Written by Jeffrey R. Armstrong – President/Owner of Armstrong Capital
Your favorite Master Note Buyer – Straightforward, Honest, Fair…
In the note business excellent customer service is the biggest and least expensive favor you can do yourself and your business. To stay viable, any note business depends on both new customers and yes on repeat customers as well. And as big or small as the note business is, you will keep running into the same people and clients over and over. Your reputation with those past clients will help you obtain and keep new clients, and will follow you throughout your business life.
The old adage that “the customer is always right” isn’t correct, of course, but it should be your guiding light in dealing with your customers. Even if you have a situation where you must disagree totally with your client, you need to do it in a win/win way. No one likes to be backed into a corner or told that they’re dumb or a deadbeat (even if they are). You need to be assertive but not aggressive, and allow your client to walk away from your discussion feeling he has been treated fairly, and that you’re an okay person.
Even online, word of mouth is our best most efficient method of marketing. I can’t stress enough how valuable it will be to you. Guard it carefully, and return the favor by praising your clients every chance you get.
Part of your customer service should be to spell out very plainly and exactly what your purchase terms are whether you pay transaction costs, or the seller pays transaction costs, allow cancellation of the contract, or if there is any penalty for cancellation, or if you don’t allow cancellations at all. If there is a penalty for cancellations, state what it is in understandable language without trying to hide it.
Spell out the due diligence process, what a normal transaction time frame looks like, how closing and funding will take place, and if funds will be held until documents are received or recorded. Don’t give sellers false hope, misguided information or hide any truths. Not all sellers will read all of your conditions, of course, but if those conditions are in your terms, you have a “legal” leg to stand on.
Along that same line of avoiding dissatisfied clients, describe. The better you describe and explain your services, the less chance you have of any unsatisfied clients (or of a dissatisfied client who doesn’t say anything, but badmouths you afterwards). It takes a few minutes more or a few extra paragraphs written per agreement, to spell out precise terms and conditions, but it pays you back in two ways: satisfied clients, and more sellers (of notes and cash flows). Always try to put yourself in the seller’s position, and treat them as you hope to be treated. You will gain many more closed transactions being truthful than you will lose through spelling out liabilities. A good description method is to thoroughly spell out faults, but also thoroughly spell out the good things about your services: do you pay for costs, do you order the appraisal and title, will the price change if credit is poor, if the appraisal is low or if title is clouded, or will you cancel the transaction. Be as straightforward, honest and upfront as possible.
Communicate with your client. Again, it only takes a few minutes to explain delays, problems, progress, expectations, etc. Most people will work with you, if they know what is going on.
One of the best methods of communicating, when in an adversarial position, is to kill with kindness. Never, ever allow anger to show up in your communications, whether by voice or email. Again, be assertive but not aggressive. You can explain calmly that such and such is not acceptable (particularly when you have spelled out in your terms what is acceptable), and suggest a constructive way to remedy the problem. Criticism, if not accompanied by a constructive solution, never solves anything. Never get personal, never blame anyone. In fact, just never treat any customer in a way other than you would want to be treated, yourself. Think of email communication as dealing with your customer face-to-face, and don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to his face. If you’re angry, compose your email but don’t send it Stop and think for a couple of hours before pushing “send”.
Try to find a way, always, where that win/win situation makes your client feel he has saved face. He’ll come away from the encounter with respect for you, and many times turn into a good, repeat customer. By defusing the anger in the situation, you may often find your customer joining in and helping you find ways to resolve a problem. Winning is not the most important thing. So you get to keep $200 or $2000 but if you’ve made an enemy, that money is not worth it. A satisfied client will make you much more than that with, over a series of transactions, and will recommend you to others. A dissatisfied one will spread the “bad” word that will cost you other customers and potential future income.
To sum up: treat your clients as you’d wish to be treated, and treat them in a way that will keep them as repeat customers. They, as your reputation builders, are your most valuable asset.
Remember, success demands action! Keep on marketing, it’s going to work! TWITA! (That’s What I’m Talking About!)