Email is primary cause of reduction in customer service – pick up the phone, says expert

He moved into his new home last week after an 18-month search and an eight-week wait from exchange of contracts.

Leading industry figure Peter Knight says it has been a testing time, and claims most of the customer service horrors could have been avoided or turned into both positive experiences and commercial opportunities.

Here are his tips as to how to create a truly moving experience for home buyers – and they’re worth reading if you want to be the agent “that will have buyers raving about you and your firm, as well as near guaranteeing they’ll return when it’s time to sell”.

  1. Treat “applicants” as if they are “buyers”. Not everyone has to move within a few weeks, many people search for months, even a year or more. These people are not “time wasters” or “tyre kickers” but future customers that just aren’t ready to commit yet, or maybe they need assistance to convert from casual to fully active – there’s opportunity number one.
  2. Treat “buyers” as current “referrers” and future “sellers”. Based on my experience with Andrew Giller of House in Cranleigh, (http://housepartnership.co.uk/),  I will recommend his agency, (here I am doing that), and there’s no doubt I’ll be referring home owners their way.
  3. Get to know your buyers. Ideally have a face-to-face meeting but at the very least pick up the phone and have a chat. And a chat in my book isn’t completing fields on a computer screen – it’s about a conversation where you do your best to truly diagnose your buyers’ wants and needs. I’ve persuaded several EAs to return to using a paper based “form” with just three questions: What’s the most important thing to you about this move?; What’s been your experience so far?  Tell me all about the property you want to buy? (If they’re selling as well as buying then add, “and tell me all about your property”). You can fill in the computer fields after the conversation and doing it this way will make the buyer feel much more appreciated than processed.
  4. Keep in touch. Again by phone NOT email. I believe email is the primary cause of the reduction in customer service within estate agency: it creates more problems than it solves. In 18 months one EA sent me five emails a day on average – not once did any of their sales team call me, even after viewing several properties through them.
  5. Seek feedback from every viewing. Feedback is gold in estate agency. You get to further diagnose and build on the relationship with the buyer. You also get insights to discuss with your seller clients.
  6. Move from being the “transactional agent”  to the “trusted advisor”. The more interest, care and concern you show your buyer when they’re looking the more likely they’ll be to take your advice, consider your mortgage advisor, conveyancing partner, etc at the appropriate times.
  7. Celebrate with your buyer at the key stages: offer accepted, contracts exchanged and completion – after all, you’ve reason to celebrate too. Make them feel they’re as valuable to you as your seller clients.

four-i Newsletter Issue 160

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8 Comments

  1. Simon Bradbury

    These tips, if followed, are the reasons why an effective estate agent ( “online only” or “traditional”) will succeed in the long term. They are essentially very simple tips – but very difficult to implement consistently across a business in my own experience.

    Do the basics brilliantly (and consistently) and success is inevitable.

    Thanks Peter. I’ve already sent out this article to our branches at Thomas Morris and Fine & Country and will be discussing them in our managers meeting tomorrow.

    Some people will claim that these tips to be “common sense” – that doesn’t make them “common practice”.

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  2. smile please

    Good old fashion agency. Still relevant today probably more so than ever.

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  3. RedBryan96

    Totally agree with this, having moved home recently and in a chain of 6 , I eventually had to visit the agent at the bottom of the chain to get the truth about what was going on. Numerous emails had been sent or worse ‘forwarded’ constituting as sales progression!! Be brilliant on the basics

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  4. NickTurner

    Good estate agents practise with good old common sense and Peter Knight above makes those points albeit dressed up in marketing speak which is how many firms and the bean counters want it these days.An perhaps that is one of the problems?

    Do the basics and do it well.

    I run my own buying and search agency here in the south west of England and have for a long time said that the property portals and computerisation have made a generation of agents ‘lazy’ in that they have never experienced a pre computerised period. Computers are a valuable aid to selling but personal direct contact via the telephone to vendors and applicants are essential.How often do I phone an office to be told when enquiring about a property or the availability of properties that ‘they are all on our website’. Its not uncommon for agents not to do viewings on Sundays. Why does an agent not progress their own sales – they after all have taken the property on, know the vendor and the purchaser?

    How many agents have a good working knowledge of property construction and law ? – one I met the other day said it wasn’t required as a purcaser would have a survey. Many know nothing about the difference between septic tanks and cess pits, solid walls and cavity walls, dry lining and traditional plaster, rights of way. Yes they certainly know how to operate a computer far better than my two fingered typing  but their rounded knowledge of esate agency is often lacking. And they often lie if they don’t know the answer although they would probably say guess. Nothing wrong in saying ‘I don’t know but I will find out for you’

    Some agents make it so difficult to get property particulars off their web sites let alon finding where they are. Why pre register before allowing an applicant to get hold of the particulars but that is how their computer website has been designed ( not by an estate agent!)?

    In fairness the ‘London’ agents with provincial offices are good at ‘phoning and use their old fashioned black book, often do the viewing themselves and at a time to fit the imortant persdon – the potential buyer.

    Estate agency and letting agency computer programmes with automated text messages confirming appointments help relieve a staff member from doing it or even reduces the number of staff required particularly in a larger organisation but how does the applicant feel?

    We as an industry are drip fed additions to our tool box mostly in the form of Apps and electronic gadgetry we are all sometimes in danger of forgetting the basics. Our client is the vendor / landlord but then how many young agents know the difference between agent and pricipal ?

    Do the basics, do them well and keep it simple – it works.

     

     

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  5. P-Daddy

    I for one am glad that agents don’t know how houses are built, it stops them from guessing and getting it wrong under CPR.

    The good news from the message above is that there is a place for agents who actually communicate…and not by email or sms. The truth is that few do!

     

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  6. Neilw

    What about “I’m on night shift do not phone, cannot take calls at work, leave voice mail I’ll get back to you” A lot of this “poor service” is created by the Customer!!

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  7. CPestateagentesq

    Is this the same Peter Knight who emails me everyweek with offers but has never called? He used to send me mail outs at one point but they have stopped…

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  8. chrisjcooke49

    Great article from Peter and I totally agree with what is being said….but the amount of times I try and contact applicants by phone and they use the excuse of being in meetings etc….and then I email and get a reply by email.

     

    Can never win!

     

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