Estate Sale Customer Service and Management Tips for the Business

Proper business management and customer service are a given in any industry. For the liquidation professionals, estate sale customer service and estate sale management are essential because they have a direct effect on their reputation and longevity in the industry.

Any typical business organization may consist of different departments or functions.  While sales, marketing, production, and accounting are important functions.  Customer service in the estate sale business is necessary and possibly the most important function which drives the rest.

Dale Carnegie a leading organization that provides leadership training, and teaches professionals in almost every industry to sharpen their skills and improve their performance says “Outstanding customer service starts with solid relationships.”  Use this resource for additional tips to strengthen customer relationships, ask for referrals, and resolve complaints.

The majority of estate sale companies throughout the country are made up of family owned and operated businesses.  The business owner will generally handle multiple functions which can quickly become overwhelming if processes are not well defined.

Whether you handle the function of customer service yourself or have a staff member assigned, we hope you find some of the tips we provide beneficial for your company.

What is Customer Service in the Estate Sale Industry?

Customer service is when you, or someone representing your company takes care of the clients’ needs by providing professional, helpful, high quality service, and assistance before, during, and after the customers’ requirements are met.

John Romani with Sales by Helen, serving Philadelphia and surrounding areas for the past 30 years says “Now, both buyers and sellers have so many options, providing additional services that go above and beyond the estate sale is essential to the reputation and longevity of an estate sale company.”

We reached out to our private group of estate sale professionals where companies share, gain insight and tips from some of the best liquidators in the industry by asking: “what is the ONE thing you believe differentiates a company in the industry and makes it stand out?”

Teresa Haggard Wesbrook that started with estate sales at Deja Blu Estate Sales 5 years ago, and is now with Bo Land auctions was the first to answer “Customer Service” and she continued “We try to know our regular customers and their style, welcome the newbies and make them feel comfortable.  We hustle to make “piles” for customers, joke with them, and laugh at ourselves.”

Jodi Alldredge Almansouri with One Family Estate Liquidation in Utah said “I give the first 5 people in line a $5.00 gift card. I also hold a drawing each sale for 15 to 20 gift cards for whoever shares my FB event. I also have someone who buys everything out at the end. Nothing goes to charity my client makes money on everything.”

Who are your Estate Sale Business Clients?

As an estate sale planner, you have multiple entities to service.  Unlike a retail store that only deals with buyers and vendors for example, your clients can be three different entities at once.  They each enter your estate sale process at various stages.

Realtors, attorneys, other estate sale companies can be a client if they send you estate sale leads, and referrals.  Do you do something special for them to continue earning their support and referrals?

The homeowner (consigner) that hires your company directly is a client.  Do you have a customer centric process beyond meeting the estate sale contract requirements before, during, and after each sale?

The estate sale buyers are also clients that frequent your sales to purchase and help you liquidate the assets of your other client “the consignor.”  What customer service processes have you implemented for them?

The key to excellent customer service is to build relationships.  Thanking the customer, following up and promoting a positive environment that will ensure they are left with a great impression about your company, and the services you provide.

If you’re successful in your customer service endeavor, you’re likely to get more referrals, positive reviews, social media mentions and your estate sale shoppers will return often to shop and spend more, specifically with you.

Most estate liquidators if asked will say “I don’t need more buyers, that’s never an issue for me”.  That may be true, because buyers will always buy, but what we aim to accomplish in this article is customer retention strategies that will retain your existing buyers, and increase local awareness about your company.

Dan Jordan with Again L.A. estate sales, serving the greater Los Angeles area for over 20 years says “I never take our estate sale shoppers for granted, they are a key to the success of our estate sales.  I have a large following of shoppers that frequent every sale I hold and that is another reason people hire us to hold their sales, because they know we bring the right buyers.”

Buyers are also people with friends, neighbors, and family members that may need an estate sale.  If they regard your company, they will refer your services when someone needs an estate sale.

A negative estate sale buyer experience can, and will often lead to negative reviews that potential homeowners or future clients will see when researching your company for hire.

In fact, as I was in the process of researching companies to interview, the majority of negative reviews left for professional, reputable, and experienced estate sale professionals were mostly from buyers for minor situations that could’ve very easily been avoided.

Customer Centric Estate Sale Management Strategy

EstateSales.org has created an exclusive customer centric workflow available for you to download within our Estate Sale Company Network private group on Facebook.  Join us for a wealth of info that will help you grow your business.

Whether you handle the customer service process yourself or have a staff member in place.  The first tip is to have an outlined process for each client you serve.

Begin by defining customer service tasks that must be done in a sequence.  Once those tasks are defined, assign them to a responsible party, even if it’s yourself.

Small gestures go a long way, so let’s discover some fine customer service tips that can be applied before, during, and after an estate sale.

We have created a sample customer service management workflow for you to use.  Download a copy in our private group for estate sale companies.  Not a member? Ask to join for this and many other tips that will help your estate sale business grow.

Customer Service Tips for Estate Sale Referring Sources

Attorneys, Realtors, retirement homes, funeral homes, and even other estate sale companies are all great sources for estate sale leads.

You may be the company they refer to on a regular basis, what are some of the things you can do to maintain the relationship and make your referring sources feel appreciated?

Remember, once you choose a customer service process, apply it to your estate sale management workflow and assign a responsible party to it.  It becomes a natural method to follow in your customer service plan.  You will be at the top of their mind when they need an estate sale professional.

