Denise O’Berry, author or the “Just for Small Business” blog, poses an interesting challenge in her September 5th posting, Ditch the “Full Service” Please in which she implies “full service” is far too subjective and general a term to describe most businesses and should be shelved accordingly. I have to say, when it comes to real estate, I can see her point. For example, within a “full service” organization such as my own, we have thousands of licensed real estate agents, each operating as independent contractors, essentially running their own practices. How then does one agent determine “full service” as it relates to another’s service level?
In our industry, limited service is perhaps simpler to define. For instance, it implies the bridge between putting one’s home on the market as “for sale by owner” requiring of sellers that they advertise and market (local papers and websites such as “Craig’s List, seller supervised open houses, etc.), negotiate and close the home’s sale without the benefit of an agent’s expertise or access to local multiple listing services, vs. paying a nominal fee to gain access to the Multiple by having it listed through a limited fee brokerage. With limited fee broker services, the seller benefits by achieving greater market exposure without relinquishing overall control of the selling process. Statistically, however, eighty percent of homes initially marketed as “for sale by owner” are eventually listed with a brokerage.
The waters muddy with brokerages in the marketplace offering “full service”, yet making available concessions to either the buyer or the seller in the form of commission rebates and higher flat listing fees ensuring the consumer has representation through the contract period. Then, there are the “full service” brokerages such as my own office which promotes a fixed commission rate based on an established expectation of service extending beyond the simple tasks of activating a listing in the multiple, ordering a yard sign and keeping the flyer box full.
But, when is full service, full service? There can really only be a subjective answer to this question as it relies both on the provider’s ability to articulate the exceptional nature of the services offered and the recipient’s expectation of what full service may and should look like. Certainly, in my opinion, there is a bare minimum to full service requiring dedicated agent representation before, during and after the transactional period, a career long commitment.
So, where do you put your stake in the ground? I believe this is an important question to ask of yourself as you define the nature of service you provide your clients. Whether full, limited or no service at all, there are unlimited options for consumers, none of which, in my opinion are right or wrong. They’re simply appropriate to the client’s needs and situation. The same may be said for you, the agent. What are your needs? Are you prepared to stand fully behind your statement yours is a full service business? Will you walk away from a prospective client because you are being asked to provide less than you would normally or, for a lesser fee, provide the same service you do to your other clients? I subscribe only to this. The best I can do is offer an equal and consistent level of attention to all my clients for a service supported fee structure. To quote Denise, “Don’t use “full service” to describe your business. Take some time to clearly define exactly what you offer to your customers. Then go looking for the ones who need you most.” I couldn’t have said it better.