“Personalization” not new in auction

Personalization is a current hot marketing term in all industries, but the auction industry has been personalizing services for decades.

By James Myers, contributor

Pulling in new business, personalization, and keeping current customers happy is on the minds of marketers in every industry.

They’re working to build more customer-centric strategies and personalize their day-to-day services in an effort to achieve better outcomes. Auction professionals have integrated personalization into their services for decades – it comes with the territory.

Some, however, take it to another level.

Benefit Auctioneers are among some of the most active in developing relationships with their clients. Tim Keller, CAI, AMM, CES, with Keller Auctioneers based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, says in the benefit auction arena (which is just one of many auction services they offer), they focus on building a rapport with every individual in the organizations they work with – not just the individuals that sign the contracts.

“We work hard to customize what we do,” Keller said, “even in building a rapport with each of the executive directors or development directors. We really see ourselves as helping them do their job and partnering with them. We end up being friends. For us, it’s more family than business.”

On the real estate side of Keller Auctioneers business, Keller said he knows from personal experience how stressful it can be on a family for parents and grandparents to sell their home and belongings as they transition to a retirement home.
“We’ll make non-business phone calls with those clients to check in on them just like a friend would,” Keller said following estate sales. “We’ll stop in and visit, and not just once or twice, because for us this is a relationship.”

Personalization includes family pets, too

Jack Christy Jr., CAI, ATS, BAS, GPPA, is heavily involved with box lot auctions and estate sales for Christy’s of Indiana, Inc. His company works four pick-ups a day on average, sweeping through three and four bedroom homes and determining what will be of value in an auction and what needs to be disposed of.

But they’re doing more than just determining value – they offer a 360-degree solution that can sometimes include finding a home for a pet. Like Keller Auctioneers, they’re working to take the stress off their clients as they experience a difficult transition in life.

“We take it a step farther,” Christy said. “We have guys come in and take care of the unsellable goods. We mop the floors, and we tidy up the home. We have folks who will come in and fix the drywall. We’ve even had dogs adopted.”

Keller said estate sales are an event that most people only experience once in their lives.

Auctioneers go through the process hundreds if not thousands of times in a career. However, Keller said it’s important to remember that clients aren’t familiar with the auction lingo, so auctioneers have to speak to them on a more personal level, using terminology that makes sense to the client.

“It’s easy for us to talk in terms we’re familiar with in the industry that they’ve never heard in their life,” Keller explains. “We walk them through the process and provide other ways of help, whether it’s dealing with attorneys or how to close out the estate beyond our business part of it. We reach out to help them understand the process.”

Nothing personalizes an experience like a smiling, caring person, which is the “key thing” for Mayo Auctions & Realty. Even though a portion of their business involves online auctions, a friendly face is still important. Robert Mayo, CAI, AARE, ATS, GPPA, said his company focuses on putting the right employees on the front line, which is where clients pick up or drop off auction items.

“Someone who will greet them with a smile and show them through expression that they are glad that they are there,” Mayo said of customer-facing employees. “Not everybody can be the point person. They’re managing the load-out, so everybody working that day is communicating through them. They must be able to deal with challenges and do so in a positive way with a good attitude.

“We have people who are really good at that on our team.”

Part of the personalization process also includes having the right amount staff on hand so everything runs efficiently and clients don’t have to wait.

“With proper planning ahead of time,” Mayo explained, “those unforeseen obstacles are overcome before the client even comes to get their items.”

At the end of the day, when the auctions are over and the crowd disperses, Keller said Auctioneers can be proud that they’ve gotten every dollar they possibly can to the client while also offering much-needed comfort.

“There is joy and satisfaction to that,” Keller said.