Brand loyalty and quality customer service

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Apple Store in Short Pump, retrieving data from my still-waiting-for-a-part PowerBook. Thankfully, I was able to retrieve most everything.

I witnessed something astonishing while sitting at the Genius Bar, something all Realtors should strive for. *Note: for this analogy, please excuse the hard drive failures of my Apple products. For the analogy to work, I need to focus on the customer service and brand loyalty.

A gentleman came in with his iPod mini. The battery would not hold a charge and he apparently depended on the thing for running. The Genius (named Eric, very helpful) told him that the unit was out of warranty and he could either have the battery replaced for about $60, look for a third party battery replacement or – if he were to purchase a new iPod, recycle the old one, and get ten percent off! The new nanos start at $149. The guy didn’t even blink. He walked out with a new iPod within 5 minutes. Now that is brand loyalty that all real estate professionals should strive for.

Consumers have choices. No doubt about it. Realtors fearful that new and emerging technologies are going to lead to their own disintermediation may in fact be threatened. Change is good. The opposite of change? Stagnation. Those who see the new technologies as tools which they may use to offer better service will be able to survive and thrive, perhaps more successfully than ever before. Better to embrace the new technologies and use them, lest they be used against you.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. ~ Sun Tzu

The difference between Apple and the rest is both simple and complex, but equally stark. The user experience is just better (applicable commercial here). Things “just work.” The brand loyalty, call it “blind faith” if you will, is utterly enviable. They differentiate themselves by providing innovative products, constantly evolving and improving and not following the crowd. Follow the crowd if you must, but Apple’s leadership and development is aspired to by all of their competitors. Good Realtors would do well to do the same. Call it aspiring to provide Raving Fan service; just offer the very best in your market. Simple.

(Thank you for the suspension of disbelief so that I could make a point.)

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  1. Michael Price October 31, 2006 at 15:59

    I will second your sentiments regarding Apple. I wish more Realtors would consider switching, it would make life as a technology vendor much easier. And for those that say their MLS won’t work with it, switch to FireFox and try again, it will take care of the problem.

  2. Jim Duncan November 1, 2006 at 12:21

    Our MLS works about 94% well with Firefox 2.0. Funny thing is, IE7 is creating some problems with the MLS despite its having been written *for* IE. 🙂

  3. JR Jackson November 1, 2006 at 13:53

    Interesting blog, just reading today for the first time and this post sort of got me thinking about something that’s been irritating me.
    I’m not currently in the market as a buyer so to speak, but I do keep my eyes open in case any particularly attractive opportunities arise.
    That said, currently living in the Waynesboro area, I’m taken aback at the dramatic difference in the level of technology present among Charlottesville-area Realtors and those in the Valley. I’m not familiar with the specific MLS technologies per se, but I do know this: Valley Realtors by and large are years behind the times in terms of the functionality of their MLS system and their general presence on the Internet.
    Half of the Realtors you encounter in this area barely know how to send an email, let alone create a webpage. Why would I want to list with someone in 2006 if they don’t have a Web presence or if their middling Web presence simply steers me back to the awful MLS page at While I suppose the hot market of the last few years hasn’t provided any incentive to these Realtors to get with the times, it seems to me that they’re doing a disservice to clients by masquerading as “full-service” agents, when they either have no webpage to display my listing or their webpage makes it difficult to impossible for potential buyers to find the meager information many of the existing sites provide.
    Sorry for the rant, but it’s frustrating as a potential buyer to see people seeking commissions when, in the name of either competitive entrenchment or sheer ineptitude, they can’t be bothered to step into the 21st century.

  4. Jim Duncan November 1, 2006 at 21:52

    JR –

    Thanks for the rant. I truly appreciate it, as it gives me even more reason to extend my reach into Waynesboro.

    I live in Crozet and Waynesboro is close. I’ve joined their board and have sold one house and have another one under contract there.

    If you’re buying or selling there, call or email me. 🙂

  5. Jim Duncan November 1, 2006 at 21:54

    You may also be interested in For now, redirects there, but I will have a Waynesboro blog in time …

  6. Pingback: Real Central VA - Tracking the Charlottesville and Central VA real estate market and more » How do you assess your agent’s tech skills?