The recent demise of Countrywide is the perfect starting point for a conversation on the outlook of the estate and lettings industry. Unfortunately, Countrywide seem to have chosen a route away from reform, innovation and change by calling their rescue plan “Back to Basics”, and in doing so have shown a level of arrogance and ignorance that has put their survival at even greater risk. The last thing Countrywide needs, or anyone else in the industry for that matter, is to go back to basics. The focus has to be on innovation, reform and significant change.
The predominantly online agencies have had a profound impact on traditional agents in two damaging ways; they have eaten into market share, which means agency customer volumes are down and they have put downward pressure on fees, which means revenue per customer is down. Mix this with the fact that overheads are always increasing, and you have a recipe for disaster.
But the success of the online agencies is purely cost related because the service they offer is not a positive point of difference. From a customer perspective the lower cost offering is attractive, but this is largely due to the fact that the service provided by traditional agencies over a long period of time has been poor. Customers have received slow, fragmented and inadequate customer service for so long so who can blame customers for looking at lower cost alternatives.
So how do Estate Agents evolve?
Provide customers with end to end account managers that manage the entire sales and lettings process. Sales and lettings are not complicated business functions. They interlink at so many levels, so why not combine them and provide the customer with a seamless, end to end solution?
Properly incentivise staff. The actual personnel in a standard organisation that sell or let property are on salary plus a commission model which just isn’t incentive driven. The prize for selling a £300,000 house could be as little as less than £100 for the individual. If you’re selling 3 or 4 of these a month, it doesn’t exactly scream money motivation. So lower salaries and increase incentives.
Refurb office space and get off the high street. The necessity of high street offices is a myth. High street agents have done a marvellous job in creating what is probably the most unwelcoming, intimidating and awkward experience for a customer on the high street. The archaic habit of sticking properties in windows is just that, archaic, and should a customer wish to venture inside they’re struck by a repetitive layout of desks and faces. As a customer, you’re lucky if the office has a meeting room, and are therefore usually made to provide much of your private information in a very open and public environment. General office layouts and design seem to have been untouched since the 90’s, and one thing you notice when you look into high street agency offices is that there are no customers in them. The offices should actually be designed more for the staff than the customers, because it’s the staff that spend time there. And from that perspective they make for an uninspiring and dull environment that isn’t conducive to high performance or motivation. Agencies should find office space that is lower cost and that can be transformed into a contemporary, fun and inspiring atmosphere. It will be appreciated and recognised by customers as being forward thinking and provide a platform for staff to generate good results.
Published by Jamie Gray | email@example.com