Amazingly, for an industry that relies so heavily on reputation and word of mouth, most Realtors suck at customer service.

Some are too eager to move on to the next deal, some genuinely don’t get the idea that they need to nurture relationships past the sale, and well, let’s face it, some Realtors are just selfish jerks who give the rest of us a bad name. 😕

It’s Not Like This in Other Industries…

In almost every other professional sales environment, clients are treated like royalty.

Armed with corporate Amex cards and and a small army of logistical support staff, most salespeople woo clients with extravagant dinners, box seats at baseball games, and absurdly meticulous onboarding and closing plans.

Of course the royal treatment doesn’t end when the deal closes. Far from it.

Smart brokerages in Manhattan offer season tickets to Yankee games, trips to Peter Luger’s, and concierge level customer service to their property management clients.

…and it Had Nothing to do With Being “Nice”

These companies treat their clients like gold for one very simple reason: it makes them more money. Full stop.

While a reservation at a Michelin star restaurant and $1200 bottle of wine won’t make a bad product good or a good product great, it can and does help influence clients who have a wide variety of very similar contractors to hire.

Sound familiar?

Enter the Anti Realtor

When he was buying his first home, Jay O’Brien was underwhelmed at the level of service that seems to dominate the industry.

In fact, the service he received was so below the standards of other sales industries that he not only knew he could do better, but that he could do MUCH better.

During his first year as an agent, he sat down and came up with a service plan that would remove virtually all the pain points his clients faced. He also came up with a system to not only make his client’s transaction easy, but one that would be so much better than the status quo that his clients would sing his praises from the hilltops.

He was right. After only two years of selling real estate he was getting the vast majority of his clients from referrals and stopped spending money on lead generation entirely. Unheard of for most new agents.

Instead of sitting back and relaxing, he decided to double down and offer even better service. Once his business took off, he was named one of Inman’s Innovators of the year, and made NAR’s coveted 30 Under 30 list.

Client Giant & The Future of Real Estate Client Service

After the overwhelming success of his referral strategy, Jay started Client Giant, a white label concierge solution for Realtors that offers customized, branded, concierge plans so other Realtors could apply the same 7 star service for their clients.

Check out our interview with Jay below to hear his story and how he managed to get almost 100% of his business from referrals after only two years in the industry.

Jay O’Brien Interview Transcript:

Jay O’Brien:
Okay, so I got into real estate shortly after purchasing my first house, which was in 2010. I bought my first house, and the real estate agent that I was paired up with and the mortgage lender, it was just, as the story goes, a very sloppy and unprofessional experience. I was figuring things out as we went along. Surprises all along the way, with the home inspection, with the appraisal, with costs that were being incurred that I was unfamiliar with. I kind of just finished the whole thing. At the time I was 23 years old, and I was like, “Okay, I mean, this is kind of baffling to me. I borrowed the most money I’ve ever borrowed in my life, I just bought the biggest thing of my life, and I’ve had better experiences buying shoes, or something that’s just so much more insignificant.” It left a bad taste in my mouth.

Jay O’Brien:
I never really forgot about that, and about a year later, I was at a crossroads with my employment, and I was just kind of discontent and wanted something better. I knew I wanted to go into business for myself one day. Naturally, real estate presented itself, and I went against it saying, “I’m going to go against what I know with current real estate agents, and all my experience that I’ve see with the lazy behavior, the unprofessional attitudes, and I’m just going to do things differently.” From day one of getting my license, I branded myself as Anti Realtor.

The Close:
Right, yeah. That’s originally what I saw. They do the innovator of the year, and I think it was Kenny Truong that got it last year. It’s interesting, I saw the words Anti Realtor, so I was like, “All right, I got to talk to this guy.” Originally, I started out working in Manhattan, and it was such, the pressure to be the salesman, and to pitch, and to be the little ponytail sleazy guy, it’s through the roof. There’s a ton of money to be made on the one hand, and then there’s also the risk of catastrophic failure right next to it.

The Close:
Yeah, so I saw that, and I’m like, “Okay, I definitely got to talk to this guy.” I think it’s a cool approach. Yeah, so tell us about the approach, and how you came … You came up with it, so how did that play out in your approach to selling real estate?

