With stock at an all-time low according to many industry experts, and “online agents” arguably gaining momentum, the final quarter of 2015 may well prove challenging for many traditional estate agents.
It seems to make sense therefore, that estate agents would be raising standards of behaviour and skill to ensure they win enough market share to succeed. However, according to a number of friends and relatives, it would appear that the concept of customer service and the desire to create fans of their businesses have passed some businesses by.
I remember a few years ago witnessing a negotiator taking the details from an applicant in a very cursory fashion. The negotiator seemed to lose interest at the point the applicant disclosed their ideal price range and brusquely informed the customer that there was nothing available. After the applicant left the office, the negotiator turned to a colleague and proclaimed “He’ll be lucky” before getting on with other things.
That applicant needed to move to that area due to a change of jobs, so would have ended up buying something in the vicinity, albeit having adjusted their finances or compromised on their requirements. At some point now or in the future, they will sell that property. I would put money on the fact that it won’t be with the aforementioned agent.
That was a past example. To bring things right up to the present, here is the September tale of an investment buyer, personally known to me. Having seen a potential property to purchase on one of the portals, the buyer called the agent at 9.05am on Saturday morning. An answerphone advised that the agency did not open until 10.00am. There was no facility to leave a message. The buyer called again at 10.05am to be greeted with the same answerphone message. The same thing happened at 10.20am and 10.30am. At 10.40am the phone was answered by a miserable sounding male who responded by saying they had been too busy to turn off the answerphone.
When asked about the property in question, the agent stated that he hadn’t seen it as it had just come on the market. He couldn’t advise on likely rent and actually seemed confused by the word “yield”. He couldn’t confirm what other interest there had been on the property. He couldn’t arrange viewings as the customer would need to speak to his colleague “Steve” to do that. Steve wasn’t in but would call the buyer back. The buyer was keen to view that day due to it being the only window of opportunity over the coming week or so.
Steve didn’t call. The buyer called the agent back and finally spoke to Steve at just before 1.00pm. No more viewings were possible that day.
So, a catalogue of substandard service elements from an experience just a few weeks ago. What are the consequences?
The investment buyer has since bought two flats in the same area via a different agent. Sales fees conservatively &18,000.
The investment buyer will be renting both of those flats out and needing them to be managed over a minimum of a few years. Fee income conservatively &20,000.
The investment buyer will sell the properties at some point in the future. Fee income conservatively… well who knows, but certainly another five figure total.
So, a grand total of a huge amount of money. We don’t know the specific amount, but we do know one thing. None of it will go to the agent outlined in the case above.
I wonder how many firms have had the age-old mantra “today’s applicants are tomorrow’s vendors” at the forefront of their minds in recent years. If they had their time over again, would they have treated those potential house hunters with more care, respect and professionalism?
Raising your game when dealing with customers during their search for a new property is an essential approach. Training staff in qualifying and registering applicants, in telephone techniques and accompanied viewings helps create raving fans of your business – even the ones who don’t buy through your agency will make a note to come back to you when they need help in the future.