Agents Decoded: The art of customer service + luxury client tips
Price point shouldn't determine your level of service. But luxury pro Farrah Brittany of The Agency notes a few considerations when working with luxury buyers.
The direction of your business depends on decisions you make every day. Agents Decoded can help you by presenting the perspectives of seasoned pros who have been there, made mistakes, and found success. This Luxury Edition explores challenges unique to the luxury market.
When working with luxury clients, should agents employ different skills and tactics?
Client expectations may differ, but we as real estate professionals should always hold ourselves to an equal standard of customer service — no matter what or who we’re dealing with. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s part of our fiduciary duty to all of our clients.
The way I prioritize my customer service experience is not usually based on price point. Instead, I’m more interested in how we’ll work together. I ask myself:
1. Am I compatible with the client? This doesn’t mean I only work with clients who are like me, but I want to feel that we have a mutual understanding of each other.
2. Is this client collaborative and receptive to my opinions, ideas/suggestions, and the value that I bring to them?
3. What’s their timeline, and how serious are they about selling or buying?
If the answers to those first two questions are yes, but the client doesn’t seem serious, I’ll let them know what to expect of our working relationship until they’re ready to move forward. This saves us both from frustration and helps avoid miscommunication down the road.
If we’re a good fit, and the client is ready and serious about making a purchase or selling their home, then I can assure them they will have my utmost attention and can expect the highest level of customer service from me, regardless of whether they are considered “luxury” or not.
For my buyer clients, this means:
Curating and notifying them of new listings as they come up
Making calls and talking to other agents to uncover any possible off-market listings
Strategizing and negotiating for the best outcome once we identify the property
Being extremely diligent while also holding their hand throughout the entire escrow process
And for my seller clients, this means:
Elevated and extensive marketing for their property to maximize exposure
A proactive selling process with constant updates, feedback, and follow-up on all activity, showings and other market data so they are never left to guess what is going on with their asset
And for all of my clients, this also means asking a lot of questions and understanding their needs, as well as constant and clear communication.
That being said, there are a few key differences when working with luxury clients, and yes, they can be harder to please and may require more effort and skill. Here are some important factors to consider.
Privacy is often more important to luxury clients. They might ask you to sign non-disclosure agreements, and you need to maintain a high level of discretion throughout the entire process, even after the sale is done.
You’ll work with their team
You may deal with more people — business managers, attorneys and various staff members — so being able to work with your client’s team seamlessly is crucial. And you need to do your homework so you know how a high-net-worth client might like to structure deals in order to maximize their financial goals. Having a reliable network to refer them to is vital.
Deals may be long distance
Luxury clients are more likely to live out of state or out of the country. Long-distance sellers will need more help getting their property ready to list. At times, I’ve acted as a property manager of sorts, hiring vendors and coordinating all kinds of repairs, or I’ve used my own accessories to personalize and elevate the staging.
You need to be willing to act as a one-stop shop, spending more of your time and going the extra mile for clients who can’t physically be there to assist.
Your marketing costs will be higher
With bigger deals, clients may expect you to secure great PR opportunities and invest in lavish marketing expenses, such as throwing catered events with high-end brands (think Louis Vuitton, Lamborghini, Hublot, etc). It helps to have some great connections, and in some instances, you’ll be the one paying for these pricey events (whether you ultimately sell the property or not). So be prepared to have some — or a lot of — skin in the game.
When working with luxury buyers and sellers, my principles of customer service don’t change, but I need to leverage different resources, connections and access in order to achieve their goals. When you act as a trusted advisor, leading with integrity and going the extra mile, usually the result is a successful transaction, a happy client and a long-lasting relationship.
Farrah Brittany is one of the founding members of the global boutique brokerage The Agency. Since becoming an agent in 2011, Farrah has worked on a multitude of multimillion-dollar sales, and she represents both buyers and sellers on deals of all sizes, across the globe and in LA’s most desirable neighborhoods. She can also be seen on the Netflix reality series "Buying Beverly Hills." The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.