Don't be the "Slow Store"

“Honey, I have to run up to the Slow Store.”

I utter these dreaded words about once a month when I am forced to go to my neighborhood “mail and fax” place. I had to do this last Friday to return a contract that had been mailed to me.

I call this establishment the Slow Store, because, well, everything about the place is painfully slow. Nothing there — the people, the equipment or the transaction — moves at my speed (which, at 37, is not really all that fast).

Have to send a FedEx? There’s nothing quick about it. The clerk will write out a carbon copy sales receipt, but only after checking a laminated rate card and calculating the total cost on an adding machine. Forced to fax something? Get ready for business at the speed of syrup.

This would be charmingly antique — like visiting one of those historical theme parks where people in period costume churn butter or make horseshoes — were it not the case that I go here to get something done.

And it costs me money. Last Friday it was $17 for faxing 16 pages.

6a00d834f24b4869e2010536f96e9d970c-800wiAs I stood watching the clerk watch my contract inch through the fax machine, ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” pumped just a little bit too loudly through invisible speakers. It was the perfect bit of strangeness. I snapped the photo to the left during my wait.

I hate going to the Slow Store. But every so often I have to go there, despite the fact that:

The Slow Store’s very existence is an anachronism sustained by the occasional tight spot.

It is the antithesis of customer-focused organization. The experience is driven by its needs, not mine.

It clings to old tools and price models.

It survives on the patronage of generations that know no better way.

I leave pissed every time.

You see where I am going with this. What does the average human being experience when they walk into a real estate office (or hit a real estate brokerage website)? My guess is something not unlike my Slow Store episodes. They are sucked through a wormhole and emerge within a strange world of accordion files, fax machines and bad coffee.

They are slowed down, Steve Austin-style, by weird restrictions that make no sense. They are beset by fees that often seem as patently ridiculous as $17 for 16 pages.

And this survives, for now, barely, on the shaky ground of No Better Way.

Don’t be the Slow Store; be the Better Way

You can’t make transactions happen right now. You can’t market out of this thing we are in. But you can dazzle the customers you do get right now. Chances are you have the time. Craft an experience built around their needs, not yours. Eliminate artificial restrictions and pain points in the transaction. Go above and beyond.

These are just exhortations. I know that. Blanket prescriptions don’t work here. What flies in one market or brokerage is inappropriate in another. But you know the boundaries. We make it our business to help you work within them.

The bottom line: If you are open to it, now is a great time to create true loyalty, to engender the cheapest, most effective advertising you could ever ask for: Word of mouth.

The people at my Slow Store seem nice. But their days are numbered. I wish for their sake they’d speed up.

Brian Boero