Lightly secret shopping Estate Agents…

I’m no professional ‘Secret Shopper’ and it has been quite a few years since I was a negotiator in an Estate Agency (didn’t have a PC on the desk in them days), but as I was down for business in a region of London today I thought I would have a nose about…

Secret Shopper or what some may refer to as a ‘Mystery Shopper‘means what exactly… Well let’s just ask Wikipedia: “Mystery shopping or a mystery consumer or secret shopper, is a tool used externally by market research companies, watchdog organizations, or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service, or compliance with regulation, or to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery consumer’s specific identity and purpose is generally not known by the establishment being evaluated.

estate agency london

 Obviously I will not pick on any one estate agency and deliver their exact ‘mystery shopper’ results in public, but the following points were evidently noticeable among the few that I visited:
  • When I entered the office and said that I had an interest in purchasing a property locally and specifically interested in two bedroom apartments the first assumption was always made that I was looking for an investment. It seems that the word ‘home‘ is now unknown in property purchases? I wasn’t dressed as an investor, however one of those styles themselves these days and neither did I say I was a cash buyer…
  • Have you got something to sell must be what they have been trained to ask from the outset and each enquired within the first couple of sentences if I was selling and if my house was on the market. “We can offer a free valuation at any time” I was offered, but isn’t a free valuation standard these days anyway – Maybe another incentive would capture my attention more?
  • Corporates mostly well presented externally and internally, independents not as good on most occasions…
  • Not many property available in windows – Not of course really the fault of the estate agent due to current climate, but I did not see any innovation in window displays or a strong call to action to replace what normally would have been property for sale / rent.
  • All offices I went in to had no clients / members of the public in them… Is it really that quiet out there and does this merit a high street presence and the costs that go with it? I am not of course getting in to traditional vs online, but it made me wonder… Though the market is quiet of course as not many listings are about.
  • Knew the area well each of them did, no feeling that you were in the hands of an amateur which gives me confidence when I am buying any product.
  • Not over pushy to take my details upon me declining as I felt they saw me as, via body language, just one of many who are looking for same thing…
  • (A topic which I read about recently via Chris Watkins which I now always look out for) White boards were on few in some. Important to general public maybe not, but details of recent valuations and pending offers on property with address details to a competitor is another thing… A couple of agencies had the whiteboards visible from outside so ideal for competitors to peek through the window at night and jot down some valuable notes in their pocket books!
  • Only one agency let the high street shoppers know they were on social media by displaying relevant stickers on their windows.
  • Dress good in all and no feelings that any member of staff was too ‘relaxed‘ in their visual appearance.
  • One agency staff member was noted as being very good. Asked reasons why buying locally was important and what was the most important thing about where I was to buy and gave alternative local areas that had similar to my requirements to help broaden my search area.
  • One cup of tea / coffee offered.
  • Most times offered a business card to call the agency at any time.

There were big variations between estate agents and I easily gained enough initial information to chose the kind of estate agency I would confidently deal with, most certainly if I had a property to sale.

 

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking. Internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Social Media. Writes about UK property prices, housing, politics and affordable homes.

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