  1. Even if you thank them over the phone when they give you a referral, send a “branded” thank you note in the mail to leave a lasting impression.
  2. When you talk about the estate sale on social media, remember to thank them again by tagging them in your post. Everyone appreciates a spotlight moment, especially real estate agents and attorneys.  They help your business grow, why not help theirs?
  3. Follow up after the sale to provide them with a quick summary “Hi Joe, just want to let you know the sale you referred to me went great, we are here to help if you ever need us again.”
  4. Remember them on holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a great opportunity to reach out and show your appreciation to those that help you grow your business.  Whether you do it in person by dropping off a box of chocolates or an email that personally goes out to them showing your appreciation.

When you take extra steps in your business to show appreciation, you differentiate your business from the competition.  You make it memorable, dependable, and credible.

Estate Sale Customer Service Tips for the Consigner

Let’s say no one referred you.  A homeowner or family member found you online and called you directly for an estate sale, that’s great because it means your estate sale marketing efforts are working!

There’s no need to apply the customer service process for a referring source mentioned above for this particular scenario, however there are some other tips you can apply to make sure you shine above the rest.

  1. Smile while speaking to them on the phone. A smile can change the tone of your voice and make you sound friendly, warm, and receptive.  Telemarketing companies are so convinced of the value of smiling while on the phone, they have installed mirrors above telemarketers’ desk to remind them to smile. “Whatever it takes!”
  2. If you just met for an on-site interview, follow up with an email after. Thank them for their time, and make yourself available if they have any additional questions.
  3. If you are chosen for the sale, give them a branded thank you card that assures them they’ve made the right choice. “We just want to thank you for choosing our company, and want you to know we will provide you with the highest quality service you expect and deserve”.

Sue Odell at Changing Homes with Sue providing professional home staging and estate sale services in Villanova PA said “The (after sale) is often the most difficult part of the process for the client.  There is still work to be done!  We understand the time constraints and emotional burden of the client, we are always prepared well in advance for the final stages, and to make special arrangements for our clients when they need it.”

4. At the end of the sale, when the consignor is paid out, leave them with a branded survey/feedback form, urge them to contact you directly if they are not satisfied and allow you to rectify the situation before leaving you a review.

“Your opinion guides us on how to improve our quality of service, help us get recognized for a job well done.  We depend on word-of-mouth referrals and ask for your feedback.

We’ve been serving (city, state) for the past (#of years).  We take great pride in helping our clients and want to make sure you are 100% satisfied.

(your name) has an open-door policy, if you’re unhappy for any reason, (she/he) wants to hear about it!  Please contact (your name) directly at (email address) and allow us to make your experience a positive one.”

Client feedback is extremely important in evaluating your process.  The feedback will help you adjust, implement new methods and increase your brand awareness and local presence.

Serving the consignor goes well beyond taking great photos of their items, and staging the estate sale.

Estate Sale Service Tips to Use with Shoppers

There are thousands of shoppers that frequent estate sales to get the best deals, however many love going to estate sales for the interaction, and experience.

It doesn’t take much to service estate sale shoppers.  The first can be a simple welcoming smile, and remembering their name if they come often.

Estate sale shopping is quite different from retail.  It’s competitive, requires the shopper to wait in line for long periods of time.  The goal is to make their experience a positive one and worth the wait.

Here are some other tips our estate sale professionals apply and suggest.

  • Apologize for the wait and let them know it’s worth it!
  • Have coffee or donuts outside for your shoppers while they wait to enter the home.
  • Kindness is key, if an elderly person is waiting in line, offer a chair.
  • Insure you are well staffed to help shoppers carry items out when they need it, and available throughout the home to answer questions.
  • Thank them as they’re checking out to make them feel appreciated.
  • If not a regular shopper, make them one by directing them to how they can find your upcoming sales. (Sign up to email list, follow us on social media, etc…)
  • As much as you hate bargaining shoppers, it goes with the territory. Decline kindly, and with a smile rather than be rash.  Ask them to come back the next day where they will get a great deal.

Happy customers shop and spend more!  New research from the Columbia Business School concludes that a relaxed, happy customer is not only satisfied, but is willing to pay more for the product.

Include the estate sale shoppers in your process, they are also people with friends, neighbors, and family members that may need an estate sale.  If they regard your company, they will refer your services when someone needs an estate sale.

Keeping your existing buyers happy will grow your base of followers, thus directly affecting your ability to serve your consigner/client.

Buyers talk, Oh boy do they talk!  While they’re waiting in line, or in their secret social media groups, they are talking.

If news used to travel fast before social media, it’s now traveling at the speed of light.  If you don’t have a customer service plan or regularly evaluating your existing plan for its effectiveness, you may find yourself getting less estate sale leads and shorter lines outside of your sales.

Estate sale experience, marketing, properly staging an estate sale, and selling at the highest value possible for the client is a requirement that must be met.

Customer service is something that goes beyond the estate sale contract requirements and puts a spotlight on who and how you are as a professional estate sale business owner.

How to Resolve Customer Complaints?

·       First, don’t take things personally

·       Listen to the whole story, and do it empathetically

·       Show respect for their point of view and always use their name

·       Own it! Take ownership of the problem, and create an opportunity to solve it.

Are you in the Business of Selling Stuff or in the Estate Sale Business?

The secret to longevity in this estate sale industry is communication, and understanding.  Whether you’re a veteran estate sale professional or starting a new estate sale company.  What are you in this for?

Defining who you are, and what your business stands for directly impacts how the public perceives you. In business, the first impression is everything, always make it a lasting one.

Estate sale management also includes implementing sales, marketing, and customer service strategies in your workflow which elevates the status of your company to a whole new level.

You will be thought of as a professional estate sale business instead of someone in the business of selling stuff for commission.

If you already follow many of these tips, we’d love to hear from you and listen to your success stories.  At estatesales.org, we have a 24 hour, 7 days a week including holidays and weekends, open-door policy.  If you have an opinion! We want to hear it.