Respect your client, even if he is a gypsy
One of the biggest problems that we face in Romania nowadays is that the level of services for clients is “not satisfactory”. Fortunately, the situation is much better than 6 – 7 years ago, but we still have a long way to go, until we change this market behavior.
Real Estate segment: Too many problems, but exceptions make the difference
In Real Estate we seem to follow this national trend of “bad services” for clients (as average). Each week I receive 5 – 10 emails by readers from all around the country, complaining about the services they receive, the arrogance they are treated with, the lack of respect and even more. Also, at the same time, there are thousands of foreigners who can assure you that their experience here was similar, despite their intention to invest millions.
Luckily in the last few years we see several companies that try to differentiate from this wrong example. I am happy to hear positive comments about people who work in multinational companies, franchises of residential brokers or who, simply, have their own company or work in one. Maybe in other countries respecting your client is obvious, but here, when you do it, you automatically obtain an advantage on the competition, you stand out.
“Why is it so important for me to pamper the client? I also have self-respect and I am a free person”
In Romania (Greece and other countries) there are still too many people who confuse freedom with anarchy. They consider that being free to choose means that they can do whatever they wish, forgetting that our rights end where someone else’s rights start. The same theory includes the approach towards the clients. Many brokers asked me in private: “Why is it so important for me to pamper the client? I also have my self-respect and I am a free person”.
For them respecting their client feels like losing part of their freedom. Listening to his needs sounds like they are obliged to behave “somehow”. Usually we find this mentality in people who live only for “now”, with a personal life strategy with a horizon expanding until… “tonight”, or a maximum of “a couple of months”. Education, media examples and other parameters prevent them from advancing to a different level of professionalism, but they are the first ones who lose because of this.
Respect your client, even if he is a gypsy
Once I was a speaker in a conference about Real Estate. As I always like to, I initiated people to share their opinions, experiences and approach to business. So, after many others, a gentleman stood up to speak his mind. He has been on the local market for a long time, with “many years of experience”. He started describing how correctly he behaved to a client of his and then he wanted to give us the opposite example. He analyzed how he treated a client who was gypsy, being proud of not respecting him. He somehow declared that he… “gave him a bad property, as he was sure that he would not pay him the appropriate commission”.
I immediately disagreed with his opinion. “In Greece we have the same opinion about gypsies that Romanians do, but this does not mean that we should treat everyone without respect, just due to stereotypes”. I tried to explain to him that a good sales person respects absolutely everyone, even the members of the society who have a bad reputation. “If you don’t want to serve someone, you can always refuse politely. But if you decide to serve him, he deserves your best effort, as everyone else does”.
You can imagine what happened in the room… Some people left, others started shouting that I was wrong etc. But I insisted. “The Client is the king, is the saying. Did you find any saying where the client is the king, only if he is dressed in a way that we approve of?” As the room was in complete disorder, I decided to share with them a real story that happened in Greece some 30 years ago…
Greek banks in the ’80s
Back in the early ’80s, Greece was nothing like what it has become today. It had just joined the European Union and switched the government to socialists, who had the slogan “For better days”. There were just 7 – 8 bank branches in Katerini. Money was expensive, around 30 – 35% annual interest rate to borrow and usually you needed to have political influence in order to obtain a loan. The few branch managers were akin to local celebrities. Everyone wanted to meet them or be around them. They had the power to decide if a company or a factory would be shut down or continue its activity, through a bureaucratically built system. Their salary was not very high, but they received many presents and their status was similar to the mayor’s!
At the end of one year, two banks decided to set targets for the branches. Whoever would not reach it would be replaced (this was mainly due to the political pressures for others to replace a branch manager with their person of influence). So two branch managers were stressed, trying to reach their target “without destroying their image and showing weakness by searching for clients”.
The gypsy client and the bankers
My father was friends with all of them, being a merchant in the city for decades. So he narrated to me a very interesting, but real, story…
“Both of them were extremely stressed. One day a gypsy enters the bank of the first one. It was the end of month, the systems were down and people had to wait in line. He got tired, plus he had some health problems, but there were no chairs available for clients, just one in front of the manager’s desk. He went and asked to sit, but the manager looked him down and replied that “this seat was not for him”.
After a few weeks the same gypsy had to go to the bank of the second manager. The same health problem forced him to sit, but he thought about it twice after his first experience. There was again just one seat available, in front of the manager’s desk. He went there and made a sign with his hand, asking to sit. The second manager told him “of course, this is why we have seats”. He saw that he was not feeling well, so he asked him about his health and brought him a coffee. He even asked his colleagues to bring the papers there, for the client to sign and not have to wait in line. The gypsy signed and left, the transaction was for few drachmas…”
“Respect the client and you will be rewarded”
I asked my father what was the relevance of the branch managers’ target and the gypsy gentleman, so he continued.
“The second manager was not reaching his target, as the first one was using the help of a member of Parliament. They were calling all clients and kind of blackmailed them to transfer their deposits to the first manager’s branch. So the second one was about to lose his position as well.
The next day (after he treated the gypsy well) was horrible. Problems again, stress, clients leaving. At about 13.30, though, as he was focusing on some papers, he heard someone talking to him, from behind the desk:
– “Hello boss, how are you?”
He looked up and saw the gypsy again.
– “Hello to you, tool. Are you feeling any better today?”
– “Yes, I do. But I want to thank you for yesterday”
– “Don’t mention it, you are a client and this is part of our job.”
– “No, I want to thank you, please come out with me. It won’t take long.”
They went out and the branch manager was left speechless… A truck was parked in front of the bank and it was filled with money. Coins, bank notes, anything you can imagine. 3 children were trying to put the money in some dirty bags, but it was too much, impossible to handle…
– “What is this?”
– “I like how you treat me, so I decided to bring you some of my deposits.”
– “These are your deposits?” the surprised manager asked.
– “Yes, boss”
– “And you call ME the boss?” he laughed.
They had to close the bank for one day, as all the employees were busy counting the money. At that time there was no questionnaire regarding where one found the money, so they just focused on the right figure.
But it did not end there. The gypsy brought all his friends to the bank, as well. He had friends from all levels of society and they brought “a river” of money to the branch. At the end of the year, the second branch manager not only didn’t get fired, but he ranked third in the country, in deposits and was proposed for a raise and a promotion”.
He respected his client, without caring for his nationality, skin or style: He got rewarded
I can tell you for a fact that the story is true and that this branch continues to serve the majority of the clients it obtained back then. This branch manager remains one of the examples I have when approaching a client. He did not care about the client’s skin, nationality or style. He respected him as he was supposed to. The result was extremely positive.
Any client is still a client. Respect him and you could receive positive surprises. Treat him badly and be sure that you will lose in the long run. And that’s a promise.