Jay O’Brien:
Yeah, so I’ve been in sales basically my whole life. Selling was really something I was very familiar with, but my style and the way I’ve done it has always been very honest and ethical. That, essentially, would win over the customer, because the approach was, the truth is I don’t care if you buy or you don’t buy, I mean, this is the truth, it’s the facts, here’s where I’m going to steer you based on what you need. What do you know? You get repeat and referral customers that way, and then people end up buying even more with you that way. I just translated that same thing over to real estate, and from day one, I just was like, “Okay, I remember that my service experience was very lackluster when I purchased my first home, so I’m going to just go above and beyond the best I know how, and make sure that people are really getting a high quality experience here.”

Jay O’Brien:
In the first few years, it was just the regular grind. Do anything and everything you can do to find someone who might be a prospect, might be a client. Then, following through with it, I just did the best I know how to. Answering the phone, going to appointments, all these things. I discovered a couple interesting things my first year. My first year in the business, I did about 14 transactions, and half of them came from someone who already had a realtor. I shouldn’t say they were committed to that realtor, but when the conversation happened with them, I would ask questions, you know, and then I would say, “Okay, are you working with anyone?” They’d say, “Well, you know, we called this one guy, but he hasn’t called us back.” I was like, “Okay, well when did you call him?” “Monday. It’s Saturday.”

Jay O’Brien:
These people were … Half of my business came from people who didn’t follow up, didn’t pick up their phone, and I was like, “Oh my god. The bar is set so low in this industry.” Just like any other agent, I’d close these deals, I’d ask for testimonials, I’d ask for five star reviews, and Yelp reviews, and what have you, and post them on the website, advertise them, do whatever you do. It wasn’t until like 2014 where I was reading these, and it’s nice. You get this validation. Okay, these five star reviews. I must be doing something right, whatever. Then you kind of need to check yourself for a minute, and audit these five star reviews, and read the comments.

Jay O’Brien:
The comments are stupid. You know, they’re comments are like, “Jay is the best. He showed up to every appointment on time. He answered his phone when we called. He communicated the deals.” I’m like thinking to myself, “Is that what I bring to the table? That’s so shitty. That is a normal, regular job. You’ve done your job.”

Jay O’Brien:
I started to measure it against other industries, like especially hospitality industries. Thinking about different restaurants, and different resorts, different hotels, and thinking like, “Would this same sort of thing fly in these verticals?” The answer is absolutely hell no.

The Close:
“We got our food. It was correct.” Like, what?

Jay O’Brien:
It’s silly, but it’s true to think of it that way. You know, “We checked into our hotel and they gave us our room key. Are we going to [inaudible 00:06:43] stay at this hotel? Room service [inaudible 00:06:45] arrived.” It’s ridiculous, but somehow we managed to get away with it in real estate. The truth of the matter is, we do it across the board even as consumers. I mean, if you think about staying at an Airbnb, or an Uber, or a Lyft, you get out of the car, it asks you to do a review or a rating, rather, and pretty much, if you showed up alive, you’re like, “Five stars, done.”

Jay O’Brien:
That might be great. The Uber driver might be like, “Hey, I got 717 five star reviews, I’m awesome.” At the end of the day, I don’t remember my last Uber driver’s name. You know, they’re all saturated in the same sea of people, and ultimately, at the end of the day, I believe that real estate agents have the same challenge. As much as these five star reviews were coming in in 2012, 13, 14, I believe that there wasn’t a remarkable experience to be had, so the referral side of it may have happened, but a very diluted version of it, whereas you have, let’s say hypothetically, one of my past clients over here, someone saying they want to buy a house, I do believe, I’m confident that they would say, “Oh, you know, you should give my guy, Jay, a shot. He was great.”

Jay O’Brien:
Then, if that person responds and says, “Oh, yeah. Well, you know, John knows a guy, and we’re actually going to go through him instead.” That’s probably where it stops, you know? That past client probably goes, “Oh, okay.” Because, “I’m sure he’s probably going to be as good as Jay, whatever.” It kind of illustrated this huge white space to me as far as how far above and beyond you could actually go to get incredible repeat and referral business, and really create an evangelist versus someone you’re asking to do you a favor.

