Estate agents often experience a decrease in the number of new applicants registering during the Summer and thus a potential reduction in agreed sales, leading to the need for a spectacular Autumn to redress the balance.
Most practitioners recognise that simple “order taking” by staff when dealing with applicants was good enough in a buoyant selling market as buyers were beating a path to their door to snap properties up. In a cooler climate, skills have to be sharpened for survival, and many companies have been slow to do so in the past, leading to a significant number struggling to reach targets.
The Mystery Shopper exercises we carry out are enlightening often for the wrong reasons. The following is a direct transcript of a telephone conversation between a hot applicant and an estate agent which took place recently.
“Good Morning (Company Name Given)”
“Hi. I wonder if you could send me some details of flats up to &200,000 please?”
“No problem. Your name is Sir?”
Name and address given
“Flats up to &200,000 yeah?”
“No problem at all. I’ll get details in the post.”
“Thank you very much.”
It is unlikely that this negotiator had woken up that morning and decided to go to work to do their job deliberately badly, however one could be forgiven for concluding that that is what happened.
Had this been a real applicant, what a terrible way to be dealt with! The negotiator failed to give their name at any point during the conversation making it all rather cold and impersonal. No interest was shown in the customer as a human being. No contact details were requested guaranteeing no telephone follow up was possible. Nothing was established as to their reason for move, timescales, position of their own property, mortgage situation or property requirements.
As it happens, the applicant’s brief was that he was ready, willing and able to buy within a very short timescale due to a job move to the area. He had no property to sell. He was likely to visit the area within the next three days to start viewing and probably to make a buying decision immediately. He would have welcomed another mortgage quote and would have been interested in being referred to the Lettings department in case he failed to find somewhere to buy quickly enough. In short, this applicant was as good as they get, and yet no business resulted from this encounter.
For those proprietors and directors reading this, can you be certain that your staff are not guilty of such shortcomings? Granted, this was only a Mystery Shopper, but the agent did not know that!
Imagine this person as a real applicant…how would he have felt about the service received? Consider the context that he subsequently phoned other agents, as he surely would, and received better treatment more appropriate to his circumstances.
Another agent might have engaged him in a longer conversation and quickly discovered what a fantastic prospect he actually was. Simply by establishing a few key elements of information, it would become clear that he should receive V.I.P. treatment.
“How soon do you need to have moved by?”, “How are you getting on with your own property?” and “When are you next in the area to view?” are questions that would have painted an interesting picture.
“Describe your ideal home to me…” offers the applicant the chance to wax lyrical about what is important to them in their new property and gives the negotiator an idea of which available properties may be most suitable.
An immediate match could be done to see what is appropriate and viewings might be suggested and arranged. Associated services such as mortgages, conveyancing or lettings could also be offered.
Details could be emailed or even hand delivered if it was a precious local property-to-sell customer. This would also mean that properties on with the agent in question and a competitor or two would be received and potentially viewed through this agent first.
Finally, a follow up call to check the safe receipt of those details and to check suitability and desired viewings would ensure a great start to the applicant’s interaction with the agent. This must increase the likelihood that he will pay a visit to the agent in question upon arriving in the area in the near future, prior to seeing the local competitors.
In the case of the call detailed earlier in this article, it is doubtful that the agent would have sold this applicant a property. In fact, the only subsequent dealings with the customer would probably be when he phoned in to be taking off the mailing list due to finding a property elsewhere.