How Realtors Can Roll Out the Red Carpet
Meet two real estate pros elevating industry standards with their exceptional service.
Throughout her nearly three-decade career, Laurie Finkelstein Reader has focused on building relationships and going above and beyond for her buyers and sellers.
“My superpower has always been that I take care of people and instill trust,” says the CEO of the Laurie Finkelstein Reader Team at Keller Williams in Plantation. She credits her giving nature and mindset with helping her become successful early on. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I wore a real estate hat, shirt and badge everywhere—and if you said ‘Hello,’ you’d know right away that I was in real estate,” she adds.
Not long after getting her license, Finkelstein Reader encountered a single mother looking for an affordable rental property.
“No one was willing to work with her, and she couldn’t understand why,” she says, adding that it was likely because there was no substantial money to be made. “But I wasn’t thinking about the commission because I knew that if I helped her it would come back to me.”
And it did indeed.
Mere weeks after finding her a home, the woman started dating a medical doctor who was so impressed with Finkelstein Reader’s kindness that he called to return the favor.
“He purchased a $1.3 million condo in Aventura and asked me to come to the property with my business card and sign documents,” Finkelstein Reader says. She was astonished to learn she’d get paid a commission as the doctor made deposits while the condo was being built.
“Twenty-five years ago, that was a lot of money, especially to someone just starting out. He did that simply because I did what any agent should do and helped his girlfriend find a rental. That is my all-time favorite real estate story. It just goes to show that you never know who you’re helping.”
Today, Finkelstein Reader leads a team of 30 agents who are committed to perpetuating her tradition of stellar service.
“I haven’t sold in six years because I’m running the company, so I’m in the growth seat now,” she says. “We look at the consumer as our North Star, and we are committed to understanding and accommodating their unique needs, expectations and circumstances at every step of their transaction.”
Here’s how they do it:
1. Exceed expectations
“We try to give everyone a genuine red-carpet experience, meaning we do things they don’t expect,” Finkelstein Reader says. “When you do this, they will become your biggest PR person on the planet.” The goal is to deliver service so commendable that clients not only return but also refer others to the team.
For example, they have a specialist assigned to each stage of a transaction. It begins with the Inside Sales Department, where the team determines the consumer’s needs and motivation. “This helps us put them in the hands of the right agent,” Finkelstein Reader says. “Once the agents meet with the consumer, their job is to build trust, take a consultative approach and ask the right questions to understand their reasons for buying or selling so they can provide tailored solutions.” After the agent successfully helps the buyer or seller negotiate a sale, it proceeds to the Closing Department, and the consumer receives a timeline of what’s going to happen and when.
2. Invest in your business and community
Finkelstein Reader has always believed in putting money back into her business. “I started sending post cards every six weeks and never let up,” she says. “Today, we do letters instead, which has become better for lead generation.”
Another way she reinvests in her business is by hosting client-oriented events. “During the holidays we transform our office into a winter wonderland,” she says. “People come in and get a Thanksgiving pie, and we do their family photos for free. It’s really a community event, and it impacts our forever clients, too.”
3. Deliver on promises
Doing what you say you’re going to do and fulfilling commitments builds trust and strong relationships. “Never lose sight of the fact that you’re in the customer service business,” Finkelstein Reader says.
Her team embraces her belief that every client holds value, regardless of their price point. “My top agent will do a rental for $1,500,” she says. “If a luxury agent sells a client’s property for $2 million and that client asks them to help with their grandma’s $90,000 condo are they going to say no to grandma? People will remember you when you [exceed expectations], but even more when you don’t do right by them. My team and I love nothing more than seeing others win faster.”
4. Forever client club
Finkelstein Reader and her team’s commitment to customers extends far beyond the closing. Clients who have transacted with the team can join the Forever Client Club by accepting an invitation to their private Facebook group. This gives them access to everything from neighborhood insights and restaurant recommendations to handyman referrals, prize giveaways, exclusive events and monthly “Ask Laurie” Q&A sessions on the state of the South Florida real estate market.
“We’ve always had clients that we’ve taken really good care of, but it reached a point where we could be more intentional so they would know that even though the transaction ended we would continue to provide value and be their resource for whatever they needed,” she says. “We take care of our Forever Client Club [members] in multiple ways, including the Facebook group, inviting them to events and sending emails that keep them fully informed on what’s going on locally and [give helpful tips] on how to prepare for hurricane season. The goal is to give them something of value, not just jam up their email. We also do birthday shout-outs, and we survey them to find out specifically what they love and what we can improve on.”
Ultimately, never let setbacks discourage you, Finkelstein Reader says. “I pride myself on being the biggest failure because it’s not how you fall; it’s how you get back up. The more you fail, the more successful you are because every setback is a chance for an even greater comeback.”
Another idea: Complimentary concierge service
Dana Koch is always willing to go the extra mile for his customers. Seldom is a request beyond his ability to fulfill.
A few years ago, a former customer called to ask if Dana Koch, a sales associate with Corcoran Group Palm Beach, could get tickets to the sold-out New Year’s Eve gala at The Breakers resort. Using his decades of community connections, Koch reached into his network and managed to pull it off. “This client had purchased something from me about a decade before, which shows that our relationship truly never ends,” he says.
Whether it’s a table at a booked restaurant or a last-minute request, they know they can count on him to make the seemingly impossible possible. “If I have a relationship with the owners or maître d, I’ll pick up the phone and call because I want to make sure my clients are taken care of. In turn, I ensure these restaurants are taken care of, too, because I’ve forged relationships with them over the years, and they’ve become good friends of mine.”
Koch’s mother, Paulette Koch, sold her company to The Corcoran Group in 2003, and they have worked together ever since. Having catered to a diverse clientele that includes heads of private equity firms, hedge fund managers, captains of industry—and celebrities like Michael Jordan, E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and New Age musician Yanni, they offer the same concierge service to homebuyers and sellers from all walks of life.
“There’s no substitute for experience and knowledge, and it’s our job to educate them—not just about the housing market but about the area in general,” he says. “Real estate is all-encompassing from a service perspective. You cannot rest on your laurels and need to keep getting better.”
Leslie C. Stone is a Vero Beach-based freelance writer.