Jay O’Brien:
People are always saying, “Oh, hey. Can you call your past clients? Do you ever follow up with your past clients? Do you ever ask for referrals?” The answer is no. I never do that, because the same way the Ritz Carlton never asks me to refer people to them, like the service stands on its own two feet. If you deliver a high enough caliber of service, people will naturally refer it out. Not only refer it out, they’ll passionately refer it out.

Jay O’Brien:
If you’ve had a stellar experience at a restaurant, or a hotel, whatever it is, you are telling anyone who will listen how great your VIP treatment was, and you’re like incredibly passionate about them experiencing what you have experienced. That [inaudible 00:09:10] in 2014.

The Close:
That’s awesome. Like I said, some of the best advice I ever got, particularly working as a buyers’ agent, was from one of the first companies I worked for, the sales manager was like, “Look.” He’s like, “Just think about it like you’re with your best friend and you’re going shopping. You’re not going to lie and say, ‘You look great in that.’ If it’s your friend, you’re going to be like, ‘That jacket looks awful.'” You know what I mean? It’s just, you’re there for service rather than the sell. [crosstalk 00:09:43].

Jay O’Brien:
Yeah, so that’s kind of where things went. In 2014, I started to build out like systems and processes to, “Okay, what does this actually look like? What does [inaudible 00:09:55] experience look like? What is something that if that same past client heard someone say, ‘Oh, yeah. We know this guy John knows, that we’re going to work with him-

Jay O’Brien:
-client heard someone say, “Oh yeah, we know, this guy John knows we’re going to work with him.” What would happen, what would I need to do to make that person say, “No, no, no. You don’t understand. This is the guy to go to, and I can’t even explain, I can’t even put into words how great the experience was. I can assure you, there’s no one else doing what he does.” I started to put things together, and building systems and processes that would be mirrored through the transaction, be uniform every time. As an example, I wanted … one of the things with real estate that makes it very unique, is that we have a pretty big duration of time to create an experience for someone. 30 days, 45 days, 60 days. Whereas most other industries don’t. It’s more transactional.

Jay O’Brien:
If you’re shopping for auto insurance or something, you go over the best quote, and you go, “Okay, let’s do it. Boom.” That insurance agent doesn’t really have much opportunity to like, wow you. It’s kind of like, it’s done. You’ve made an order, and they’re going to fulfill it. With real estate, we’ve got like, a month or two to absolutely crush the experience, and so I started to think about pain points of the consumer. Even unknown pain points that we can deliver on every single time to make them feel special throughout the entire transaction.

Jay O’Brien:
As an example, it’s like when you open escrow on a file. Obviously someone who’s either buying a home or selling a home is going to feel a little bit of anxiety. It’s probably something they haven’t done in a very long time, or something maybe they’ve never done. What we do is we send out, like right now we’re sending out stress relief tea, motivational stress balls, a head scalp massager. The message is just like, “Hey, during this time, it’s my job to remove as much stress from the equation as possible. If you feel yourself being a little anxious, here are some things that might help.” It’s funny and whatever. It sets the tone on day one.

Jay O’Brien:
Then days after that, they’re getting moving boxes to their front door of their current residence, with packing tape and markers. It says, “Hey, here’s one less thing you’ve got to stress about.” This same sort of theme continues with about eight to twelve touches during the entire transaction. What it’s doing, is it’s telling the consumer, “Okay, my agent actually gives a shit. He’s not just waiting for the culmination of this thing to conclude and collects a check.” Instead it’s like, here are things that are going to help you. Here are things you might need. They’re not corny. They’re not punny. It’s real. It’s like, “Hey, gifts from me to you as a friend.”

Jay O’Brien:
Fast forward until now, 2018, I have been giving talks about this for the past couple years. Just, here’s the secret sauce. Here’s what I do, and I don’t spend any money at all on cold marketing. Zero dollars, literally. I don’t want the cold client. I just don’t. I’d much rather-

The Close:
Well, no one wants it, but they kind of need them.

