Humble Pie: how to lose a customer(s), forever.

Tuesday morning this week I spoke with an agent customer who called to speak with an employee who happened to be taking well deserved vacation time. The agent discussed sending over a transaction but only wished to work with this staff member. They had a great working relationship on prior transactions. After I indicated that our employee was away on vacation and that all e-mail sent to our employee would be forwarded to the appropriate staff, I offered to give an additional e-mail contact for Lynlee (owner) thinking this would put the agent at ease. The agent agreed and we waited for the transaction to come through. It did come through later in the afternoon and all staff members received the transaction virtually simultaneously with no problem. The agent’s e-mail remarks were generally, ‘here is the transaction with the attachment.’ No e-mail flags or return acknowledgement asked.

The following day around noon I received an e-mail from the agent. The agent stated abruptly that because there was no response to their e-mail they elected to move the transaction to the title company escrow department that was named on the purchase & sale agreement. To say that jaws dropped was an understatement and this situation was a first for Lynlee in all the years in escrow and for our office. Lynlee and I discuss how to diffuse difficult customers and clients all the time– something you have to have in your DNA if you wish to survive in escrow. She is a master of this just by her demeanor.

Immediately after receiving notice via e-mail that this customer was not pleased, I contacted the individual by phone. With my mind spinning I mentioned that we were confused, particularly after doing work for this agent before. The customer indicated that they moved the transaction because we had not immediately responded. Flustered, I focused on the act of the agent. The transaction was closing at the end of April and we had the transaction in our office for a matter of hours.

In the end, I asked Lynlee how she would have handled it any differently. She said, “first, apologize, and lastly, apologize. Then, get back to work on the important transactions at hand.” While I realize that it is impossible to please everyone, striving to please everyone is paramount. I lost my composure, essentially driving home the point by asking if this agent would like us to drop every other transaction we are working on to assist them with a transaction that never even started—a very poor decision on my part. In hindsight, I should have asked, “in the future, how would you like me to handle your communication and correspondence?