmation. She thought that nothing being wrong was no reason to keep in touch with the customer. I told her that nothing being wrong with a file was a great reason to call her customer. As a matter of fact, it is this kind of thing that would surprise her customer, make her remain a customer, and have her tell others about you.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that as long as you provide good service, your customers will not leave you. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can build a good referral business without surprising your customers.
Make it a goal today to make some phone calls for, as our famous escrow manager said, no reason. Call some of your customers and let them know that their files are going well, and thank them for the business. You will not keep your customers by simply serving them. You will keep them by surprising them.

GROWING YOUR CUSTOMER BASE
Now that you have kept your current customers happy, you can’t just rely on them telling others how great you are. You need other strategies for growing that customer base. Let’s discuss some strategies that can help.

Focus.
I am amazed at how many people tell me that they sometimes have a problem focusing. And they are certain that lack of focus is the core cause of their business struggles.
You can’t blame your business weaknesses on the inability to focus. Why? Focus is not your problem. It’s where you focus that’s the problem. Let me clarify. During times of market changes we sometimes find ourselves worrying about business, people, customers, strategies, results, and so on. The truth is that if we can worry, we can focus. Simply put, worry is focus. It is just negative focus. It is focusing on what we do not want to see happen instead of what we do want to see happen.
Anytime you begin to worry, stop and refocus. Refocus on the positive. Refocus on what you want to see happen, and refocus on what you will do to see that take place.

Don’t Expect Water From an Empty Well.
When I was doing a sales conference for a title company in southern California, I posed a scenario to their team. I told them (over 50 title salespeople) the scenario was that I was their president and they needed to raise their daily order average by a minimum of 15 percent.
I asked them how they would accomplish this goal. They said they would go to their current customers and ask for additional business. I then asked if they would go to good customers or not-so-good customers. They told me that they would go to their good customers. Next I asked them to identify the criteria that makes a good customer. Their response: A good customer is someone who gives you all or most of their controllable business.
With all this said, I showed them the flawed logic in this thinking. If the goal is to increase orders by 15 percent, and their good customers were already giving them either all or most of their business, then trying to get more business from this group would not be the best use of their time, and would not grow their businesses. It would be impossible to accomplish the goal.
When the market gets tight, we run to our established relationships. Even though this sounds like a good idea, it is almost surely going to cause us to fail. In fact, in times of tightening markets, like now, it is nearly a futile act. The fact is that your customers’ available orders are actually shrinking. What, then, can we do to reach our goal?

Turn Zeros into Heroes.
Our studies show that once focus is placed on an average existing customer, the title company rep is only able to pick up about only one-third more business from that customer. That means that an average customer sending 12 transactions per year might be able to be bumped up to 16 picking orders, or only 4 more orders. That is a very difficult task, and one very rarely accomplished.
However, consider someone who does not currently gives you business. What if you reapplied your energy and were able to simply turn this prospect into an average customer giving you 12 transactions per year? By turning zeros into heroes (an average customer) you can grow your business 300 percent faster.
The only logical focus is to broaden your customer base. This is done by not getting into a panic mode and running to existing customers, but by developing and adhering to an effective strategic-growth strategy. This is exactly how our partner in Washington State brought in 713 new customers and one of our Texas clients brought in 120, both in the last year alone.
When times like these happen, don’t panic. Develop a mentality of focusing on where your true opportunities for growth exist.


Darryl Turner is founder and CEO of Title Solutions Group, Modesto, CA. His team of executive consultants provide on-site, cutting-edge business solutions to title companies all over America. Darryl is a frequent speaker at ALTA® conventions. For information about Title Services Group call: 800-551-2946.



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