Jay O’Brien:
Right, well I think if you take the same budget you had on your postcards, and your fliers or whatever, and you put them all back into your past clients or your existing clients, the people who already trust you. You need that evangelist. What I mean by an evangelist, like if you think about your favorite movie, right? Think of Shawshank Redemption. It’s like a blockbuster classic, right? I take it you’ve probably seen the movie?

The Close:
Many times.

Jay O’Brien:
Okay, so let’s say as an example that I have not seen the movie, and you and I just start talking about it. You’re instantly going to be like, “Dude, how have you never seen that movie?” Right? You’re going to be like kind of bothered by that. “How have you never seen that?” Then, you’re going to obviously recommend it, and now take it a step further. If I’m like, “Yeah, me and my girlfriend are actually thinking about watching a movie tonight. We don’t know what to watch, so maybe we’ll watch that.” You’ll be like, “Yes, dude. Please watch that movie.” Right?

Jay O’Brien:
If you see me tomorrow and we talk, you’re anxious to hear my feedback, number one.

The Close:
Right.

Jay O’Brien:
If I’m like, “So here’s the deal, we actually didn’t watch that movie. Instead we ended up watching Bridget Jones Diary.” You’re going to be like, super pissed off, and be like, “Dude, what? Why wouldn’t you watch this movie?” On the flip side, if I did watch it, you’re going to start drilling me with questions. “Dude, what’d you think of Andy Dufresne. What’d you think of this character? What’d you think of this? What about this part?” What you’re doing, is you’re getting all this fulfillment based on an experience you once had that now, I’m having. We do it with restaurants. We do it with hotels. We do it with beer. We do it with everything. Real estate is really no different, so long as you knock it out of the park. You know?

The Close:
That’s really awesome, and again, I think people, especially beginning agents are a little bit hesitant to sort of drop the money on something that’s not a done deal. On a smaller scale … Like I said, I worked in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I haven’t driven a car in 15 years. My clients don’t drive cars. One of the things I did was like, you know, I’m going to go … I was Uber VIP. I was paying for like, the Uber office rent for a good portion of time. People were really, really appreciative. It’s like, on the one hand, I had co-workers who were getting on the bus. I’m like, “It’s going to cost you $20.” We’re talking rentals where you can make $5,000. It’s like, “Why would you not spend $20 to make …”

The Close:
I totally get it, and again, this is a big part of the reason I reached out. This is something that I think a lot of really talented realtors do without necessarily putting a label on it. I think it’s something to do intuitively. I think it’s awesome that you’re kind of coming out there and sort of telling people about it, rather than just like, “Oh, you’ve just got to be great.” You get this wishy-washy kind of advice from Dolly Lenz or somebody. One of the [inaudible 00:15:58]. They don’t tell you, “Look, this, this, this, and this.” So, talk to me a little bit about the company that you started.

Jay O’Brien:
Yeah, so this all kind of led to this. For years, from 2014, 2015, to now, I’ve been doing more and more public speaking engagements. A lot of them are along the same topics and themes. Like you said, I’ve just been, “Here’s the information. Here’s the secret sauce. Here’s whatever,” you know? Information has never been the problem though, it’s the execution that’s the problem. Naturally, after doing this for so many times, I just saw what was happening. I would get off stage. People would come up to me and they’d say, “That was great. Oh my God, I completely see the value in this. This makes total sense. I’m going to start doing this in my business,” and low and behold, it never happened.

Jay O’Brien:
There’s like 1% of the audience that actually started implementing things. In January of this year, I was like, okay, enough is enough. This is a real pain point. It’s something that people arguably, I mean almost everyone understands that it is critical to happen throughout the transaction with any client, with any industry, real estate just being one of them. Almost unanimously, people say, “Yeah, I could be doing more for my past clients, and I just don’t.” Instead I’m like, I’m going to just create a company that does this for you. You can set it and forget it. There’ll be different tiers of service. I created focus groups based on people who follow me and what not. Built the whole business around that. Opened up beta in March or April, and limited it to 100 customers. It was crazy what the response was. We were inundated, hit that mark very quickly. Had repeat customers and repeat sales within that very short time frame, and then officially went live just a few weeks ago.

