The Importance of Customer Service: From Restaurants to Real Estate

by Chicago Agent

By Kristi Waterworth

Michael McCatty

Most top-producing Realtors, when asked for the secret to their success, might name off a half dozen customer-centric business practices and talk about how they built their career in little steps. Few will credit a $1 hot dog for that success.

“I had stopped at a drive-in restaurant and walked up, bought a dollar hot dog, and saw a for-sale-by-owner sign in the window,” explains Michael McCatty. This was in 1999, right after he had gotten his Realtor’s license. He ended up selling that drive-in for nearly half a million dollars, with McCatty working both sides of the transaction.

“I talked to the guy for a couple of weeks, and quickly sold the property,” McCatty says. “I used the money for advertising and expenses. I put half toward advertising; it was a quick $10,000 push in my first six months. As soon as I put that money out there, the phones started ringing.”

McCatty always had a strong passion for real estate, often visiting model homes while debating the merits of a career in architecture or home building. Instead, he chose a career in restaurant management, where he learned a variety of customer service skills that would become invaluable when he found himself downsized. After taking a pre-licensure crash course, McCatty placed his license with Century 21 Dabbs in Orland Park. Within six months, he was the top producer in his office.

“I watched a lot of the folks around me,” McCatty says. “I learned what not to do based on how they treated their clients and how they put their deals together. I learned they weren’t as customer-focused because they didn’t have a business background.  As Realtors, a lot of folks end up here – it’s a destination they hit by accident.”

While McCatty loves the real estate business, he recognizes a strange dichotomy inside it. Realtors have very unusual and valuable relationships with one another. While the market is competitive, Realtors must also cooperate in order to close deals. He says forging those relationships are vital to success.

“Our industry is unique,” McCatty explains.  “The culture is to be at each other’s throats.  But as soon as you get a listing, you’re relying on the people who missed out on those listings to sell your property for you.  It’s an interesting line we balance on here.”

McCatty’s rise to top producer was sudden, but not unexpected considering his extensive background serving others and willingness to work long hours.  At the end of the day, he said, getting the most sales is all about helping customers and building relationships, and he’s glad he made the career choice he did.

“The worst day in real estate is still better than the best day in the restaurant business,” he says.

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