I recently worked with a buyer client that was looking to buy a large piece of land in Jefferson County.  There were a lot of issues with the purchase that we needed to overcome before the property could be sold.  This isn’t all that unusual.  Almost all real estate transactions anymore are complex and have their own unique issues.  That’s one of the reasons why I suggest you utilize a real estate agent when buying or selling your home.  One of the big issues with this property is that it wasn’t just one property.  It was 4 parcels of land.  Because of this, and because the listing information and tax information were all showing different things, it became somewhat obvious that we would need a survey.

Survey Company Selection

It’s not unusual for a title company to know pretty much every survey company in town.  I asked the title company I use frequently for an estimate of what it would cost to get a survey.  For this particular property, because it was so densely forested, they said that it would cost around $8,000 and the turnaround time would be two weeks.  Because this is a unique property, I also decided to call around on my own and see what another survey company would charge.

Using People In Your Real Estate Network

I could remember working with and recommending a survey company that I’d used right when I started in real estate sales.  They were always nice and very responsive.  These are the type of companies I love to refer to my clients and associates.  I asked them for a quote.  They quoted a price that was almost half of the amount as the first company.  Excitedly, I told my buyers about the new price, and I also told a lot of other people how wonderful this survey company was and how they were really coming through for my buyers.

The Great Betrayal

When you order a survey to be done, you use a title and work order survey form.  I filled out my part, and sent the document to my buyers for their signature.  I then sent it to the title company.   The next morning, I get a terse email from my awesome survey company.  It says, we are going to have to re-bid our estimate.  I sent them a response, “OK”.  Then, without getting another estimate I get another email that says, “You said we were close on our estimate.”  The inference was that it was somehow my fault that they gave me a bad number.  This was the absolute worst thing you can do in customer service.  With no evidence, you just accused me of being shady.  You made the mistake:  acknowledge a mistake was made and move on.  You don’t accuse your customer of trickery.

What Should Have Happened

The survey company contact should have said something similar to the following.  “Hey, we got a bad number for some reason, we apologize and we will get you the right number right away.”  If they would have said that, they would have every chance to earn the business.  Instead, the company called and started telling me how wrong I was again!  Can you believe it?  I’m just looking for a number for a survey, and they want to continue with this non acceptance of responsibility?  I told the representative that we wouldn’t need the number after all.  They were wasting my time, and I had no confidence that they would be able to actually complete the survey without somehow telling me it was my fault that the sun was too hot or that there were mosquitoes in the pasture.  This was a sign though.  From experience, when the first thing a company does is blame you for their own error, it isn’t a company you want to have anything to do with.  Great organizations accept responsibility for their actions.

The Final Trick

You would think that after I told the survey company we were done, that would be the end.  It wasn’t.  About a half hour later I get a number for the survey that is 4 times higher than the original estimate.  What do you think that was about?  I’ll tell you exactly what it was about.  The survey company knew they weren’t getting the business.  They sent over that high number because this way, they could justify why they weren’t getting the business at all.  You see, now they can point at me and say, “we lost that job because our price was too high.”  “The survey competition is brutal in St. Louis.”  This is a much better excuse than “Boy, we really should look at our customer service.”  One answer is easy, the other one causes a level of introspection that the organization isn’t prepared to go through.

The Real Cost Of Bad Service

I’ve written about bad service in real estate before, here, and here.  I don’t think I’ve ever written about how damaging bad service can be for a company though.  Here are 3 things that this survey company guaranteed by acting the way they did.

  1. I will never use them
  2. I will never tell a client they should consider them
  3. I will no longer tell other clients how great they are

That’s a serious penalty, considering they also lost the potential revenue from this survey and future ones.  Again, this all could have been handled so much better by the survey company.  All they would have had to do is be decent and move on.  Originally, if they would have avoided accusing me of malfeasance, they could have still gotten the job.  They wouldn’t have had to apologize, they wouldn’t have had to even accept responsibility for their mistake.  And they couldn’t even do that!

The Line Not Crossed

You may have noticed I didn’t mention the survey company name.  I won’t.  You also won’t see me going out of my way to rip them in a review online or anything like that.  To me, it crosses a line.  Treat others as we’d like to be treated comes into play here.  It’s one thing to explain an absolute customer service mishap.  It’s another thing entirely to actively root or encourage a company’s demise.  In real estate sales, where there are something like 8,000 agents in St. Louis, I can’t afford to treat any of my clients the way this survey company treated me.  If you do have a real estate company or agent in St. Louis that acts this way, remember, Deerwood Realty is just a phone call away.