Jay O’Brien:
Basically, what Client Giant is, is it’s a white-labeled concierge service for any business, but let’s say real estate specifically, that is delivering seven star client experiences to the client on the business’ behalf. Client Giant is not seen anywhere ever. Our branding is not seen anywhere. It’s always coming from Amil, from Amil, from Amil, right? In terms of what’s relevant with real estate, like I mentioned before, having this period of time where you’re able to really execute on something, that’s what we call an escrow package. You can go gold, platinum, or diamond, depending on what it is. You’d mentioned investing in it earlier, and I get this question a lot where people are like, “Wow, that’s a lot of money,” or whatever.

Jay O’Brien:
First thing I would ask someone is what they’re spending on cold leads, you know? I can almost guarantee you, your ROI is not even remotely close to what it’s going to be on this. Secondly, on an escrow package, you’re just taking a portion of your earnings. You’re not coming out of pocket and saying, “Oh, I hope this works,” like with postcards and stuff. It’s quite literally, will work every single time. You have the money to do it coming to you. That’s how it works, and depending on which tier you go with, the touches become very, very high level. Very high level concierge-esque, like Ritz Carlton sort of service. The responses we’ve been getting are just unreal. Our customers can’t even believe what we’re doing for their clients. That’s ultimately what I set out to do.

The Close:
That’s really, really cool. I think one of the great things about that as well is that, I think people don’t really factor in the marketing that they’re going to do after they close. Like, “Hey, I’m going to nurture this former client over the next year,” or the next six months, whatever. You’re doing emails, and you’re sending holiday cards or a bottle of wine, or this, this, that and the other thing. All that adds up, especially if you’re focusing on the wrong people. You know? You’re focusing on your sphere, and it’s like the people that trust you the most, like you said, are the ones that, if you can convert from trusted client to evangelist-

The Close:
… trusted client to evangelist is going to have a much higher ROI than converting from regular Joe Shmo to maybe client right? I think people are maybe trying to focus on the latter and they’re trying to say, “Hey I’m trying to convert this guy I went to high school with to maybe a client or to a client who is going to sheepishly let me show him three properties and never call me back”. You’re zeroing on the best possible opportunity for long term success. I think it’s really, really smart. I definitely think this service that you have that’s set it and forget it is something that a lot of agents wants. Also, is there any training involved in this? I think people that are going to respond to this and maybe tell me if I’m wrong are people that already have a sense of what they want to do, they have decent clients, they’re working with luxury properties and they want to have it done and not have to worry about it. Is it more for new agents or are you trying to hit all the tiers of agents or for the high end people?

Jay O’Brien:
No actually our customer base now is all over the map, literally all over the map too but no, we’ve got very high level high volume brokerages that have implemented it top down saying, “We want to control the client experience and have a uniform top down” so they’re mandating it across the board. Now some brokerages are taking the cost on themselves as a piece of value add to the agents for agent recruiting agent retention, client retention right? Others are passing the fee along as a transaction fee to the client just like a TC fee or something. Others are leaving it for the agent to reimburse the brokerage post close. To answer your question I mean this has hardly been in fact I don’t even know if we have a formal luxury agent who is on Client Giant. We’ve had people say that they would pay more for even more things because their medium price is significantly larger than most. No right now it’s all over the board with people who are putting in clients.

Jay O’Brien:
The thing that was the most validating for me is that during the beta phase, so many of the people the customers who signed up continued to buy escrow packages sometimes multiple a day sometimes multiple a week so they’re totally seeing the value in it, getting these thank yous and referrals. On our small business side which is purely client retention and I can go over that in a little bit, that’s been really interesting too. We had a guy who signed up with us the beginning of last month he imported 40 clients. The first touch that went out to those 40 clients he got one referral securing a contract of 25 grand a month in revenue. I mean you talk about the ROI of being fucking thoughtful it’s like it is a no brainer.

The Close:
It’s what your mom told you really is. Your parents were right 100%. Okay so let’s switch gears a little bit. One thing I’m trying to do is every super successful realtor I talk to, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to but what if you have it off the top of your head, what tech are you using that you thought was awesome like the CRM website stuff? What was your main go to secret weapon tech?

