Learn from the Competition

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In 1999, a business book hit the market titled The Disney Way.  In the book, the authors explore the philosophies and values that made, and still make, the Walt Disney Company one of the most powerful and respected brands in the World.  In one particular chapter, the authors tell the story of a group of new executives attending their Disney orientation.  During the meeting, the new employees are asked who they view as Disney’s competition? Predictably, they respond with other companies that are traditionally viewed as being in the same space as Disney at that time – other theme parks and entertainment companies.

This exercise with new employees helps demonstrate Disney’s core belief that consumers of goods and services will inevitably, and perhaps unknowingly, compare their experiences with  any company against their experiences with all other companies, even if they are in very different lines of business.  In other words, consumers do not create neat little boxes for each industry in which they compare similar businesses against one another.  These new Disney executives quickly learned that the management at Disney viewed their stiffest competition to be FedEx, Nordstrom, McDonalds, Marriott or any other company that Disney’s customers may also interact with and encounter.

If a Disney guest had become accustomed to the high level of customer service delivered by Nordstrom, they would bring that same level of expectations while visiting a Disney park or resort. Likewise, if guests were used to efficient and reliable services received from FedEx or even McDonalds, they would expect any service delivered by Disney to be of equal standards.  As a Realtor and business owner yourself that can be an intimidating, if not scary proposition – every buyer and seller I work with is going to compare me to their Disney vacation or shopping experience at a high end retailer!

However, it actually represents an incredible opportunity. Most Realtors, spend a great deal of time attempting to set themselves apart from fellow Realtors but if you’ve read the recent reports from the National Association of Realtors, the biggest risk facing our industry is marginal real estate agents.  So, why set the bar low by only using other Realtors as a point of comparison for the customer experience you want to deliver to your clients.  Every week, maybe even every day you are witness to and hopefully the recipient of outstanding customer service and experiences from the businesses you support and visit.

Take note of these experiences and find ways to incorporate them into your business.  It doesn’t have to be anything specific, remember a customer “experience” is just another way to say how someone made you “feel.”  How did a trip to Disney make you feel?  Did they anticipate your needs before you even had to ask or think about it?  Isn’t that something you could start doing for your buyers and sellers tomorrow or how about today! Isn’t your average commission equal to or even more than the cost of a Disney vacation?  It stands to reason that our customers are absolutely reasonable in their expectations that we deliver the same “Disney” level of customer experience to them.

We can observe and learn from all kinds of successful businesses, big or small and no matter what you may perceive these companies are in the business of selling.  If you live in a community or neighborhood that has a QuikTrip, do you go there because their gas is better than the service station across the street? Of course you don’t.  How many gas stations will you pass just to get to a QuikTrip. Burt Holmes, the founder of QuikTrip was visiting Dallas when he observed successful 7-Eleven stores and decided to improve the concept in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1957.  The original concept of QuikTrip was a convenience and grocery store where consumers could quickly get everyday items from friendly store employees.  It wasn’t until 14 years later in 1971 and 150 stores later that QuikTrip first started selling gasoline.

Doesn’t it now make sense why you don’t view QuikTrip as just a gas station?  Their business model from the very start was to ensure that any time you visited one of their now 700 locations, you experienced the same environment of a clean and organized convenience store that had better food, beverages and friendlier employees than “just the gas station” across the street.  Gas is now something you get while you are already at QuikTrip for your daily snack or drink and no matter which store you visit you will always hear “see you next time.”  Isn’t that kind of consistent and reliable service something you can start delivering to your buyers and sellers right now?

Have you ordered anything off Amazon?  Of course you have! Amazon discovered a pain point that most of us had never even realized we were experiencing – Traveling to multiple stores to get what we needed.  More important than their warehouses full of everything from A to Z is the systems and technologies they’ve created which allows me to order bird seed, a television and now grocery items with my thumb print on my phone.  And all of it will arrive on my porch in exactly two days, maybe even sooner once their drone fleet is perfected.  Hundreds of thousands of consumers interact with Amazon every day and most have never had a single human interaction with an employee of Amazon, yet the company is known for delivering outstanding customer experiences.

As Realtors, we too need to make sure that where our consumers interact and experience us in the digital world is efficient, clean and easy.  We’ve heard for years now that 90+ percent of consumers start any real estate experience on-line, so is your and your brokerage’s website the leading on-line marketplace where buyers and sellers come to shop? Are you utilizing the shopping tools that consumers want like AVMs, local content, mobile platforms and systems for you to immediately respond to consumer inquiries? Couldn’t you start improving your on-line experience to better match the personal experience you want do deliver? Of course you can.

We can learn an amusement park, a convenience store, an on-line retail giant and hundreds of other businesses.  The next time a company, an employee or a business makes you “feel” something, take note and visualize how you could do the same thing in your real estate business.


Written by Chris Kelly
Chief Administrative & Legal Officer
ReeceNichols Real Estate, Corporate