Having worked in the real estate industry for more than 20 years, Leanne Howard knows a thing or two about the importance of customer experience (CX). In her current role as Head of Growth and Client Engagement at RERN, Leanne has provided valuable insights in to the future of real estate and the role CX will play in the industry.
I sat down with Leanne to find out more.
The real estate industry has faced heavy criticism in the past when it comes to creating good client experiences, why do you think that is?
I really think it all comes down to being able to offer consistency. As an industry we are not traditionally good at that. A client’s experience is very much dependant on either the agent or property manager they deal with. This means it can vary from brand to brand, office to office or agent to agent. I’m yet to see a real estate brand that offers consistent, exceptional on-brand experience which astounds me given the cost of poor performance can be considerable!
What is the cost agencies will pay by not offering exceptional service?
In a nutshell loss of income – from sales, from referrals and from management fees.
A 2016 study conducted by CoreLogic found that 62% of tenants would never recommend their agency and 39% of landlords would not sell through their agency. Here you have both sides of the client base saying they would not use or recommend their property managers services. These stats are, and should, be really concerning. We’re talking about more than $3.5 billion in commissions that are up for the taking so we have to take that extremely seriously. We need to do better.
Do you think CX is an area that franchise owners are seriously why/not?
I think more and more business owners are understanding that people don’t put up with bad service anymore. Moreover, they are seeing the benefit of offering exceptional service to clients. The emergence of low cost competitors have prompted everyone to look at their offering more closely. But what we really need to aim for is creating a consistent customer journey, not just a once-off great experience. You want your brand to strive to be like an Apple, Disney or Four Seasons – not matter where you go you will experience a consistent customer experience with these brands. No one in real estate is doing this yet.
So, what can business owners do to become more like an Apple or Disney?
- Map out a journey: from initial contact right through to post transaction. What does the journey look like for your clients? How do you make it easy for them to work with you? How do you surprise and delight them at every point in that journey? Most importantly, how do you show consistency?
- Benchmark: look around. Who is setting the benchmarks in the industry? Who are doing the best opens? Settlement gifts? In-office? Find out who is the best of the best and then make that your new standard.
- Show empathy: in real estate you are dealing with someone’s biggest asset. It’s their home, their shelter and the safest place in the world for them so it’s important to understand that. How in the customer journey do you acknowledge and show empathy towards that?
Two great examples:
Di Jones: Every customer who sells or buys through Di Jones gets eight hours of free packing with a packing company. A fantastic example of how they have looked at the pain point (of moving) and created a solution to make the journey easier for their customers.
Harcourts: When people buy a home one of the first things they want to do is show it off to family, friends of even get a few trades in. The challenge with this is that there often is a 6-8 week settlement period and most agents won’t give you access to the home. As part of the vendor contract, Harcourts now include a provision that allows the buyer a three hour visit to the home in the first two weeks after exchange!
Those are the sorts of things that are making things easier and creating memorable experiences for clients.
What us the best way to train your staff to provide exceptional service?
I would say rather than training, the most important thing you can do is work with your team to design the client journey. Look at all of your touch points, how do you enhance these? Some of the solutions will be automated and some will rely on support staff or agents but ensure everyone is across what their role in the journey is.
I would also suggest to have a list of office promises i.e. this is what we always do with clients, this is what we never do. Include in that a ‘no negotiable’ list – i.e. we always return calls or emails within 24 hours.
How can agencies track their success in CX?
There are multiple ways to track your success in the CX space.
- Repeat and referral rates give you a great indication of how well you do
- For property management you might look at the longevity of the client and repeat or referral business
- Adoption of other services ie loan services, property management
- Net promoter score system ie Real Satisfied – a survey is sent after every transition for instant feedback
- Online comments or testimonials
In addition to all of those measurement tools, I am a huge fan of creating an advisory board. Gather current or previous clients together once or twice a year and find out from them how you can do better.
For further information about the direction of CX the vital role it could play for your agency, contact the team on 1300 273 785.