Jay O’Brien:
With tech, the CRM thing it’s always been and always will be probably a hot topic where people lean on their lack of organization as being the root problem and they go, “Oh if I had a different CRM”.

The Close:
Yeah, yeah, no, no, no, no, no.

Jay O’Brien:
“I don’t have a six pack because I don’t have a Bowflex in my house. If I had that, then six pack”. The CRM thing that’s never been a secret weapon for me. The way I stay organized you can probably laugh at but there are a couple secret weapons out there that I like. One that comes to mind and probably again when I think of tech I think of ways to automate and streamline cold business right? All your hot and warm stuff you’re probably touching yourself. In order to stay organized and whatever we use the CRM Infusionsoft which is that’s a behemoth of a CRM. It’s very, very robust. Only if you’re inclined enough to use it could it do wonders for your business. This is more brokerage level. There’s a company called Real Contact they do SMS lead follow up and nurturing.

Jay O’Brien:
Now the way this works and it’s really cool, it’s really impressive and I think it’s more relevant now than ever, cold lead comes in, you can trigger it however you want whether it’s lead sign up on your website or whatever, but it’ll trigger instead of going email drips, email drip campaign, email, email, email that no one even pays attention to anymore, it’s text messages directly to the phone right? This is important because you can build out your script in terms of “Okay here are the initial questions I want asked. If they don’t respond, then I want this one to go out the next day. If they don’t respond in three days later I want this” and bla, bla, bla, that’s one piece of it. The other piece of it is “If they do respond, here’s what I do want the funnel to go and here’s where I want it eventually to lead”. The initial question goes out, the person replies via text, it immediately assigns it to a live concierge at the company who is actually behind a computer and typing, they understand where the funnel should go so they’re answering questions.

Jay O’Brien:
The reason why this is important is because it’s not a bot. About six months ago, one of our things went out and it said, “Hey I see that you’re looking for property, you’re looking in this city, in this city” whatever the automated whatever, the person’s first response was, “Yeah we’re looking right now, things are on hold. My mom just passed away last week”. If you had a bot, this would be a problem. “Great”.

The Close:
Oh man slap your face yeah oh geez.

Jay O’Brien:
This live concierge they go, “I’m sorry to hear that. Please reach out to us whenever you’re ready”. The reason why this is important is that again unanimously I’m sure that most people can say they don’t call leads the second they come in. They wait a little bit too long. They don’t nurture leads more than five, six, seven times whatever. This is a way to do this through text versus email. I don’t know if I’d call it a secret weapon but if I’m going to say any tech is a secret weapon that would be it. I also like this company called RealScout. Basically it’s a pretty MLS, yeah that’s probably it for tech.

The Close:
Yeah I think those are two good picks. I think you’re right in that the tech companies like Riley, a lot of these tech companies are doing really well are integrating human beings. “Okay we have a concierge, we have a guy”. It might be somebody overseas, it might be somebody who is not necessarily licensed or whatever, but there’s only so many variables of things that they’re going to say that a bot like your example is perfect, a bot is not going to cut it. The chat bot lead qualifying thing I think, everyone wants it everyone wants to implement it. I feel like it’s a couple years away at least. I think people are sinking a lot of money into the wrong thing whereas even if you hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines or you have a company that has people in the US and it integrates that kind of tech, it’s really following the things that convert.

The Close:
It’s text messages and Facebook chat, open rates are 10 times what they are in email. Having that human touch automated I can see why you would choose that. You’re probably not going to need a real secret weapon but that’s okay.

Jay O’Brien:
No, but I’ll tell you anything that you want to know.

The Close:
No, no I’m messing around with you. Awesome man so Client Giants and the website is clientgiants.com I’m assuming?

Jay O’Brien:
Clientgiant.com

The Close:
Cool okay so yeah I’m definitely going to send that out and we’re going to go through all that details at the bottom of this. Awesome man, it was awesome talking to you man thanks a lot.

Jay O’Brien:
Thanks Emile bye.

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