In this Live with Lisa: Candid Conversations Series, I interviewed **Kevin Root **as we reviewed the topic: Client Engagement.
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**Featured Speaker Biography
Kevin Root manages operations for the RAGE real estate team - ranking in the top 100 REALTORS in Colorado with over $45M in annual production. Kevin is also a real estate coach and consultant for agents and small teams looking to improve their client engagement. As a speaker, Kevin is a sought-after trainer for referral-based business instruction. Kevin lives with his one wife and three boys (age 2,3, 5) in northeast Denver. His Spotify playlists are thus disproportionately influenced by the Mulan soundtrack and Fireman Sam.
* Lisa: *When you joined Josh Larsen and RAGE: Your Real Estate Team as his Director of Client Engagement his business grew exponentially. Tell us about your background.
Kevin: I have no formal business training, and I spent a couple years post-college working with students in the church and non-profit sector. In January 2011, I got a job at the Denver Better Business Bureau leading their internship program and overseeing investigations. That job uniquely taught me about the value of exceptional customer service - as most complaints we received were NOT about thieves or criminal activity. The complaints were mostly about businesses being unresponsive or over-promising and under-delivering, leaving paying customers frustrated and angry. I loved that job and worked there for three and a half years until mid-2014, when Josh took me to lunch and asked me to come work with him as Director of Client Engagement. My job description could be boiled down to a very simple one liner - build and execute the systems and practices to ensure an over-the-top level of customer delight. Bit by bit we’ve grown from a $5M business to over $45M business as of December 2020.
* Lisa: *Why is client engagement so important?
Kevin: Clients are people and people matter. Therefore, client engagement is super important. I think effective client engagement is a healthy marriage of activities that do scale and activities that don’t. Regarding activities (i.e. systems) that scale, in the book *Raving Fans, *the author writes “At the core of every great customer service organization is a package of systems…Systems are what allow you to guarantee delivery.” So I support that 100%.
On the other hand, I saw a poster in the background of a Facebook live video one time that said, “Do things that don’t scale.” And I thought it was perfect. Like, yes, we need scalable systems to offer a consistent experience so prospective clients have confidence in what to expect for themselves and anyone they refer, but the real magic is when we build margin into those systems, so we have space to make an experience unique and unforgettable - for all the right reasons.
* Lisa: Did you develop an engagement plan?\
Kevin: I did. Initially, I watched a bunch of Brian Buffini videos about the value of phone calls, hand written notes, and pop bys. We did that and continue to do it as the foundation of our business. Later, we stole this line from a music artist who said most people are bad at about 99% of things, but we’re also uniquely good at 1%. So figure out a way to just pour your energy into that 1% and see what you can make of it. So our engagement plan is just us trying to do our 1% on steroids. It started with sporadic client touches and is now around 100 touches per year for our VIP clients.
* Lisa: *What worked?
Kevin: In one sense, everything “worked,” but that’s more due to the simplicity of our systems than our robust skillset or creativity. We started simple and built from there. Client phone calls worked. Thoughtful, timely handwritten notes worked. Now, pop bys (little gifts hand delivered to client’s homes or offices) work. Renting out a movie theater for back-to-back-to-back showings that clients can bring their friends to for free works. Our motto is “High trust. Low pressure. Happy clients for life.” People know when they’re being sold to - like an internal BS meter, so we try to focus on caring well for our people and letting any ensuing sales take care of themselves. Trust is generally established through the making and keeping of a million small promises - so consistently running all these little touches is a way of delivering on our “happy clients for life” in such a way that, over time, builds trust.
* Lisa: *What didn’t?
Kevin: I don’t know if it didn’t work, per se, or if a lot of stuff was like a haircut from the 90’s - it “worked” at the time but we’ve come a long way since then and we are all better for it. Our clients were very gracious and tolerated our poorly-lit videos filmed in Josh’s garage office. We sent out emails with bad formatting. We sent (and this is debatable if it was good or bad as it remains our most viral email ever) long-form comedic blog stories written by Josh about attending his kid’s elementary field trips and having to answer questions about sex and butterflies. People even stayed on board when we branded ourselves with a crazy name like RAGE. I guess people could sense we were genuine and working hard for them and cared more about that than if our emails were all the same font.
* Lisa: *How do you track engagement?
Kevin: We track all our activities and the source of business for each new client - referral, repeat, online lead, etc. We track what percentage of our past clients refer us or work with us a second time (which we think is the most honest way to really track client satisfaction). So, I know that over 14 years, we have maintained 79% of our business from sphere, repeat, and referral business. It matters to us that while the national average of clients who, when given the chance, work with the same agent a second time is 24%, our percentage is over 90%.
* Lisa: *How have you continued to engage your clients since Covid?
Kevin: In addition to our normal phone calls, emails, and social media, this year we’ve added monthly business spotlight videos to help promote the good work our friends are doing - ranging from a favorite handyman to a local bakery to a wine shop. Times have been tough for a lot of small businesses, so we’ve attempted to share our platform to give their businesses free exposure. We combined the videos with giveaways on Facebook and it’s been a lot of fun to see people rally and place orders and contribute what they can to help keep people afloat.
Behind the scenes, when COVID first hit and no one knew what to expect in terms of any pending stimulus package, we texted all our people with a confidential, no-questions-asked, “could you use some help?” type message. We were able to donate a lot of big grocery gift cards to clients who had lost jobs or had major cutbacks to their hours. But, check this, some clients who weren’t facing financial hardship, when they got our inquiry, instead sent us money and told us to share it with people who needed it. It was sort of this amazing experience that almost no one knew was happening, and it was awesome. That’s why we tell people we have the best clients.
* Lisa: *Where do you get your ideas?
Kevin: Someone once said that if you steal from one person, it’s called plagiarism. If you steal from a bunch of people, it’s called research. So I guess I just research a lot. Haha. I read articles and interviews and pay attention to how people talk about their clients. When the world isn’t falling apart, we do a big client appreciation movie night and rent out the movie theater downtown - and that idea came from an experience Josh had when he was twelve or thirteen years old and a local business owner did that for his family. Josh never forgot it and loves to be able to do that for people now. On the other end of the spectrum, about six years ago we hand delivered a bunch of toilet fresheners to clients’ homes with a note that said “Having a bad REALTOR stinks. Thanks for choosing RAGE,” or something like that. So, I guess our ideas are a combination of plagiarism, research, inspiration from childhood experiences, and cheesy dad jokes.
* Lisa: *What are some of your client engagement plans for 2021?
Kevin: I wasn’t aware people were attempting making plans for anything anymore. Haha. The truth is, we’ll continue doing more of the same. We call our systems the “pick and roll” of real estate. They’re truly nothing fancy but they work for us, are pretty impossible to mess up, and we enjoy doing things that make our clients happy and keep our business going.
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