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Brokerages Should be Customer-Centric, Not Agent-Centric
Imagine going to a “waiter centric” restaurant. In this hypothetical restaurant, the first concern isn’t the customer’s experience. It isn’t great food or even great service. The restaurant’s main priority in this model is to make sure their waiter gets paid. One of the ways they do this is by hurrying customers in and out of the restaurant as fast they can and adding an automatic gratuity disguised with complicated, unclear language.
It’s a great model for waiters (while it lasts), but it would definitely leave customers looking for something more.
Even worse than a waiter-centric restaurant, imagine provider-centric healthcare. The goal wasn’t to give customers the best care possible, but to ensure doctors and healthcare providers got paid through a complex, regulatorily protected system that lacked transparency and ensured fees were kept high and customers were left without much choice.
Okay, bad example. But the fact that restaurants are not waiter-centric and healthcare is provider-centric might give some insight as to why people like going out to eat but hate going to the doctor.
What about real estate?
Real estate, like healthcare, is a business that often fails to be customer-centric. In fact, many brokerages tout themselves as being “agent centric.”
What does it mean to be agent-centric?
An agent-centric brokerage is focused on protecting the best interests of agents. One of those interests is ensuring attractive commission rates. Let me be clear: there is nothing inherently wrong with realtors making a good living from what they do. As a brokerage that works with hundreds of agents, we want them to do well. But we want them to do well because they provide unparalleled service and as a result are in high demand—not because an agent-centric model ensures they get paid either way.
The reality is that the agent-centric model will fade away. It’s only a matter of time. Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, and iTunes are examples of major industries where a shift to a customer-centric focus disrupted or eliminated major businesses. Taxis, hotels, and the record industry will never be the same.
But it didn’t have to be that way.
If record companies had put themselves in their customers’ shoes and realized that music buyers didn’t necessarily want to buy a whole album to have access to just a few songs, they might have weathered the digital revolution a little better. If taxis weren’t so expensive (and difficult to deal with), there would have been no market for Uber or Lyft.
If brokerages continue to emphasize being agent-centric, they will be displaced. When that happens, you will hear major brokerages crying foul or saying that a customer-centric model isn’t up to industry standards—just like the way taxi companies tried to block Uber and Lyft from operating in specific cities, including St. Louis and even London.
And just like with taxis, that claim will be about protecting the service provider, rather than the customer.
Our mission at Worth Clark Realty is to disrupt real estate business and make it more customer-centric. Through technology and world-class customer service, we give consumers a choice of service options, access, transparency, and commissions that match the level of service provided. It’s the reason why we’ve been one of the fastest growing companies headquartered in Missouri and one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages in the country for three years in a row.
Being customer-centric isn’t just a matter of doing right by your customers.
Being customer-centric will be a matter of survival. If you’re a brokerage that continues to put agents first, you are doing yourself—and your agents—a huge disservice. Eventually, your model will be disrupted by a brokerage driven by the belief that providing great service in today’s market means providing transparency, choice, and the best customer service in the industry.
In other words, you’ll be disrupted by Worth Clark Realty.
Steven Barks is the President & COO of Worth Clark Realty. He began his real estate career in 2009 as an agent for a small startup property management company in Minneapolis, MN. A natural self-starte....
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