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Succeeding in estate agency

“I am conscious that we need to sharpen up our act in the face of increasing competition on the high street as well as online. I want to push my business and increase market share but I don’t have an endless supply of cash to throw at it! Advice welcome.”

Julian O'Dell
JULIAN SAYS…
Julian O'Dell

Julian O’Dell is founder of TM Training & Development

I meet so many agents seeking the next new idea, gadget or ‘trick of the trade’ to give them an edge. Succeeding in estate agency does not need to be a complicated affair. There is no magic wand approach and it remains a people business so whatever software or technology you invest in, it is only as good as the people using it.

Training in core values imageI know of one firm who recently equipped their valuers with iPads to supposedly enhance their approach. But an untrained valuer with an iPad will never outperform a trained valuer without one.

So if we accept that this is a people business (if you don’t, it may be time to go and do something else) then it is your people you need to look at. Make them different, make them exceptional, make them winners.

As Richard Branson said, “Train your staff well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

FRUSTRATED CLIENTS

Obviously as a training provider to the estate agency industry I am bound to advocate training as a solution to a range of problems, but don’t take it from me – how about this unprompted message I received on Twitter from one follower who is trying to move and seeking my advice due to the frustrating experience he is having with his appointed estate agent.

It’s your people you need to look at. Make them different, make them exceptional, make them winners.

“Hi Julian. Put my house on the market last week. Photos done on Thursday and promised board would be up next day. Wasn’t done so I called them. They apologised saying it will be done on Saturday. Still not done. Whole weekend wasted. Not a good start.”

He lives in an area where I train an estate agency firm that I have recommended – if and when he can get released from his current contract. I know his agent and am not surprised at the treatment he has received. He then talked about his onward move:

“Looking to relocate. Registered with 10 agents – only two keep in touch. Been to 15 viewings – hardly any follow-up calls. Drove two and a half hours Saturday for a viewing to be told by the owners they’d sold it the day before. I can see why they say moving is so stressful.”

BRING ON THE BASICS

Having spent much of the last 33 years defending estate agents at dinner parties, in pubs, on social media and whenever else necessary, it makes my blood boil that there are still agents who so badly fail in the basics. My Twitter pal wasn’t finished yet…

“The worst agent by far is X. They never update properties on Rightmove. Booked a viewing with them and they never confirmed time. Had to constantly chase them. Another agent… my wife called them to ask if they could keep us informed on new listings and he replied, “What makes you so special?” We’re constantly sent emails with properties that are nothing like we’ve requested.”

If you are an estate agent reading this and can be 100 per cent sure this customer is not writing about you, then good on you. If there is even a scintilla of doubt in your mind you need to act.

These customer experiences are widespread – I recently bought an investment property and there are several agents in the vicinity who will never be considered to be my managing agent as they were so inept and unprofessional when dealing with me as an applicant.

SO WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

Decide on the best way to do things and do them that way every day. Look and learn what your competitors do in all key areas of the client and customer experience and then agree that you will do better than them at each stage. Document those standards, make them part of the company culture, make them the first part of each new employee’s induction, make sure managers are monitoring and checking that those standards are being adhered to, mystery shop your branches as a back-up check. Get customer feedback by phone and email at the various steps in the process and learn from that feedback.

AND THE MISSING LINK?

Surprise… training. Train your teams to meet and exceed those standards every day by influencing their knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Unless these things are done, you can’t blame the public for seeking out and employing cheaper options if their perception is that all agents, whether on the high street, operating from a back bedroom, or in cyberspace, are all actually much of a muchness.

A final quote from Will Rogers to mull over, “If companies spent the same amount of money on improving their services as they do on advertising them, they wouldn’t have to advertise them.”

June 30, 2016