JULIAN SAYS: You are right in identifying that ‘trustability’ (my number one key word for 2018) is top of the list of key attributes of an effective estate agent, particularly in light of the number of times trust crops up in surveys as being an essential element in clients’ decision making.
There is a bitter irony that in the last ‘Veracity Index’ published in December 2017, estate agents were third from bottom of the trusted professions list, only ‘beaten by politicians and bankers, just 26 per cent of respondents said they would trust an estate agent to tell them the truth.
THE ABILITY TO TALK BULL…
With the Brexit backdrop and mixed media messages about the property market, it could be argued that there is a need for agents to be seen as experts and providers of professional, unambiguous advice on the market – illustrating their competence and authority in providing the right course of action for their client.
Trust – Belief or confidence in the goodness or skill of the person.
The issue of trust is not new. I remember an interesting experience; a reminder of the lack of trust in the industry. An estate agency booked me for a two-day “Excellence in Customer Service” course for ten recruits. On the first day, we had a lively discussion about which qualities make an excellent estate agent. Delegates duly came up with a attributes such as professionalism, adaptability, tenacity etc. These were recorded on the flipchart.
We reconvened the following morning. Unbeknown to us, our conference room had been used for a function the previous evening… the guests had access to the flipchart and marker pens. One decided to embellish our list of the qualities of an excellent estate agent with other suggestions. These included “no discernible talent”, “ability to talk bull”, “patronising manner” and “fake tan”!
I went to rewrite the list – it initially seemed inappropriate to leave the fledgling negotiators with the impression that these “qualities” deserved to feature on the list. However I thought better of it, concluding that it might be useful for these new starters to see for themselves that a portion of the public has such a dim view of (mostly) such a hardworking group of professionals.
Trust is often defined as “belief or confidence in the honesty, goodness and skill of a person, organisation or thing” and if we accept this version, it is clear that our actions and words must be geared towards creating a feeling in the customer that we are “honest, good and skilled” in everything we do.
A customer’s initial dealings with an estate agent will often be over the phone – so an outstanding first impression to take the early steps in building trust with a customer is naturally critical.
Given that some customers will not expect great things from their experience with an estate agent, standing out from the competition is paramount.
This can be achieved very simply. An upbeat tone and positive greeting when taking a phone call, thanking them at the start of the call rather than at the end, setting an appropriate agenda to show the caller you are a competent professional, all help, as do listening closely and summarising what you heard.
It is important to visualise every customer with a sign around their neck saying, “I am important and want to be respected!”
However, the key to building trust predominantly lies in delivery on promises.
It is worryingly easy to make throwaway comments like “I’ll call you back before lunch…” or “I’ll email that info to you shortly…” and then allow circumstances or lack of personal organisation to lead to failure to do so, leaving the customer with the impression that you don’t care and cannot be trusted with the most basic tasks.
The agent who overpromises and underdelivers will be kept busy with disgruntled customers and complaints, using valuable time which could be more productively spent.
On the other hand, the agent who adopts a reverse strategy of exceeding their promises will be active in making business happen. Imagine the impact of agreeing to email property information to a local customer, then hand delivering them a few hours later.
The best agents weave facts and statistics into conversations with customers and thereby stand apart from the average agent. Exceptional agents acquire new industry knowledge every day by way of Google alerts or absorbing key content within House Price Indices like those produced by Rightmove and the Land Registry. Such knowledge is sure to impress and start to create trust in the agent’s capabilities, particularly if you lead into it by saying “No doubt other estate agents will already have told you this…” when patently you are the first to do so!
Trust is essential in business. As George MacDonald said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”