Countrywide's decision to 'pause' the roll-out of its online option for sellers and landlords is "unforgivable and dumbfounding" according to a leading property technology expert.
James Dearsley - whose PropTech Today column appears on Estate Agent Today each Wednesday - says in his separate weekly newsletter to subscribers that Countrywide "claim to be re-evaluating the need for the digital rollout to continue, to decide whether or not it’s truly helping the firm’s fortunes."
This is in the context of another dramatic fall in revenue for the firm in the third quarter of 2017; it was £47.8m compared to £57m in the same period of 2016.
"It is unforgivable and dumbfounding to cut a digital rollout halfway through! ... It suggests that Countrywide was sat on a razor’s edge - either they join the digital transformation and fight for survival against Purplebricks, or they reject innovation and fall by the wayside. It seemed, for a while, they had chosen to fight, now, does it feels like they’re thinking twice?" asks Dearsley.
Yesterday morning Estate Agent Today asked Countrywide how long the evaluation process would take, and whether - if the pause turns into a permanent stop - the digital option will be scrapped in those branches where it currently is offered.
So far there has been no response.
Countrywide's pause, revealed in its trading statement last week, is surprising as only a few days before the group's chief executive addressed The Negotiator conference and spoke highly of the success of the roll-out - part of a strategy called Every Customer Counts.
Countrywide chief executive Alison Platt is quoted in The Negotiator as saying at the event: “For the business, the brands where we’ve rolled out Every Customer Counts have seen better performance at every step of the journey, increased traffic, more valuations, better conversion, improved sales progression and increased revenue."