Agents are being urged not to bury their heads in the sand over the introduction next May of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Gareth Samples, director of Brief Your Market which is launching roadshows from November 14 to educate agents, said: “There are significant issues for the industry in terms of customer acquisition and customer relationship management, but while there are hurdles, none are insurmountable.
“We as a business want to run through the changes that need to be made between now and May 25 to make the transition period as smooth as possible and offer advice on strategies that need to be adopted
“We do strongly urge agents not to ignore or try to avoid the new regime, but to embrace the new laws coming into force to build increased trust and reputation from their customers.
“The risk to agents is that every single person on their database is a potential claimant.”
One specific problem is that the new regime is likely to create a rise in numbers of ‘professional complainers’ who allege that you have mis-handled their data.
Another issue is the sheer size of the potential penalty: the new GDPR carries the threat of fines of up to €20m or 4% of a company’s annual turnover, whichever is higher, for breaches.
Samples said: “It will be vital that agents train all their staff, and log that training, so that they can at least prove due diligence to demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply.”
He emphasised that agents should start now, in order to get ready for the new regime. Otherwise, he said, they would have to delete their historic databases.
Some companies have already done just that: pub chain Wetherspoons deleted its entire database of customer email addresses this summer, and has stopped sending marketing newsletters via email.
According to Holly Goodrich, of Brief Your Market, this was because most of the customer email addresses had been acquired by collecting business cards for a prize draw – something that has been a common practice at industry exhibitions, but one that will almost certainly bite the dust.
Specific advice from Samples for agents is:
- Define and implement your new GDPR compliant processes across all parts of your business.
- Train all staff; document their training and keep those records.
- The process starts with the first contact. If that is in the office or over the phone, they should be asked verbally to agree to whatever it is that you want to do with their data – for example, be alerted to a home coming on the market that suits their requirements; permission to pass their information on to, for example, your mortgage provider or your conveyancing provider. The permissions should be broken down and be as granular as possible: these are their personal preferences.
- Follow up with an email confirming what they have verbally agreed to, with boxes which they can tick to opt in, creating their personal preferences.
- Contact those on your database before any future deal closes: you will have an amount of time post transaction to keep this data. As yet the time limit is not firmed up but likely to be up to two years.
- If after next May 25, the person you are trying to keep on your database does not respond to your first email, you will not be able to send a reminder email – in short, there will be no second shot.
- In the event that someone does not opt in to any of your services after a property deal is done, you are unable to market any services to them.
The roadshows start next week.
You can register your interest here: https://www.briefyourmarket.com/roadshow
There is also a useful video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjiNR50sVu