Moment of truth: Can you honestly cope in a market with so many estate agents?

Is your business due an MOT?

2016 could well be a challenging year for property-related businesses, with the continued impact of MMR, a possible glass ceiling being reached on property prices in some areas and continuing low levels of stock.

Although 2015 has been a good year for many agents, the fact remains that numbers of completed property transactions in England and Wales continue to be down on the heady “pre-downturn” days of 2007, meaning that there may simply be insufficient residential estate agency sales income within the UK to sustain anywhere near the numbers of branches and firms that exist at present. This situation is exacerbated by the momentum and traction gained by “online agents” during the past year or two.

Towards the end of every year, I re-read my favourite non-fiction book – “Moments of Truth” by Jan Carlzon – one that I first enjoyed many years ago and which has helped me improve the way I run my businesses more than any other. I have just finished reading it again recently.

As I devoured for the umpteenth time the words of wisdom on each of the 135 pages, it struck me that every estate agency proprietor should do the same.

Jan Carlzon took over Scandinavian Airlines in 1981 – a company on the verge of losing $20m.

One year later, it was making a profit of $54m.

That turnaround is quite extraordinary in both size and speed. Better still, the way he achieved it was simple and straightforward.

It was all about understanding and maximising what he called the “moments of truth” – in other words, every single interaction that a customer has with a company, whether it lasts only a few seconds or more, needs to be a positive experience – better than they expected and better than the competition deliver.

I have run dozens of seminars on the “Moments of Truth” principles and encouraged estate agency proprietors and managers to apply them to their own operation. Conveniently the initials of “Moments of Truth” are “MOT”.

By giving your business an annual “MOT”, in the same way as you do a car, you can ensure that your business is operating as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

Those owners that have done so frequently report back that having carried out the three key stages of listing, reviewing and perfecting the “moments” that customers experience, an upturn in business levels inevitably follows.

Just listing the “moments” is a time-consuming task but an essential one.

Think about sales and rental applicants and all the interactions they have with your firm from their first visit to your website, to contacting the branch, to receiving information from you, to arranging viewings and so on.

Vendors and landlords have a vast list of experiences with you from their first awareness of your brand, to booking a valuation appointment, to the appointment itself, to the point of instruction, to feedback calls and many many more.

Once these have all been listed, it is crucial to conduct a review to see exactly what your customer’s real experience is like (perhaps by way of “mystery shopper” exercises or customer feedback forms), and then to take steps to perfect each “moment”. The steps taken towards perfection need not cost any money – rather an investment of time, energy and diligence.

From our mystery shopping calls that we conduct weekly, it is clear that the “moments of truth” with many agents fall well short of the calibre needed in challenging market conditions. Even basic elements such as greeting, tone, listening and questioning are substandard. And whatever happened to the fundamental principle of thanking people for contacting your company when there are countless other agents to choose from?

Once you embrace this concept (and ideally read the book!), you will find yourself experiencing your own “moments of truth” when you are a customer. I experience them daily – many are far from positive.

I remember well one stand-out customer experience when I visited a well-known high street bookshop (which I imagine is not having their most profitable period given the competition from online suppliers) to look for a particular book.

Failing to locate it, I approached an assistant behind a till and asked if she could help me.

I gave her the title and author. Without explanation (nor eye contact nor smile), she tapped away on her keyboard for two minutes or so, asked me again for the name of the book and who wrote it (mildly irritating) and finally handed me a small printed ticket.

She then explained that I might find the book in “a number of places” in the shop, all of which I had already looked in. Finally, when I asked her whether she could confirm that they had it in stock, she told me their “system can’t tell us that”. Genius!

I went home and bought it online. In the most challenging of times for the retail sector, the shop has lost a transaction (and a future customer) in minutes. If only they stocked Jan Carlzon’s book and made their staff read it!

Julian O’Dell

TM training & development

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3 Comments

  1. smile please

    I think this time of year is perfect for looking at our businesses and what we have achieved year to date and what we want to achieve this coming year.

    I mentioned yesterday, if you stand still you will get swalloed up. portals online agents, third party leaches all looking to make money off us while our fees are shrinking.

    Not only service but look to expand your offering, if you have never taken fees for mortgages and solicitors maybe look at it in the new year, look at rentals, look at increasing fee, dump some of the advertise that is not working, look at spending more time with staff so they can convert more opportunities.

    Another great book which no doubt most have read is 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey. Do yourselves a favour get the audio version and stick it in your car and listen to it on your way to and from work. Very powerful.

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    1. wilko

      “dump some of the advertise that is not working”……..I knew you would see sense in the end Smile…….It’s ok, I know what advertising media you’ll be dumping and, like I said, you wont regret it!

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      1. smile please

        Ha ha – More like cutting the newspaper advertising in half 😉

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