What Staging and Selling a House Can Teach You About Customer Experience

Both customer experience and selling a house are dependent on emotions.

Can we really affect the way our guests and customers feel?

 
 photo courtesy of VSI/Danielle Atkinson

photo courtesy of VSI/Danielle Atkinson

 

    It's early summer and a popular time to be selling and moving, especially while the kids are out of school, mom and dad now have an empty nest, and it is summer, often an easier time to make it happen. 

    My house recently sold and I just happened to be home during a showing when a potential buyer came in with the agent and sang music to my ears!  I overheard (sort of eavesdropped) them say, "I feel something in this place that I didn't at any of the other houses. It just makes me feel different. I feel so peaceful and calm." Yes, I wanted to ask her for a testimonial for my website! (I was already sort of eavesdropping, so I didn't.)

    So, back to the beginning. A few months ago, the owners of the townhouse that I had been renting decided to sell. Worked for me, as Dave and I had decided that living in the same house made more sense for us, and I was ready to move to his place. (which by the way, we immediately staged and put on the market, but that's another story - let's just say that by next month, I will have moved into three DIFFERENT places within 16 weeks - where is the wine?)

    Anyway, the seller's real estate agent liked what I had done with the place, but wanted to bring in a stager to make sure it would appeal to the ideal buyer.  Note: a stager is completely worth it! I was able to do much of it myself due to my background, but you will see the return by hiring a professional!

    So the two of them came by and decided that with just a couple of changes (remove the personal photos, reduce things on the floor such as baskets, etc.), my furniture and decor would work. Question to self: does that mean that I am current and cool, or instead that my stuff appeals to the masses? I cannot overthink this one.

    I agreed to be the one to get it ready. The first question I asked myself (with my marketing hat on) was, what about this townhouse would make it stand out from all the others on the market? What makes it different and special? 

    • It flowed well, but so did the others in the area - heck, they were mostly built by the same builder. 
    • I like to come home to a respite - to peace and quiet, so the decor of course already reflected this. and, it was the number one thing friends said when they came to my house.
    • The deck during late spring was beautiful, and you could see so much green, which was rare for this complex. 
    • I had a home office which could be argued as helpful or not, depending on how many bedrooms one wanted, but it was CUTE and encouraged creativity.
     photo courtesy of VSI/Danielle Atkinson

    photo courtesy of VSI/Danielle Atkinson

    So I focused on the calm, serene and peaceful points of the house.

    I gave it a deep clean and then decided to walk through the entire house as if I were a potential buyer - would things look any different?

    I decided to walk through as if I were the customer. Would things look any different through their lens?

    Absolutely they did!

    • A tray at the front door that I used to look at as useful and necessary, now, with this buyer perspective, became cluttered and in the way - easy to knock over - no purpose. 
    • My vision boards that are obviously all about me, seemed cluttered and confusing to someone else. Not only did I not like being so vulnerable with random people wandering through the house, I wanted to show that ideal buyer that this was a place where he or she could see herself. 
    • I usually had acoustic music playing in the mornings - piano or Joshua Bell, etc. So, I created playlists that would play during different times of the day depending on the time of the showings.
    • Prior to every showing I walked through the house as if I were seeing it for the first time and made adjustments. I moved this vase an inch to the left, made sure the throw on the couch was folded so you wouldn't see the seams, made sure all of the lights were on, the toilet lids down, the curtains open to the right place for that time of day, and the music playing. 
    • Later, when we sold Dave's house, I realized there were several things that a person doing a walkthrough would never see or experience, so we created a sheet and framed it and set it on the island. 
     
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    The end of the story is that several offers were made.

    And that person from the beginning of the story? They are now living in the townhouse (hopefully feeling peaceful and calm). 

    I'm not saying this was all because of what I did, but I am certain it was part of it. 

    So, what did this teach/remind me about customer experience?

    1. We must understand our customer and their values - what matters to them.
    2. We most certainly can affect the way our customers or guests feel.
    3. The tiniest details ARE important, even in a quick , perhaps never-to-be-repeated interaction.
    4. It is worth it to take the time to make it special. 
    This place somehow just makes me feel different.
    — potential buyer to her agent

    So, remember to think about what your guests value,
    Become the guest, and
    Pay attention to the details. 

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    ps (perspective shift)

    make sure that you take the time to become your guest and think about things from their perspective. What do they need and really want? What are they worried about? Even things as simple as, is it easy to park here? What is it like when you first walk through the door? Can he read the menu in the candlelight? Look at your business (or your home when entertaining!) from the eyes and values of your customers and guests.