The training course included a checklist of 22 elements that needed to be covered during that first point of contact, and we were advised that the company regularly “mystery shopped” its offices to gauge the quality to which this key part of the job was being carried out. Having committed these checklist points to memory, I then ensured I dealt with every applicant every day on the premise that they might be the mystery shopper. After all, I was keen to do the job to the best possible standard and ensure that I made my mark on the company’s sales figures.
Nowadays, my training company conduct mystery shopper exercises for estate agency firms around the UK and the results are never less than fascinating. The original list of 22 key points, although many years old and slightly revised, still broadly forms the benchmark of how well these calls are handled, and the standard of follow up service delivered. The difference in quality between the best and worst is extraordinary. Feedback from proprietors, whether the calls and follow up are poor, fair, good or exceptional, is that the exercises are worth their weight in gold for illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the sales/letting operation within their businesses.
Most (but by no means all) agents will establish key contact information (names, initials and titles of all parties plus all telephone numbers and email addresses) and a general idea of what the applicant is looking for.
However, the real areas for concern are the depth of information gleaned and the lack of testing of the answers provided by the customer.
Assuming that an agent is striving for exceptional standards of selling techniques to maximise results, it is alarming that many areas of key information are missed – the reason for and specific timescale of the proposed move, for example.
Much of the facts established are not clarified – “I’m looking up to around &200,000 for a three bedroom property” is not good enough! These points must be tested with probing questions like “So if I found you a property that had everything you are looking for, but only had two bedrooms, you wouldn’t consider it?” and “If I found you the perfect property, what is the very maximum you would be prepared to pay for it?”. It is incredibly rare to hear these questions asked during our mystery shopper calls.
Similarly, when the applicant states that they have sold their property, the negotiators seldom dig deeply enough to find out the quality of that “sale”. The avoidance of establishing an applicant’s financial capability is also a regular shortcoming. This failure to check the detailed ability of the applicant will inevitably lead to missed opportunities by agents spending the wrong amount of time with the wrong people, or equally worryingly, failing to spot the real “money making” customers.
The above represent just a few of the criteria that are measured by the mystery shoppers. The most recent mystery shopper exercise saw a top score of 12 out of the possible 22 – the other offices involved scored less and in one case, only 5! This is not a level of acceptable performance. Fortunately, the proprietor in question has now invested in training with us to ensure we help address these problems on his behalf.
Qualifying applicants is a little like peeling onions...each layer of information you peel away reveals a bit more information to help you form a judgement as to how much time ought to be invested in them. Sadly, our mystery shopper exercises seem to prove that too many agents fail to peel away enough layers and therefore leave themselves reliant upon guesswork.
For further information or if you’d like the checklist, please contact me us on 01480 405583, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @agencytrainer