You are right to address this as a matter of urgency. Failure to maintain positive relationships with existing vendors, in an effort to work as a team to make instructions more saleable, leads to complaints, negative comments in the community and a huge potential cost to your business in terms of reputation – plus the incalculable cost of time invested in dealing with properties which ultimately withdraw without selling.
KEY ELEMENTS TO TACKLE
1 Client Care System
Whatever your software system, you must have a reminder system to flag up all available properties for review. Many agents fail to maintain such a system, leaving vendors for lengthy periods without contact. Research shows that vendors switch agents due to lack of communication as much as failure to sell. Those getting viewings and feedback are probably broadly satisfied as they can see things happening, but even they need a regular full review call to ensure they are completely happy with your efforts. Nobody should slip through the net. Some of the best agents I train set a particular slot aside every week for client contact – a half day ruled out where no appointments can be booked allows the team to crack on with an update to all clients and ensure every vendor is still onside.
Trust is key to win the instruction; most sellers cite that as a top five reason for choosing their agent.
2 Managing expectations
Clarity at the point of instruction in terms of future service levels is crucial. If a new client has unrealistic service expectations, the agent will rapidly fall into the ‘overpromising/underdelivering’ trap, leading to problems. Method and frequency of communication must be agreed at the outset and those minimum standards at least matched and ideally exceeded.
3 Staff attitude
When a sale falls through, staff are downhearted, however they may, comparatively, be less affected when a vendor withdraws from the market. These events should be regarded with equal concern – both lead to potential lost income. It is also interesting to assess an agency’s culture in terms of client care. A valuer having two messages to respond to, one from a disgruntled vendor and the other from an unknown person considering putting their property on the market, may be inclined to call the new client before the existing one. This is questionable prioritisation. #
4 Staff training
In a recent morning meeting, I noticed a marked change in body language when today’s ‘client care calls’ were about to be discussed and allocated. The visible discomfort of the staff made it clear that they were not looking forward to this. After the meeting I asked the manager what training and coaching had been provided to his team on this skill area – there had been none.
The team must be guided on preparing for the conversation (setting appropriate objectives, relevant evidence to support those objectives, how the call should be structured, how to overcome resistance etc) – this build the negotiator’s confidence in getting a result. Too many calls are merely a PR exercise attempting to keep the client happy.
5 Vendor/Agent relationship
Trust is key to winning the instruction in the first place (78 per cent of respondents citing that as one of their top five reasons for choosing their agent in a 2017 vendor study). It follows that loss of trust leads to loss of instruction. The agent who fails to launch the property quickly and accurately, to market it effectively, to produce quality photos and floor plans, to maintain frequent contact and detailed feedback as to progress will soon lose that client’s trust, increasing the likelihood of the vendor looking elsewhere.
6 Proactive vendor contact
With the right system, attitude and training in place, the best agents can proactively provide their vendors with updates to maintain their relationship and client satisfaction. Inviting the client into the office or visiting them to discuss progress have proved far more effective than telephone calls.
These visits/calls also serve as an opportunity to enhance saleability by way of price reduction, improved viewing access, enhancing the marketing or even a for sale board.
Vendors gain a heightened awareness of the efforts their agent is making to achieve a sale ensuring they are less susceptible to jumping ship when they are courted by a competitor agent.
The team must understand that an existing instruction that has been rendered more saleable by way of an effective client care call and improved loyalty and motivation on the part of that client is as good as, if not better than, a new instruction.
“Take care of your clients, before somebody else does.”
Julian O’Dell is Founder of TM Training & Development.