As a real estate professional, you field numerous calls every day from clients needing recommendations about household service providers, local schools or even good restaurants.
That should count as a concierge service, shouldn’t it? Of course! You are providing a service to your clients. But a really good concierge program should go beyond just providing a vendor list. It’s about becoming your clients’ go-to resource in the community, during the transaction and beyond.
Implementing a good concierge program might take a little more of your time, but those who have done so say it’s worth the effort — and some new digital tools are making it even easier.
For Joe Houlihan, managing partner of Houlihan & O’Malley, a boutique real estate agency in Bronxville, N.Y., a concierge program just evolved naturally from the way his agency operates. “It doesn’t cost us much monetarily to provide these services, but it takes a lot of time and effort,” Houlihan says. “Things don’t just ‘happen’ for our clients — we make them happen.”
For buyers, Houlihan and his team of agents maintain a list of trusted service providers, from electricians and plumbers to general handymen and gardeners. For sellers, providing good concierge services starts before the development or the new homes are even listed, says Houlihan.
“You can save your seller clients so much hassle and time up front,” he says. “Go to your building department and check to make sure there are no open permits or permits that need to be handled — that way you can properly advise your clients and have time to address any issues.”
One of the main mistakes agents can make with clients is to let them get away after closing the sale. A good concierge program can help you to build solid — and lasting — connections with your clients.
“Why are you letting them go? Why aren’t you staying in touch with them? It’s not hard to send a Christmas card every year,” Houlihan says. He added that it’s important for agents to look for ways to create a dialogue with their clients to learn what their needs are. “You can become the key resource for them.”
One way Houlihan and his agents stay in touch with past clients is through a “miscellaneous mailing program” to send former clients information of interest, move-in anniversary wishes and so on as a way to stay top of mind. And staying top of mind with former clients is important for generating new or repeat business.
“Offering concierge services has really boosted (our) reputation from seller to seller — and referrals drive a lot of business,” Houlihan says.
Digital tools such as Dizzle or Updater are another way real estate professionals can provide branded concierge services for clients.
Dizzle, which creates customized mobile apps for Realtors, is the brainchild of Will Caldwell, who grew up in the real estate industry. “My mother is a Realtor and I watched her deal with clients who were always calling for recommendations. I thought there had to be an easier way,” says Caldwell, who serves as Dizzle’s CEO.
With Dizzle, real estate agents can build an app that brands their name or agency or it can even be positioned as a neighborhood app if an agent wants to focus on a particular area. Through the app, agents can upload their list of vendors and other important resources that their clients may need and send push notifications, such as reminders, checklists or other relevant news.
Dizzle is available in app stores for clients to download. “Your name is right there on your client’s phone. It helps you stay top of mind,” Caldwell says.
Similarly, Updater founder and CEO David Greenberg was inspired to create his concierge tool — a tech platform to handle moving-related tasks for buyers, sellers and renters — after going through a move and getting frustrated at how long it took to deal with switching utilities, updating his address and so on.
Like Dizzle, the Updater platform can be branded and customized for each agent or for a brokerage or team. “It’s a really nice, turnkey way to offer a concierge service,” said Jenna Weinerman, marketing director for Updater. “We’ve seen that 68 percent of buyers and sellers have thanked their agent for offering Updater.”
At present, Updater is geared more toward the moving process, with agents able to send personalized invitations to clients to use the service to transfer utilities, update their contacts all at one time, forward mail and access a preferred vendor list. Agents can also provide clients with digital moving announcements, branded with the agent’s information.
“Anything we can do to make the process easier [for clients] is a good thing,” says Anthony Lamacchia, broker/owner of McGeough Lamacchia Realty Inc. in Waltham, Mass., who got Updater for his agency in May 2014 and appreciates its “one-stop shop” aspect.
Whether you build your own concierge program, go with a digital version or use some combination thereof, ultimately, the goal is to make the client experience from start to finish a good — and stress-free — one.
“It’s a very personal thing that our clients share with us,” Houlihan says. “These are milestone moments that a family brings us in to be a part of … and we are privileged to be a part of that process.”
Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor who, during her 20-year career, has written on a diverse number of topics, from horses to lawyers to home building and design.
She currently writes for NewHomeSource, and, in a nod to her equestrian background, copyedits for Southern Racehorse magazine and The Horsemen’s Journal. Judy is also the proud owner of a newly built home and has gained plenty of story inspiration from her home ownership experiences.