This Time It’s Personal
In a world of fast developing technology, estate agents can often lose sight of the one great USP they have – themselves. Stephen Henesy, founder of property tech firm Helpthemove, argues agents must focus on the value they bring personally to ensure successful longevity.
Open any property magazine or website and the chances are you’ll be met with the same doom and gloom day after day. The High Street is dead; Purple Bricks is heading for global domination and landlords just want to deal directly with their tenants.
You could be excused for thinking the end of the word is nigh.
The fact is, you’re not alone. Pretty much every entrepreneur or business owner I have ever spoken with has suffered at some stage with the age-old problem of spending too much time working in their business rather than working on it.
The freshest minds and freest spirits are trapped in the mundane, day-to-day tasks of keeping a ship afloat to the point where they abandon the one unique thing that led them to this great industry in the first place.
Ok, reality check – technology isn’t going away, It’s here to stay and it’s getting cleverer. It’s becoming more intuitive. It makes things happen and it gets things done.
A bit like you do when given the time and space to think, to create, to engage and communicate.
And some of the most successful technology platforms of recent years are based around this key concept – communication.
Yes, we often hide behind emails and text rather than call and we speak to our mates via Facebook and Instagram.
But this shift towards digitalisation is leaving a void that humans still crave and where agents like yourselves excel.
If the latest figures are to be believed, some 95 per cent of Generation Rent house hunters start their searches online. Soon it will likely be much nearer 100 per cent.
Once they engage with your company, can you honestly say they are getting an exciting brand experience, one where they feel and understand the genuine value you bring? Or do they risk seeing a ‘third-party’ presence as more of a hindrance to what should be a seamless – and enjoyable – process?
Here’s where I believe you, the agents, have the opportunity to complement the streamlined technology to create an ‘experience’.
When they find the house of the dreams, renters and buyers don’t really care much for the rigmarole of filling out forms, dealing with the utilities companies and arranging references.
Of course, it all needs to be done. But you bring that personal interaction, the experience, the advice, the tips, the knowledge and the, ahem, charm.
You know where the best local pubs and restaurants are. You know the areas that are on the rise and where budgets can be best spent. You can see opportunities for improving a property well before a tenant or buyer can. You can give the one thing technology really can’t – the tailored advice.
Ultimately, you are the one who can bring confidence to your customers that they are making the very best decision in their circumstances. Rightmove, Zoopla or Sarah Beeny can’t do that.
You see, us humans crave reassurance. We seek justifications and we (usually) welcome advice. We want an expert to put our minds at rest and make us feel like we are making the very best, informed decisions. Above all, we value personal interaction when we are making large purchases.
Despite what many people might say about car dealers, car manufacturers are spending an increasing amount on their showrooms. Housing, when you think about it, is no different. Developers large and small are also investing more and more into creating an ‘experience’ for customers visiting their schemes and show homes. Can we really say, hand on heart, that agents are following this lead?
Does a visit to your High Street office give true reflection of the added value you can bring? Or are clients often sat waiting for twenty minutes while your staff are stuck on seemingly endless calls with utilities suppliers?
Are they made to feel like they are the most important person in the world for the half-an-hour they are with you? If not, it is a shame because digital communication is really great for sharing positive experiences with other potential customers and growing business.
I will wager the thing that gets shunted to the bottom of your ‘To Do’ list week after week, month after month is working on your own brand, both corporately and personally.
Because you just have too much to do!
Talking about developing a brand proposition is a whole different story. But if it’s not too late to make a new year’s resolution, I hope this year will be the one where you commit to freeing up some more time to do what you do best. And, like it or not, this is where technology really can help you.
The trick is the find technology that takes over the mundane. That reduces the paperwork, the filing, the pointless admin that so frustrates you. Because it is there if you look – and you can even make money from it.
There’s a multitude of technological products on the market for agents to explore, from automatic onboarding, to drone marketing, to our area of expertise at Helpthemove – void switching – where the onerous tasks of switching utilities providers and local authority liaison can be managed remotely by a third party and you get paid for the privilege.
My advice when dealing with any new suppliers of tech systems and services to the estate agency industry is:
1. Automation, automation, automation – it will give you and your staff the extra time to work on creating an unbeatable customer experience
2. Due diligence – investing on a whim can often come back to bite you. Research company background, experience of directors, customer references and industry experience
3. Understand infrastructure – a bit of pain for long term gain. Imagine a world where your new systems never need internal IT investment. Heaven!
4. Integration – if only everything in the world was always in one place. Take advice on how integrating new systems will allow management of linked tasks in one place
The personality of your brand is only going to become more critical as technology continues to advance. Make 2019 the year you really do justice to your own unique skills.
Shared by: Stephen Henesy
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